What is your current activity level?
🧍‍♂️Sedentary
🚶 Moderately active
🏃 Very active
This will help us personalize your experience
Blog
>

Weight Neutral Health: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Published on
Updated on
Weight Neutral Health: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Weight-neutral health promotes healthy behaviors rather than dieting for weight loss.  
  • Due to the low success rate of dieting, many people fall into a pattern of weight loss and regain, which can have health consequences over time. 
  • Start practicing a weight-neutral approach by listening to your hunger and fullness cues to guide your eating. Work with a non-diet healthcare professional to make lifestyle changes that support your health regardless of weight.

You may have heard the terms “weight neutral” or “weight inclusive” in recent years.

Weight-neutral health is an approach that focuses on building sustainable healthy habits rather than prioritizing weight loss through dieting. 

This approach may feel overwhelming at first, but it can bring long-lasting health improvements, including better self-esteem and body image, and a reduced risk of disordered eating. 

Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of weight neutrality and how to start practicing it today. 

{{splash}}

What is Weight Neutral Health?

The weight-neutral approach means shifting the focus away from body weight as the primary indicator of health.

On an individual level, you may focus on lifestyle habits to support health without intentionally trying to lose weight. 

From a healthcare perspective, weight neutrality or weight inclusivity means your provider will not stigmatize you because of your weight.

This is part of the Health at Every Size (HAES) philosophy, which advocates for everyone to have access to high-quality healthcare regardless of body size. 

Weight Normative Care

The opposite of weight-neutral healthcare is weight normative care, the traditional view in which providers prescribe restrictive diets for weight loss in an attempt to improve a person’s health status. 

However, decades of research show that dieting or restricting calories to lose weight is largely ineffective in the long term.

While many people can intentionally lose weight in the short term, most regain that weight (and sometimes more) over time. 

Numerous factors outside of diet and lifestyle can impact a person’s health and body weight, including genetics, environment, metabolism, socioeconomic status, trauma history, and more. 

Additionally, research has shown that people in larger bodies often avoid seeing a weight-normative provider out of fear of judgment, preventing them from receiving potentially life-saving preventative care.

Acknowledging the complexity of health and the natural diversity of body sizes is the first step toward weight neutrality. 

Why is Weight Neutrality Important?

Weight neutrality is a valuable alternative to weight normative care.

Weight regain following intentional weight loss is common.

This is driven by the complex biological changes that occur due to caloric restriction, including a reduced metabolic rate and increased hunger.  

Research shows that after an intentional weight reduction program, less than 20% of participants maintain the weight loss after one year.

This percentage goes down further in the second year. 

Other studies show that participants of weight loss programs in the United States regained 77% of the weight they lost after a five-year period.

Additionally, half of people who intentionally lose weight regain all the weight after five years. 

This low success rate can lead to yo-yo dieting, which is when a person makes repeated attempts to lower their body weight, resulting in a cycle of weight loss and regain. Research shows that, over time, weight cycling can increase the risk of: 

If you only track progress by weight reduction, you may feel less motivated to continue healthy behaviors when you stop seeing results. 

Healthcare providers who use a weight-neutral approach acknowledge the downsides of restrictive dieting and weight cycling.

Instead, they focus on helping you build sustainable healthy habits and giving you evidence-based care that is not contingent on weight loss.

{{splash}}

Benefits of Focusing on Health Rather Than Weight

It can be freeing to ditch the scale and focus on other evidence-based practices to improve your health and well-being.

This shift can help you build lifelong healthy habits and reduce internalized weight stigma. 

Build Sustainable Habits

Research shows that lifestyle changes can positively impact health markers independent of weight loss. 

You can improve your health by building sustainable healthy habits like eating more vegetables, prioritizing sleep, and exercising regularly.

These changes can help improve your well-being, mood, and clinical markers like blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Your weight may decrease due to making healthy changes, but it’s not the primary measure of success. 

Reduce Weight Stigma

A weight-neutral approach reduces weight stigma, the negative assumptions many make about people living in larger bodies.

These assumptions can be about a person's habits or their health status. 

Weight stigma is unfortunately widespread in the healthcare system, leading many people to avoid seeking necessary care.

Additionally, those who do seek care are often given substandard care.

Weight stigma harms people of all body sizes.

For example, a person with a larger body may be told to lose weight before they can receive treatment for a medical condition.

Or, their symptoms may be blamed on their weight, delaying an important medical diagnosis. 

On the other hand, lower-weight individuals may not be screened for conditions like type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, even though these can occur in people of all sizes. 

Internalized weight stigma, or believing the negative stereotypes about having a higher body weight, is associated with: 

  • Higher calorie intake.
  • Elevated blood pressure. 
  • Eating disorder symptoms like binge eating and purging. 
  • Negative body image. 
  • Depression. 

