We've all had 'em -- those resolutions that show up again and again, year after year, and continually implore us to beat up on ourselves for failing to stick to another extreme diet, workout plan, or “lifestyle”. You may have heard this quote from one of my personal heroes before: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". A college professor of mine echoed that once by saying “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. It’s tricky when it comes to dieting, because it’s not always obvious. The Diet Monster hides in plain site by masking itself as demonized food groups, unattainable activity challenges, and body ideals -- no matter their shape.
This year, I’m here to remind you -- you haven’t failed these diets. These diets have failed you. If you don’t believe me, see me explanation for why I won’t sell weight loss for the cold hard facts.
This year, see what it might feel like to ditch the diet mentality, and set a resolution to do something that nourishes you instead. This doesn’t mean that these things might not result in better health, and they might even be food or activity related. But they might not. And that’s ok. If you're having trouble coming up with how to take better care of yourself in 2017 without dieting, that's ok too. We've been pretty hard-wired to attach much of our worth to our weight, what size we wear, or what's on our plates. So, I have some suggestions. Below are 10 New Years Resolutions that have nothing to do with food, exercise, or weight.
Trust me -- I know it can be scary to start the process of letting go of the control we think we have over our bodies. But this may be one small step toward total body love and acceptance. In my own experience with clients, when weight loss is the primary focus, no accomplishment ever feels like enough. So maybe try something different this year. You’re not committing to anything, really. You'd just be trying out a small shift in perspective. For most, past years’ resolutions leave us upset with ourselves and nowhere closer to our goal. So just for this year, try something new. I promise you can go back next year, or you can back out any time you please.
And I wouldn't be a true #NerdyGirl if I didn't give you just a lil' bit of evidence-based info to help you succeed at whichever resolution you decide to pursue this year. The most important thing when it comes to starting any new habit is to start at a slow, sustainable rate. In the biz' we call this setting SMART goals.
The SMART Goal system has been shown to be a highly effective way of achieving personal goals. To elaborate on what these goals might look like, let's use an example of someone who might want to feel more energized and less tired in 2017.
Specific: Avoid setting very general goals (i.e. I want to have more energy), and instead think about what specific actions you can take to get there (i.e. I want to get more sleep, so would like to get to bed earlier each night).
Measurable: Decide what the ideal amount of sleep would be for you to feel well-rested, and energized. For most, this will be somewhere in the range of 7-9 hours per night. This will help inform what time you should plan to get to bed. If you wake up at 7am, and you do best with 9 hours of sleep, you would aim to be in bed no later than 10pm.
Achievable: To check off this one, you'll have to ask yourself where you're at today with this goal. If you're currently going to bed at 2am, it might not be reasonable to jump straight into bed by 9:45 come January 1. It's often helpful to start a little closer to where you're at now. So, for the first week of trying this new goal, maybe you aim to get to bed 1 hour earlier, so by 1am. As you begin to get comfortable with this, you can push it back another hour, and continue this until you meet your goal. This may feel like a slow process -- and it is! Change takes time, and feeling successful is crucial in maintaining new habits.
Relevant: Does getting to bed by a certain time lead to more sleep, and then impact your energy? Totally!
Time-Bound: When would you like to achieve your goal by? Maybe you want to be getting those precious 9 hours by the start of February. This would mean you have about 1 month to get from a 2am bedtime to 10pm lights-out. Schedule yourself to push your bedtime back 1 hour each week until you meet your goal. Sometimes in forming new habits, it can be helpful to set reminders on your phone.
And that's it! You're officially a goal-setting expert. Have a wonderful start to 2017, lovely people. And remember to take care of yourselves in all ways this year.
Seriously -- XO,
Sam the Dietitian
“Strong is the new skinny” - a phrase that’s been floating around social media sites, on which women of all ages seem to be posting the latest additive-free, all-natural recipes, along with killer muscle-building workouts. Typically, when I’ve seen this motivational axiom it’s been meant in a positive way—in a sense saying “we don’t want to starve ourselves, we want to be strong and healthy!”
