Tune out the noise of New Year dieting and weight loss programs with these 10 tips! Imagine a January without food rules, an extreme exercise regimen or weigh-ins. You can honor your health and care for your whole self without dieting or trying to change your body!
Many people feel a sense of motivation and aspiration at the beginning of a new year. And there is nothing wrong with that! However, the slimy marketing tactics of the diet and weight loss industry prey on that and convince us that we need to buy their program in order to be happy and healthy. This is far from the truth!
In actuality, dieting and pursuing weight loss is more likely to harm our health than boost it. Because true health isn’t about restriction and deprivation. It’s not about tearing ourselves down, but building ourselves up.
RELATED: Want to Get Healthy? Here’s What to Focus on Instead of Weight Loss
If you’re sick of yo-yo dieting, of repeatedly losing and gaining weight, of obsessing about your appearance, and you want something different this New Year, you’re in the right place! Here’s how to get started.
First, Tune In
Before you do anything, take a moment to get quiet, get still, and tune in with yourself. How are you doing? How are you feeling physically? How are you feeling emotionally? What’s going on in your life right now?
Just taking this pause to connect and turn your attention inward can be incredibly grounding. Doing this regularly, especially when you feel the urge to go on a diet or weigh yourself, can help you get out of your head and focus on what’s actually going on for you.
Remember, we are not our thoughts! And while we can’t flip a switch and turn off those nagging thoughts about food and body image, we can give them less of our attention. And this is one way to do that! Using our senses and getting into our bodies takes us out of our heads and helps us make choices from a place of self-care rather than anxiety, fear and the desire for control.
Try this basic grounding practice:
- Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor or a support; you can lay your hands in your lap or anywhere they feel comfortable
- Close your eyes or take a soft, downward gaze
- Allow yourself to be still and breathe naturally
- Begin to notice how your body is supported by the chair, floor, etc.
- Bring your focus to the parts of you that are touching the supports
- Notice how it feels to be supported
- Continue breathing, with this gentle awareness of support and grounding
- Just practice noticing, without judgment or trying to change anything
- Open your eyes or lift your gaze and slowly bring your attention back to your surroundings
Get Clear on Your Why
Hopefully now you’re feeling a little more grounded and centered. Consider how you came to this blog post and why you’re reading it. What is it about diet culture that makes you want to leave it behind? How does it harm you? How does it harm those you care about? How does it hold you back from what really matters to you?
When you ditch dieting and the pursuit of weight loss, how do you expect that to impact you? What benefits do you look forward to experiencing? How do you want this New Year to be different?
Consider how this will not only affect you, but have a ripple effect on everyone around you. I recommend spending some time getting really clear on your why and even writing it down in a journal, a note in your phone or a document on your computer.
Create Your Action Plan
So, you want to avoid dieting and weight loss programs this New Year. What will you do instead? Consider how you will relate to food, movement and your body.
Are you already knowledgeable about anti-diet frameworks like Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size®?
Do you want to learn more about these kinds of philosophies and how they can offer you tangible actions to live a life of food freedom and peace with your body?
Even if you don’t follow a framework or read up on these approaches, consider what will work for you and your lifestyle.
Write down at least 3 ways that you plan to honor and care for your body.
Also consider what you will do when you inevitably encounter diet talk or pressure to lose weight.
RELATED: 10 Ways to Ditch Dieting
Tune Out Diet Culture
While we can’t totally avoid diet culture, because it’s seemingly everywhere — especially during the New Year season, we can try to minimize our exposure to it.
Why is this important? Well, consider how you feel and think after you see weight loss ads and the false promises of diet or “lifestyle” programs. (Any program that’s telling you exactly how to eat, giving you rules to follow, having you count calories/macros/points/portions/servings, etc. is a diet, even if they say it isn’t).
For many of our clients, they experience an increase in anxiety and have urges to engage in harmful behaviors like food restriction, weighing themselves and perhaps even self-harm.
Plus, all of that content just adds to the already massive amount of harmful and incorrect information we’ve absorbed about bodies, beauty and health. We want to combat those unhealthy messages, not strengthen them! And reducing our exposure to them, as well as adding in positive content, is one way to do that.
So, how will you tune out diet culture? Try these strategies:
- Throw away diet and weight loss books (literally throw them away or recycle them, do not donate them or give them away!)
- Unfollow social media accounts that promote dieting, weight loss, extreme exercise, or a focus on thinness and physique
- Unsubscribe from newsletters, podcasts, news sources, etc. that promote this kind of content
- Walk away from or shut down diet and weight loss talk from friends, family, coworkers, etc.
- Resist the temptation to read about or look at stories or photos about weight loss transformations
Brainstorm other ways you encounter diet culture and weight loss pressures and think about how you can reduce your exposure. Consider what makes you feel like you need to “watch what you eat” or keep tabs on your weight – anything that makes you feel that way is a red flag and likely needs some boundaries.