{{local}}

Strategies for Embracing a Weight-Neutral Approach

It can feel daunting to start a weight-neutral health journey.

Consider the following tips to help make the transition easier and seek support when necessary.

Stop Counting Calories

The weight normative approach is centered on monitoring–calories, weight, portions, and more.

One of the best ways to start embracing a weight-neutral approach is to let go of these numbers. 

While this may feel scary initially, learning to follow your internal signals rather than external guidance is the key to long-term success. 

Practice Intuitive Eating

Learning mindful and intuitive eating strategies can help you move away from calorie counting. 

Start practicing this by listening to your natural hunger and fullness signals.

Eat when you’re hungry, and try to stop when you feel full. Listen to which foods feel good digestively and give you energy. 

{{splash}}

Set Health Goals That Aren’t Weight-Related

You can embrace a weight-neutral approach by focusing on behaviors that are proven to support health (rather than focusing on weight). 

Some examples of goals that aren’t weight-focused include:

  • Balancing your plate with lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
  • Prioritizing adequate sleep.
  • Taking steps to manage your stress levels. 
  • Drinking enough water. 
  • Finding ways to stay active that feel good to your body. 

You can measure progress through non-weight markers like energy levels, endurance, mental health, and lab markers like blood sugar and cholesterol. 

Takeaway

Weight-neutral health means shifting the focus away from dieting for weight loss. Instead, it emphasizes making sustainable lifestyle changes to support health.

From a healthcare standpoint, weight-neutral care reduces weight stigma and helps everyone receive high-quality care.

You can embrace the weight-neutral approach by setting non-weight health goals, like eating balanced meals and getting enough sleep.

Move away from calorie tracking and instead practice listening to your internal hunger and fullness cues to guide your eating. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

A registered dietitian can guide you from the weight-normative approach to weight-neutral health by teaching you intuitive eating principles, setting sustainable goals, and helping you improve your relationship with food and your body image. 

{{splash}}

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between weight neutral and weight inclusive?

Weight neutrality is the practice of building sustainable diet and lifestyle habits to support your health rather than restrictive dieting for weight-based outcomes.

Weight inclusivity means accepting that people have a natural diversity of body shapes and that a person’s weight doesn’t tell you whether they are healthy or unhealthy. 

In the medical field, a weight-inclusive or weight-neutral approach reduces weight stigma and promotes access to high-quality healthcare for all body sizes.

What does weight normative mean?

Weight normative care is the traditional healthcare approach that involves prescribing diet and exercise programs in which weight loss is the primary health outcome. 

This is the opposite of weight-neutral or weight-inclusive care, which focuses on improving health and well-being through lifestyle changes without emphasizing weight.

References

View all references
Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish

  • Covered by insurance
  • Virtual sessions
  • Personalized care
Schedule an appointment

Frequently asked questions

No items found.
Text LinkText Link

Find a virtual dietitian in {State}

Find a dietitian near you

Covered by insurance.
Question 1

Are you more thirsty than usual?

Question 1

Are you urinating more than usual?

Question 1

Is your blood sugar level consistently high?

Question 1

Do you experience extreme hunger or fatigue?

Question 1

Do you have blurry vision or numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?

Question 1

Do you experience frequent infections or slow-healing wounds?

Question 1

Do you have a family history of diabetes?

Your Result

Your results are in!

