With the ringing in of the New Year, many people are also reigning in the eating. Going on a diet in January is de rigeur. Did you know that dieting is a $60 billion industry? If dieting really worked, why are they making so much moolah? The fact is that dieting absolutely does not work. If that leaves you desperate to figure out what does, start here.
1.Your Body is an ally, not an enemy.
When you restrict calories, you’re basically telling your body that there’s not enough to eat, as in famine. In order to keep you healthy and alert, your body goes into protection mode, slowing your metabolism. Go yo-yo with the dieting, and your metabolism really starts to freak out. Everything freaks out, really. I don’t think you want that for yourself.
2.You actually know what to eat.
You probably already know this, because it’s been pretty much agreed upon that eating fresh, whole (unprocessed) foods, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats—including nuts and avocados (yay!) is the way to go. Does that mean you never have Aunt Mabel’s chocolate layer cake? No! It does mean paying attention to how you feel in your body when you eat it, or anything else you put in your body. If your body, mind, and mood feel good in relation to your food choices, that’s great, keep doing what you’re doing! If you realize that too much of this or not enough of that isn’t working for you—you’ve lost your zest, you feel down, or can’t think clearly–by all means, change it up!
Discovering what’s right for you to eat is based on trial and error, not the latest fad diet.
And when to eat:
You have the ability to know when you’re hungry and when you’re not. If you have a tendency to stress-eat, or eat when you’re sad-anxious-lonely-bored-angry, it can get confusing, but your body still has the signals to let you know it’s time to fuel up. Start to notice if you’re feeling actual hunger in your body before you pick up the fork, or if it’s based on something else. See if you can respond to the “something else” in a different way, starting with naming what it is you’re feeling. “I’m sad, not hungry” can be a revelation. Find support for your feelings. They’re important, real, and you’ll feel so much better working through them without eating over them.
And how much to eat:
Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve had enough, right? But when it’s a pain in your gut that signals ‘stop’, you may have passed your body’s natural state of fullness. There are tons of reasons for this—large portions when eating out, the “Last Supper Syndrome” when you feel like you’re never going to get this (fill in the blank) again, so why not go hog wild?, the “Clean Plate Club” when you better not waste it because then you’re a bad person, “Portion Anxiety” when you’re eating family style and you’re afraid you won’t get enough. It’s ok, we all do this kind of thing, but it’s good to be aware that just like your body knows when it needs to refuel, it also knows when it’s full. If the kind of fullness I’ve described above is a “10” on the fullness scale, then try pausing at 7 and see if you’ve had enough. Just settle in for a few minutes and check in with your body. If you’re feeling like a few more bites would satisfy, go for it! If you’re comfortable where you are, see if you can push the plate away and call it good.
3. You are not one-size-fits-all.
Probably one of the weirdest things in our culture is the message that there’s one ideal, perfect, or best weight, size, or appearance. Need some inspiration to help you let go of an unrealistic and damaging body image? I had the good fortune of attending a showing of the film ‘Embrace’ a beautiful film that explores women and body image around the world. It’s a must-see.
4. You’re allowed to eat, and have fun doing it.
Eating is for energy, sure, but it’s not supposed to be drudgery. No matter what your budget or taste, you can prepare a meal that is satisfying, fun, and beautiful. Check out one of my faves Mark Bittman. He has some great ideas, yummy recipes, and a generally sensible approach to cooking and eating. Cooking is a way to get creative, and it really doesn’t have to be the chore that it might seem like. With a few good ingredients, some basic seasonings, and a little planning, you can create wholesome meals just for one, for your family, or your friends and neighbors.
5. You deserve RESPECT!
When you give it some good, hard thought, does it make sense to feel shame about your body? Your body is your body. What if it were neither good, nor bad, but just neutral? What if the focus was on feeling good in your body, rather than having a good body? Does hating yourself really help you to make good food or exercise choices? I think not. This might seem motivating at first, but just like any punishing diet, it’s not sustainable.
Any change must come from self-compassion,
If you care about and respect yourself now, just as you are—an imperfect, beautiful human, that clears the path for a lifetime of self-care and respect. I’d much rather choose what I want for dinner from that place, wouldn’t you?
Be as you are, my dear. And be gentle with yourself.