New Year, New You? Why You Don't Need Another Diet Resolution!
Another year, another sweet promise to lose weight and get healthy. “New year, new you!” - I hate this tag line, as though the ‘old you’ isn’t good enough, fit enough, successful enough or pretty enough. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that people can and should work towards positive change, for example, to become more active, save money, start meditating, and even improve one’s health. However, the “new year, new you” mantra merely allows dieting schemes to take advantage of the guilt-ridden and vulnerable after an over-indulgent time of year. The idea of a weight loss diet certainly brings promise and hope, but lurking behind every diet are unsustainable methods, strict rules, less than appetizing products, and a yo-yo weight status.
At Food to Fit, we frequently see the negative effects the dieting cycle has on clients. It perpetuates weight gain, self-sabotage, poor body image, and low self esteem over many years of a person’s life. The story often beginning with the first diet experienced at the age of 14, 16 or 21 years. And now 10, 20 or 30 years later there is yet another shake, another set of food rules, another promise to help with weight loss. Yet, the poor relationship with food prevails.
Let us break down said dieting cycle:
Stage 1: New hope and excitement for change along with a new product and promise for weight loss;
Stage 2: Restrictive eating ensues with eagerness and close attention to the rigid food rules and “don’ts” outlined in the diet. Social isolation from normal life events such as birthdays and date nights becomes the new norm. People often feel good and energized in this stage and may even see some weight loss;
Stage 3: That good, energetic feeling starts to deflate. Strong food cravings develop and the acceptable dieting foods no longer fill the void. When the strict food rules become unrealistic and difficult to attain, desperation kicks in;
Stage 4: Calorie-rich and “off limit” food temptations become too much and the diet structure begins to weaken. The “cheats” sneak into your routine more and more, which comes at a major cost - immense guilt and shame!
Stage 5: Inevitably throwing in the towel and feeling frustrated by failure, all sense of hope is gone. Sometimes bingeing habits develop or return, and so does the weight that was lost;
Stage 6: A few months go by and a new spark of hope is born out of a big sales pitch, before and after photos, and superficial promises.
Diet resolutions rarely stick and merely perpetuate the aforementioned cycle, poor body image, and health issues. Why? New Years Resolutions related to dieting often lack practicality and sustainability. Improving one's health is a process that begins with a non-dieting approach, which minimizes weight loss as a primary goal. After all, weight loss does not necessarily = healthy. The process requires self reflection, self acceptance, patience, organization, non weight focused goal setting, nurturing food relationships, and meal planning that best suits your life, your personality, your diagnosis (if applicable), and your taste buds.
Sounds daunting, but it's not impossible when that process starts with meeting the right health professional who is going to hear your story. Nutrition and health goals are within reach when attainable goals are set, barriers chipped away, food relationship and body image issues are brought forward, and the individual begins to move away from the "thin ideal" and dieting mentality. Over time, weight status or body composition may change - it may go up and it may come down depending on your body's preferred set point when you're truely taking care of it. If losing weight was no longer the goal, what area of your health might work towards? Can nutrition play a role? For example, many of our clients focus on building confidence around personal food choices, finding consistency in food intake patterns (reducing chaotic eating), balancing meals that best suit their lifestyle, satisfying the appetite, listening to hunger and fullness cues, improving gut health and function, optimizing sleep patterns and energy levels, and finding true pleasure in all foods.
You don't need another diet resolution. It's a new year and perhaps an opportunity to take a different approach to your health and wellness. Stand up against diet culture. It is certainly NOT easy, but there is a whole network of supporters out there on the same non-dieting path. There is another way.
By Brooke Bulloch, RD