For tips on advocating for weight-neutral care in medical settings, check out Ragen Chastain’s resources.
Check In Often
Remember step 1? Let’s revisit that. Because that’s not a one-and-done practice. Grounding and connecting is a vital skill that will keep you aligned with your true self and help you come back to your why.
Even if you’re feeling relatively peaceful with food and body, practice checking in with yourself regularly.
Consider using these questions as self-reflection prompts:
- How is my current relationship with food?
- Are there any foods I am restricting in any way? (“portion control,” only allowed to eat certain foods at certain times of day or on certain days of the week, can only eat certain foods if other foods have or have not been eaten, can only eat certain amounts or types of foods if “earned” through exercise, etc.)
- How is my current relationship with movement?
- Do I feel obligated to exercise in a particular way, at a particular frequency, or for a particular duration?
- How is my current relationship with my body?
- Am I measuring my body in any way? (scale, measuring tape, repeatedly trying on clothes of a certain size, pinching or feeling certain parts of my body, checking appearance often in a mirror?)
- Do I feel able to connect with my body, understand its needs and care for it accordingly?
These questions can give you a lot of insight. It’s OK if you are feeling challenged. Most of us have a long history of feeling at odds with our bodies, always trying to shrink or change them. And you don’t have to do this alone!
RELATED: 7 Reasons to Scrap the Scale
Solidify Your Support System
This is hard work. And it’s especially hard if you’re trying to do this entirely on your own.
Consider enlisting the support of professionals who are trained and experienced in the areas of food issues and body image. This includes a therapist and a registered dietitian.
Here at our nutrition practice we provide one-on-one counseling for folks working on their relationship with food, movement and body. We are totally weight-inclusive and use the principles of Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size® in our work.
Your personal support system is important too. Is there anyone close to you who you feel safe opening up to about what you’re doing? Is there a friend who is on a similar journey with ditching diet culture?
There are also support groups and online spaces where you can connect with like-minded people.
We can all relate to living in a culture that worships thinness and pressures us to adhere to oppressive body ideals. Not feeling so alone in your struggle can be helpful as you continue the path toward a more peaceful relationship with food and body.
RELATED: 8 Reasons to Work with an Anti-Diet Dietitian
Explore the Edge of Your Comfort Zone
Consider your action plan again. And think of where you are starting and where you are going. Imagine a staircase and you’re standing at the bottom of it. What is the first step toward a more peaceful relationship with food, movement and body?
What lies at the top of the staircase? Is it full recovery from your eating disorder? It is the ability to move in ways you want without feeling like you need to follow an exercise program or track anything? Is it feeling acceptance with your body size and never dieting again?
While it’s important to be realistic about what we can do right now, it’s also important not to get stagnant. What I mean is, once you’ve made it to that first step and feel stable there, think about what lies on the next step. And the next one after that.
You want to work at the edge of your comfort zone. What that means is it feels a little daunting, but you believe that you can do it, especially with support. It doesn’t immediately send you into a panic attack, but it also isn’t a walk in the park.
This will change over time. You’ll start on that bottom step and then slowly work your way up as you feel able. Working with a support team is a huge help here in determining where to start and how quickly to progress.
This is unique to each individual and their history. I can’t give you a personalized plan in a blog post, that is something for you to work through with your support team.
Here are just a few general examples of what this might look like:
- Reducing the frequency you step on the scale, from daily to weekly to monthly until you’re finally able to smash that scale and toss it in the trash where it belongs.
- Moving those too-small clothes into a storage bin at the back of your closet, and then eventually donating them.
- Incorporating a fear food once a day, starting with a food that isn’t super “scary,” working your way up to those highly “forbidden” foods.
- Not tracking your intake or movement for 1 day, then 1 week, then 1 month until you’re able to delete the app.
This is supposed to feel challenging. Not easy, but not impossible. This is how growth happens!
RELATED: What is Intuitive Movement?
Enjoy Your Life
Did you ever let dieting and the pursuit of weight loss become your entire personality? Remember how it held you back in so many ways and really sucked the joy out of life?
Well, now is your chance to be thoughtful about how to use that freed up mental space, time and energy!
Our clients celebrate this newfound freedom by finally doing the things they wanted to do but never did because they were too bogged down by counting calories and measuring their food, feeling moody and tired due to constant hunger, or too self-conscious because they felt like they needed to look a certain way to do literally anything.
Dieting is a drag in so many ways, but most of all because it holds us back from enjoying our lives.
Make a plan for how you’re going to have an anti-diet New Year, but also make a list of all the things you’re going to do that bring you joy!
Because life is so much more than the food we eat, how we move our bodies, or the number on the scale.
Take your life back and enjoy your well-deserved freedom!
We are here to help. Check out our nutrition counseling services and see if our liberation-based approach is right for you.
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