Great. It’s fantastic to see a trend that helps those who follow it. However, the question has come to my mind: is this a positive thing? Even if muscle-building, and sticking to natural foods, and moving away from the age-old trap that is calorie counting, are all physically good for us, I wonder if we haven’t just replaced one obsession with another. Now, instead of counting each miniscule piece of food we’re eating, and fixating on who had the least amount of calories today, we’re all about who can go as natural as possible. Are today’s raw vegans or Paleo junkies simply the updated version of yesterday’s restrictors?
Although today’s fad dieters may be receiving more adequate nutrition than the Grapefruit Diet’s followers, there still may be danger in the mindset. Even if the goal has changed from clocking in calories at an unattainable low, there is still room for stress, obsession, and an unhealthy relationship with the good stuff that fuels us. Now the obsession lies in compulsively checking ingredients labels, ruling out entire food groups, and often replacing arguably unhealthy habits (i.e. consuming refined sugars or dairy) with equally or more harmful habits in abundance (i.e. consuming high fat items because they are lower in carbs).
Building a positive relationship with your food is by no means easy. Many people living in our society battle food in one way or another. But the secret will never lie in ruling out a food group, consuming excessive amounts of protein, or a juice cleanse. Fad diets can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, and adverse effects on our body chemistry and physiology. Wondering if your recent lifestyle choices constitute a fad diet? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are all food groups represented?
2. Does the program/diet ask you to purchase specialty foods, products, or supplements? Does the program seem especially costly?
3. Can this diet be maintained long term?
4. Does this diet promote unreasonably quick weight loss?
After asking these questions, judge for yourself – does your new lifestyle choice fall into the fad category? Or is it a well-balanced, realistic lifestyle that can be maintained for the long haul?
The secret to a positive relationship with food lies within you. The next time you want to embark on a new diet journey, put it through this fad diet test, and make the decision that is right for you.
*As seen on headtotoewellness.weebly.com
If you were asked if you were a “normal eater,” what would that mean to you? Could you answer yes? Would you say no? Could you respond at all? This may seem a direct and simple question, but the answer may not be so obvious. Many meal plans out there seem to assert that perfection is the only way to a healthy lifestyle and your ideal body. But perfection, as it pains many of us to admit, is never truly an option.
Ellyn Satter, a well-known Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, defines normal eating beautifully. To paraphrase and summarize, her definition can be interpreted to mean that normal eating is a combination of listening to your body’s cues, and allowing your intuition to drive you. Normal eating is recognizing what the signals mean, but recognizing how well you listen to them does not directly correlate to your worth as a human being. To quote Ms. Satter, normal eating is “leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.”
In our culture, we receive mixed messages surrounding food constantly. But I maintain that food is to be enjoyed – and how lucky we are that it can also do miraculous things for our bodies. It is true that for optimal health it is wise to exercise portion control, and consume mostly nutrient dense foods. And it is true that overindulging in certain foods may lead to health complications. But we cannot expect perfection from ourselves, nor should we try. The stress that accompanies trying to adhere to a "perfect" way of eating will most definitely negate any benefit one might get from excluding any food.
I often ask clients – “Why are your health goals important to you?”. Frequently, the response is something along the lines of wanting quality of life. If your health goals are important to you because you want to enjoy life thoroughly, it is nonsensical to make yourself crazy with highly restrictive diets in the hopes of becoming a “normal eater”. As it turns out, a part of normal eating is eating what sounds good sometimes, even if it doesn’t seem to align perfectly with your goals. If your goal is to be happy and healthy, you are on the right track.
*For the full answer to “What Is Normal Eating” by Ellyn Satter, visit http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php
*As seen on headtotoewellness.weebly.com
This site is all about spreading the truth about the food the fuels us through interpreting evidence-based research. But sometimes there's stuff Samantha wants to talk about in a more relaxed way. All the information on this page will still be based in science, and will never subscribe to fad diets or unattainable extremes. Check back frequently!