New Year, New You? Why You Don't Need Another Diet Resolution!
Another year, another sweet promise to lose weight and "get healthy"- or at least that's the pressure many of us feel this time of year. But is it truly serving you well? Don’t get me wrong, people should work towards positive change in their life if that's what they feel they need. Maybe it relates to being more active, being more intentional with money, to start meditating, or even improve one’s health (which, by the way, can occur without losing weight). However, the “new year, new you” mantra merely allows diet and "wellness" culture to take advantage of guilt-ridden and vulnerable people after a time of year when most of us lose our daily routine, eat more carbohydrates and sodium, and drink more alcohol. Heads are foggy and we're all feeling a bit bloated from the season (which is pretty normal by the way). 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, a yo-yo weight status, and an even poorer relationship with food.
At Food to Fit Nutrition, we see the negative effects the dieting cycle has on clients. Diets - including the rebranded "lifestyle" diets - promote disordered eating, increase chances of weight gain, and perpetuate poor body image and self esteem over many years of a person’s life.
The dieting cycle goes something like this:
Stage 1: New hope and excitement for change (maybe the possibility for happiness? Love? Social acceptance? Reduced weight stigma?) related to weight loss, along with a new product or set of food rules;
Stage 2: Restrictive eating ensues with eagerness and close attention paid 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: The excitement and energy starts to deflate. Strong food cravings develop and the acceptable dieting foods or portions no longer fill the void. When the strict food rules become unrealistic and difficult to attain, desperation kicks in (which is not actually a personal failure but your body's hunger hormone's kicking into overdrive as a result of physical and mental food deprivation);
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 - bingeing in secret or feeling out of control around food, followed by more restriction and more binging, and of course immense guilt and shame.
Stage 5: Inevitably throwing in the towel and feeling frustrated by failure, all sense of hope is gone. The "none" portion of the "all or none" mentality to food and eating kicks in and often weight is regained (which is normal body physiology and not actually your fault. Read more on this here);
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, disordered eating, and health issues. Why? Because diets are designed to fail, and it's the only industry that fails you, yet blames you.
If it all sounds dismal, it's because it is dismal. Diet culture is selling health and happiness in a size and is fueling weight stigma, oppression, and misinformation. Improving one's health (if that is your goal), is a process that begins with a non-diet approach to living your best life. This includes weight inclusivity and appreciation for body diversity, receiving respectful health care, engaging in physical activity that feels good and that you enjoy, and an individualized eating pattern based on flexibility, health, body attunement, and pleasure. The process requires self reflection, patience, non weight focused goal setting, nurturing your food relationship, unlearning food rules, and supportive nutrition counseling. It's deep, it's not easy, but it IS your gateway to food and body peace. Over time, weight status may change - it may go up and it may come down depending on your body's preferred set point when it's recovered from dieting.
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, which may include setting a goal that has nothing to do with food, eating, restricting, dieting, or changing your shape. Imagine! It might include getting monthly massages, going to therapy regularly, volunteering, journaling, starting a new hobby - endless possibilities for making this year a better year for you. Stand up against diet culture. It's not easy, but there is a whole network of supporters out there. On social media you might follow hashtags such as #weightinclusive, #nondiet #healthnotdiets #bodyacceptance #fatacceptance #antidiet #riotsnotdiets. Visit Our Team page for more about our team of nutrition therapists.
By Brooke Bulloch, RD