While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Charleston
SC
South Carolina
32.7884363, -79.9399309
Paterson
NJ
New Jersey
40.916611, -74.172188
Palmdale
CA
California
34.576469, -118.116096
Lancaster
CA
California
34.697472, -118.144524
Murfreesboro
TN
Tennessee
35.845619, -86.390266
Santa Rosa
CA
California
38.547134, -122.816383
Eugene
OR
Oregon
44.052151, -123.091187
Shreveport
LA
Louisiana
32.523659, -93.763504
Clarksville
TN
Tennessee
36.527279, -87.360336
Cary
NC
North Carolina
35.7882893, -78.7812081
Salem
OR
Oregon
44.944099, -123.040283
Newport News
VA
Virginia
37.087082, -76.473015
Chattanooga
TN
Tennessee
35.0457219, -85.3094883
Akron
OH
Ohio
41.0842496, -81.6777863
Providence
RI
Rhode Island
41.823990, -71.412834
Tallahassee
FL
Florida
30.438255, -84.280731
Peoria
AZ
Arizona
33.7528919, -112.4902079
Sioux Falls
SD
South Dakota
43.536388, -96.731667
Yonkers
NY
New York
40.930790, -73.898293
Fayetteville
NC
North Carolina
35.052666, -78.878357
Rochester
NY
New York
43.156578, -77.608849
McKinney
TX
Texas
33.214561, -96.614456
Moreno Valley
CA
California
33.920891, -117.261162
Fremont
CA
California
37.548271, -121.988571
Frisco
TX
Texas
33.150673, -96.823608
Spokane
WA
Washington
47.658779, -117.426048
Boise
ID
Idaho
43.6008183, -116.2421086
Port St. Lucie
FL
Florida
27.273270, -80.342148
Irving
TX
Texas
32.814018, -96.948891
Winston-Salem
NC
North Carolina
36.096260, -80.243736
St. Petersburg
FL
Florida
27.773056, -82.639999
Laredo
TX
Texas
27.507130, -99.507500
Jersey City
NJ
New Jersey
,
Buffalo
NY
New York
42.8867166, -78.8783922
St. Louis
MO
Missouri
38.627003, -90.199402
Chandler
AZ
Arizona
33.3062031, -111.841185
Durham
NC
North Carolina
35.994034, -78.898621
Lincoln
NE
Nebraska
40.806862, -96.681679
Pittsburgh
PA
Pennsylvania
40.440624, -79.995888
Greensboro
NC
North Carolina
36.072701, -79.793900
St. Paul
MN
Minnesota
44.954445, -93.091301
Newark
NJ
New Jersey
40.735657, -74.172363
Lexington
KY
Kentucky
38.040585, -84.503716
Stockton
CA
California
37.957703, -121.290779
Honolulu
HI
Hawaii
21.306944, -157.858337
Cleveland
OH
Ohio
41.499321, -81.694359
Arlington
TX
Texas
32.7355816, -97.1071186
Oakland
CA
California
37.804363, -122.271111
Long Beach
CA
California
33.770050, -118.193741
Raleigh
NC
North Carolina
35.779591, -78.638176
Omaha
NE
Nebraska
41.256538, -95.934502
Colorado Springs
CO
Colorado
38.833881, -104.821365
Fresno
CA
California
36.737797, -119.787125
Albuquerque
NM
New Mexico
35.084385, -106.650421
Memphis
TN
Tennessee
35.117500, -89.971107
Washington DC
WA DC
Washington, DC
38.889805, -77.009056
Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.169941, -115.139832
Seattle
WA
Washington
47.606209, -122.332069
Charlotte
NC
North Carolina
35.2272086, -80.8430827
Sacramento
CA
California
38.590576, -121.489906
Richmond
VA
Virginia
37.540726, -77.436050
Surprise
AZ
Arizona
33.629002, -112.330170
Mesa
AZ
Arizona
33.415184, -111.831474
Louisville
KY
Kentucky
38.252666, -85.758453
Des Moines
IA
Iowa
41.586834, -93.624962
Lakewood
CO
Colorado
39.704708, -105.081375
Kansas City
KS
Kansas
39.112701, -94.626801
Reno
NV
Nevada
39.529633, -119.813805
Tacoma
WA
Washington
47.258728, -122.465973
Aurora
CO
Colorado
39.7405111, -104.830994
Oxnard
CA
California
34.197659, -119.175949
Amarillo
TX
Texas
35.221996, -101.831299
Henderson
NV
Nevada
36.039524, -114.981720
Vancouver
WA
Washington
45.633331, -122.599998
Gilbert
AZ
Arizona
33.352825, -111.789024
San Bernardino
CA
California
34.115784, -117.302399
Columbus
GA
Georgia
27.800583, -97.396378
Hayward
CA
California
37.668819, -122.080795
Milwaukee
WI
Wisconsin
43.038902, -87.906471
Lubbock
TX
Texas
33.576698, -101.855072
Norfolk
VA
Virginia
36.850769, -76.285873
Tulsa
OK
Oklahoma
36.153980, -95.992775
Garland
TX
Texas
32.914341, -96.636559
Fort Lauderdale
FL
Florida
26.124161, -80.143593
Tucson
AZ
Arizona
32.248814, -110.987419
Salt Lake City
UT
Utah
40.760780, -111.891045
Corona
CA
California
33.875670, -117.568840
Madison
WI
Wisconsin
43.073051, -89.401230
Huntsville
AL
Alabama
34.7014286, -86.6597495
Kansas City
MO
Missouri
39.099728, -94.578568
Irvine
