As a dietitian, I’m not a big fan of New Years resolutions, especially the ones that involve weight loss diets.
I’ve seen my share of bad nutrition and diet resolutions. They’re usually forced. They’re usually unrealistic. And more times than not, they’re forgotten by the time February rolls around. Why even bother?
I’ve also seen how our perceptions of food and eating has changed over the past couple of decades, becoming a battle not only between people, but within ourselves.
Food isn’t just food anymore, it’s a religion..all about punishment, morality, and being ‘clean.’ Aren’t you getting tired of that crap yet?
I AM! Let’s get rid of that way of thinking for 2020, shall we?
Ditch Weight Loss Diets in 2020
I wish nobody ever felt the need to talk about their cleanse or how they feel guilty because they’ve been eating ‘bad’ food or how they failed on their weight loss diet or how many grams of carbs they’re eating a day. It’s so boring and irrelevant to who they are as people, and besides, it hurts us all to hear and use that sort of language about food.
That being said, it can be tough to move from a ‘diet’ mindset to one that’s more permissive. And while I can’t get behind most weight loss-based resolutions, I can give you my three best tips for starting 2020 right.
These tips aren’t prescriptive like, ‘eat half a plate of vegetables with each meal’-type things. Rather, they’re essential starting points for making peace with food and your body.
Here they are:
Think of food as a whole, not as numbers
I’ll never forget the client I had who was a long-time Weight Watchers dieter. Even though it had been years since she had used that diet, she still looked at everything she ate as ‘points.’ I could see her literally adding up all of the points in her head when I made my food recommendations.
I was always like, ‘stop that!’ because I could see her lips moving as she calculated the numbers!!
Calories, points, macros, it’s all the same: when you start turning food into a number with weight loss as your goal, you lose your connection with food and with your body’s cues.
Suddenly, it’s all about what you need to eat, and what you should and shouldn’t eat.
AGHHH! Food and eating aren’t supposed to be like that!
We don’t eat numbers, we eat food. And most of those numbers that we take to be correct are often not – calories, for example, are a flawed measure (read why here). And points? Don’t even get me started (here’s my review of Weight Watchers’ new points system).
The truth is that most of the time, we don’t really know what we’re looking at when we use numbers to determine what we should be eating.
Do you really know how many calories you need in a day? Or what the correct macros are for your body? How in the world does WW know how many points you need on a day-to-day basis? Needs change according to everyday factors and we’re not all the same genetically, so I never put too much stock in the figures.
Numbers also don’t take into account the satisfaction you’ll get from eating – being full and being satisfied are two very different things. And just because something ‘fits’ into your prescribed parameters doesn’t mean it’s nourishing.
If you’re used to seeing food as numbers, it can take a while to change. Don’t let that discourage you, just look at it as a process for which the outcome will be so rewarding: namely, you’ll be able to actually enjoy your food instead of calculating shit in your head every time you open your mouth.
To start, try to see food as what it gives you and how it makes you feel. Is it nourishing, both physically and emotionally? Is it satisfying?
Those are the most important measures you can use.
Have an ‘include’ list, not a ‘do not eat’ list
You’ve probably heard me say that I’m a pencil dietitian, not an eraser. That means that instead of taking stuff out of peoples’ diets, most of the time I add things back. Especially things that have been on their ‘don’t’ list, like fruit, bread, and ice cream.
There’s something about taking away that ‘don’t’ list that feels so good for me and for them. I’ve had clients get so excited about adding Greek yogurt back into their diets, it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
It’s sad because most of us don’t need to avoid any type of food, but we do it out of fear and misinformation. Yoga teachers, trainers, celebrities, internet doctors, armchair ‘nutritionists’ and whoever else can spread crazy ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be eating, and the result is that people are very confused about food.
It also sucks to be unnecessarily restrictive. It can cause guilt and shame around eating, and destroy your relationship with food.
Seriously, aren’t you so tired of thinking about the foods you’re not allowed to eat?
Has it made that much of a positive impact in your life? Is weight really the ultimate goal? SHOULD it be?
To start, begin adding foods back into your diet. Extra points for adding back anything that Gwyneth Paltrow said was ‘toxic.’
Don’t just look at your ‘what,’ look at your ‘why’
Even though it’s not at the top of my list here, this is literally my number one step for anyone who has been struggling with food and eating, and/or their body image.
It’s all about your WHY.
Your ‘why’ is the reason you feel the way you do about food, about yourself, and about the way you look. It’s the reason why you feel compelled to go on yet another diet to change yourself.
Asking yourself ‘why’ might seem like a very simple question, but for a lot of you out there, it’s actually not. And the answer to this question can be even tougher, because it forces you to confront your negative core beliefs. These are beliefs that you’ve probably had for years, about who you are and what you’re worth, as these relate to food, eating, and your body.
It would be easy to respond with something light, like, ‘I want to go on another diet because my thighs are fat,’ but is that really the reason you’ve been punishing yourself for years? Are you ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to what you eat?
What personal value is wrapped up in the size of your thighs, and is this really true?
Maybe when you were young, someone made you feel like you weren’t good enough unless you were thin. Or, you heard a negative remark about your body that you internalized. It could have been an offhand comment, or behavior that you grew up watching (like a parent consumed with obsessive dieting, weight loss, and poor body image).
We’re born without any negative notion of how our bodies should look or who we are. Those things are learned. And when these learned behaviours are negative, we can carry them through adulthood, fully believing them to be true. The problem with those feelings is that they’ve probably been making food and diet choices for you for years. And those choices aren’t always good ones.
Some of you want to lose weight for reasons that are unrelated to any deep-seated ‘why,’ but I encourage all of you to ask yourselves about your ‘why,’ and if there are any hidden feelings that are impacting your food choices or body image.
What I’m saying here is, many of us have a complicated relationship with food and eating because of a long-forgotten hurt or false impression that’s subconsciously still gnawing at us.
Whatever your ‘why’ is, it’s time to call it out. Because calling it out destabilizes and disarms it. And at the same time, exposing your ‘why’ empowers YOU.
Is your why really true? Is it logical? Whose voice is it that you’re hearing, your own, or somebody else’s, telling you the way you should be?
Once you have your ‘why,’ you might need to speak to someone about it (like a therapist). They can help you really exorcise that weight loss garbage from your life, and set you on a new, healthier track.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Have a friend who lost weight? Here’s how to compliment someone on their weight loss!