This is the time of year many people make New Year’s resolutions, often involving perceived healthy behaviors and weight loss. The gluttony of the holiday season and the ensuing dieting fuels a dangerous cycle. Yo-yo dieting and weight cycling is associated with increased inflammation, hypertension, insulin resistance and increased cardiovascular and mortality risk. Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that dieting leads to long-term weight loss (and certainly not health benefits). In fact, research is showing overweight people who don’t diet have better health outcomes than overweight people who diet. Consider the following strategies to give up the diet mentality and strive for balance all year long.
By listening to our bodies and minds, we can move toward engaging in truly healthful behaviors that come from a place of self-care. Ask yourself, “Is this what I want to eat?” or “What kind of movement does my body feel like today?” Before subjecting yourself to a rigid program, first decide what is right for you.
Go easy on yourself
So you ate some cookies or skipped a workout – it’s not a big deal. The all-or-nothing mindset works against us by perpetuating diet-binge cycle. Instead of restricting foods (only to overeat them later), tell yourself no foods are off limits. Research shows people who are body-positive are more likely to engage in healthful lifestyle behaviors than people with high body disatisfaction.
Focus on your well-being
If you find yourself striving for unreachable goals, ask yourself why you set those goals in the first place. Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, emphasize healthy behaviors and how you feel. Try to tune out negative messages. While it’s impossible to avoid all dieting propaganda in today’s world, you can begin by cleaning up your social media feeds and only following accounts that promote self-compassion and body diversity.
Work with a professional
If you struggle with your relationship to food, consider working with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in Health at Every Size, intuitive eating or eating disorders.