CA
California
33.684566, -117.826508
Chula Vista
CA
California
32.640072, -117.084038
Denton
TX
Texas
33.215530, -97.132446
Aurora
IL
Illinois
41.7571701, -88.3147539
Baton Rouge
LA
Louisiana
30.4494155, -91.1869659
Columbus
OH
Ohio
39.961178, -82.998795
Baltimore
MD
Maryland
39.2908816, -76.610759
Detroit
MI
Michigan
42.331429, -83.045753
Chesapeake
VA
Virginia
36.7183708, -76.2466798
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Birmingham
AL
Alabama
33.5206824, -86.8024326
Scottsdale
AZ
Arizona
33.501324, -111.925278
Cincinnati
OH
Ohio
39.103700, -84.513610
North Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.201946, -115.120216
Riverside
CA
California
33.980602, -117.375496
Plano
TX
Texas
33.019844, -96.698883
Minneapolis
MN
Minnesota
44.977753, -93.265015
Salinas
CA
California
,
Anaheim
CA
California
33.836594, -117.914299
Springfield
MO
Missouri
37.208958, -93.292297
Fort Wayne
IN
Indiana
41.077469, -85.137489
Phoenix
AZ
Arizona
33.448376, -112.074036
Bakersfield
CA
California
35.3738712, -119.0194639
Garden Grove
CA
California
33.774269, -117.937996
Anchorage
AK
Alaska
61.2163129, -149.894852
Indianapolis
IN
Indiana
39.768402, -86.158066
Nashville
TN
Tennessee
36.162663, -86.781601
Tempe
AZ
Arizona
33.425522, -111.941254
Mobile
AL
Alabama
30.695366, -88.039894
New Orleans
LA
Louisiana
29.951065, -90.071533
Knoxville
TN
Tennessee
35.960636, -83.920738
Grand Rapids
MI
Michigan
42.963360, -85.668083
Fontana
CA
California
34.102890, -117.435760
Elk Grove
CA
California
38.418129, -121.393257
Cape Coral
FL
Florida
26.5625742, -81.9438802
Grand Prairie
TX
Texas
32.745499, -97.003532
Fort Collins
CO
Colorado
40.588970, -105.082458
Killeen
TX
Texas
31.117119, -97.727798
Modesto
CA
California
37.639095, -120.996880
Oklahoma City
OK
Oklahoma
35.468491, -97.521263
Santa Ana
CA
California
33.745571, -117.867836
Ontario
CA
California
34.063343, -117.650887
Brownsville
TX
Texas
25.9015688, -97.4984005
Montgomery
AL
Alabama
32.379223, -86.307739
Hialeah
FL
Florida
25.857595, -80.278107
Springfield
MA
Massachusetts
42.102051, -72.585762
Toledo
OH
Ohio
41.652805, -83.537865
Pembroke Pines
FL
Florida
26.007765, -80.296257
Overland Park
KS
Kansas
38.974819, -94.683601
Little Rock
AR
Arkansas
34.746483, -92.289597
Glendale
CA
California
34.142509, -118.255074
Roseville
CA
California
38.752125, -121.288010
Wichita
KS
Kansas
37.687176, -97.330055
Huntington Beach
CA
California
33.659485, -117.998802
Augusta
GA
Georgia
33.4709714, -81.9748429
Worcester
MA
Massachusetts
42.271389, -71.798889
Virginia Beach
VA
Virginia
36.852924, -75.977982
Oceanside
CA
California
33.1958696, -117.3794834
Santa Clarita
CA
California
34.456043, -118.571335
Philadelphia
PA
Pennsylvania
39.952583, -75.165222
Corpus Christi
TX
Texas
27.800583, -97.396378
Portland
OR
Oregon
45.512230, -122.658722
Denver
CO
Colorado
39.739235, -104.990250
Boston
MA
Massachusetts
42.3554334, -71.060511
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Chicago
IL
Illinois
41.8755616, -87.6244212
Orlando
FL
Florida
28.538336, -81.379234
Jacksonville
FL
Florida
30.332184, -81.655647
Tampa
FL
Florida
27.950575, -82.457176
Long Island
NY
New York
40.757801, -73.940033
Queens
NY
New York
40.728226, -73.794853
Bronx
NY
New York
40.8466508, -73.8785937
Staten Island
NY
New York
40.643501, -74.076202
Brooklyn
NY
New York
40.6526006, -73.9497211
New York
NY
New York
40.712776, -74.005974
San Jose
CA
California
37.342205, -121.851990
San Francisco
CA
California
37.774929, -122.419418
San Diego
CA
California
32.834686, -117.130775
Los Angeles
CA
California
34.052235, -118.243683
El Paso
TX
Texas
31.761877, -106.485023
San Antonio
TX
Texas
29.387428, -98.496574
Dallas
TX
Texas
32.776665, -96.796989
Fort Worth
TX
Texas
32.755489, -97.330765
Houston
TX
Texas
29.760427, -95.369804
Austin
TX
Texas
30.2711286, -97.7436995

Book an appointment with a {category} dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Book an appointment with an online dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Find a

dietitian covered by insurance

No items found.
Mental Health
Intuitive Eating
Hyperthyroidism