This year, approach changes you make from a place of self-love. Fully investing in behavior changes that are rooted in self-care, respect and acceptance will reap dividends for life.
How can you make 2018 a better and healthier year? Invest in yourself in ways that matter instead of jumping on the annual diet bandwagon. When it comes to weight-loss diets, there’s nothing new under the sun. Any “lifestyle change” or “wellness” plan that comes with a list of rules and restrictions is a diet, regardless of what cloaking devices they deploy to convince you that it’s not.
Investing in a new diet for the New Year is like giving a loan that will never be repaid, because roughly 95 percent of dieters regain the lost pounds, with many ending up at a higher weight than where they started.
On top of that, obsessing over the number on the scale will not only not lead to long-term behavior changes that help you feel good, it also will probably actually make you unhappy. Why? Because the dieting mindset is rooted in body dissatisfaction and self-hatred.
This year, approach changes you make this year from a place of self-love. Fully investing in behavior changes that are rooted in self-care, respect and acceptance will reap dividends for life.
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Think about it: When you love someone, you accept and care for them, flaws and all (and we all have flaws). For example, I love my 9-month-old golden retriever and care for him daily with food, exercise and lots of affection, even if I don’t particularly like him when he’s being naughty. What would happen if you treated yourself the same way?
Questions to ask yourself
• What kinds of foods make me feel nourished, energetic and alert? Do I consistently have those kinds of foods in the house? If not, what’s getting in the way (planning, shopping).
• Am I thoughtful about the food I eat or do I tend to eat on the fly, skip meals or eat mindlessly? How can I pay more attention so that I nourish myself better and enjoy my food more?
• What kind of movement (physical activity) do I enjoy? Are there types of activity I used to do happily, but stopped for some reason? Would I enjoy reincorporating them? What type of movement have I always wanted to try, but never have? Salsa dancing? Belly dance? Yoga? Water aerobics? What’s stopping me, and how can I overcome those obstacles?
• How much sleep do I need to feel my best? Am I consistently getting that much? If not, what can I do to change that? Do I need to develop a new pre-bedtime routine, or is it a more serious issue that I should discuss with my doctor?
• Do I like what I see when I look in the mirror? If not, is there anything I can realistically do to change what I see, or would I be better working on developing acceptance and respect?
• Am I in the habit of putting everyone (and everything) else first, before meeting my own needs? What would happen if you refilled your well regularly so you felt better physically and mentally?
Three more things
Don’t make everything about weight. For example, exercise to be strong and flexible and have more endurance. Eat nutritious food because it helps you stay energized. Sleep because it feels good.
Declutter your media. This includes magazines, email newsletters and social-media feeds. Seeing constant reminders of health and body ideals that are unattainable for most mortals can warp how you feel about nutrition and fitness — as well as how you see your own body and other people’s bodies. These messages can inspire “healthy hatred,” or trying to make healthy changes from a place of self-hatred.
Get out of your comfort zone. It can feel safe to stick with the tried-and-true, but we expand our world when we are willing to at least dip our toes beyond the edges of our comfort bubble. New foods, new ways to move, new ways to relax or be mindful. Curate the kind of life you want to live.
These are some of the books and podcasts — and one website — that I regularly recommend to my patients. The podcasts are available online or on your favorite podcast app.
• “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD. The “bible” for learning how to make peace with food, freeing yourself from chronic dieting, rebuilding body image and rediscovering the pleasures of eating. There’s also a companion workbook.
• “Body Kindness” by Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN. This book is a guide for transforming yourself from the inside out — and never saying “diet” again. She also hosts a podcast by the same name.
• “Embody,” by Connie Sobczak, one of the originators of the body-positive movement. Learn five core competencies for developing and sustaining positive self-care changes and a peaceful relationship with your body.
• “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris, MD. Learn how to stop getting carried away by unhelpful thoughts (about food, your body, or anything else) and make decisions that are aligned with your values.
• “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon, PhD. How anyone — of any size — can improve their health without necessarily changing their size.
• “Body Respect” by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD. Debunks common myths about weight, including the misconceptions that BMI can accurately measure health and that dieting will improve health.
• “The Rules of ‘Normal’ Eating” by Karen Koenig, LICSW, MEd. A common-sense approach for overeaters, undereaters, emotional eaters and everyone in between.
• “Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of our Obsession with Weight Loss” by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. Her 2014 TED talk on this topic has more than 4 million views.
• “Love, Food” podcast with Julie Duffy Dillon, MS, RD. A weekly podcast series for those with a complicated relationship with food who hope to rewrite their fate.
• “Food Psych” podcast with Christie Harrison, MPH, RD. Interviews with inspiring guests about intuitive eating, body image, eating disorder recovery, weight stigma, fat acceptance, nutrition and more.
• The Center For Mindful Eating, tcme.org