Why you don't need a diet this New Year, and how to re-frame unhelpful thoughts
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Real talk: sometimes it’s hard to be vulnerable and put your words on the internet. It’s especially difficult when your thoughts are against the norm. But as we near closer to the end of December and enter “diet season”, I feel now is a great time to start putting words to paper again (virtual paper, anyway).
We are getting to the time of “New year, new me- time to buckle down and start a diet!”-am I right? What if I told you it doesn't have to be that way this year? That you are good enough just the way you are and dieting won’t make you healthier. That you deserve a more fulfilling New Years Resolution. Let’s break down why we go to dieting or “lifestyle changes” for our resolutions to better understand our thoughts.
1. We are fed the lie that “life will be much better if you are smaller.”
This is absolutely untrue. Plenty of people who “successfully lose weight” (aka in some cases restricting food and overs exercising) are still unsatisfied with their bodies and lives. When we start to peel back the layers, what we are actually looking for is love and acceptance, which is attainable at any body size.
2. Society has ingrained that dieting is morally good.
“OH wow Susan, you are doing whole 30? Good for you!” Does this ring a bell? This is so damaging. Our food choices do not make us good or bad. And going on a diet is NOT a good thing for your mental or physical health.
3. Diet culture tricks us to desire “thinness” or “fitness” and that our intentions are to be “healthy”.
Let’s not confuse body size/shape with health. Behaviors, stress levels, and social determinants are more reflective of health status than a body size. Let’s look at this example:
Debra lives in a larger body and by definition is “fat”. She loves to go for walks and take body positive group fitness classes. Debra eats satisfying foods when she is hungry from a variety of food groups. She enjoys her job and has meaningful relationships and does not even feel pressured to change the size of her body.
Polly is lean and fit. She exercises excessively and eats very little in attempt to avoid gaining weight. She has a back injury but “no pain no gain!” Polly isolates herself from her friends and family, spending most of her time meal prepping her clean food. She is exhausted from fear of gaining weight and constantly thinking about how doing x behavior or eating y food might affect the ability to see her abdominal muscles.
Who is “healthier”? If you said Debra, you are correct. Body size does not determine health or happiness.
4. We feel pressured to diet after the holidays because we “over did it” with food.
The holidays are a time to enjoy with family, and friends. Food is a central part of celebrating and its OK to overeat sometimes just because something tastes good. Other times, overeating is often due to restricting during the rest of the year. We go into the mindset of “it's the holidays, I won’t have festive cookies for the rest of the year so I’ll eat 15 in one sitting”, which isn’t helpful. If you give yourself permission to eat all foods and listen to your hunger/needs, you may find that you don’t want all 15 cookies.
With all this being said, I’m a huge fan of having a starting place to work on your relationship with food. Re-framing thoughts from unhelpful to helpful can be a great tool for avoiding the lure of dieting in the new year. Here’s a list of unhelpful thoughts that may occur in with the season of diets and “lifestyle changes”, replaced with more helpful thoughts:
Unhelpful: Tomorrow is January 1st ! Time to start my diet. Going to have a last supper tonight and eat EVERYTHING before it’s all off limits.
Helpful: Tomorrow is January 1st ! Regardless of the time of year, I am going to eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and eat satisfying foods. All foods fit into a healthful diet and I’m in it for the long haul.
Unhelpful: This is my year to get skinny and/or fit. I’m going to improve myself by spending more time in the gym and eating clean food.
Helpful: This year and every year my body deserves self-care. Self-care can include joyful movement and gentle nutrition. It can also include resting my body and enjoying my favorite dessert with a good friend.
Do you have any unhelpful thoughts you or someone you know may have that you can make helpful? Feel free to share!