“You didn’t fail the diet, but the diet failed you.”
The holidays are behind us and it’s the time that the “New Year” mentality starts to take hold. You feel like you “blew it” and derailed from the diet. You couldn’t stick to [insert diet here] through the holidays are are feeling like a failure. But New Year means “new you” right? Time to start over.
How many times have you promised yourself you were going to lose weight on the best diet out there or not gain it back after you stopped the diet? Or that the restrictive changes required by the diet could somehow be a “lifestyle” (keto, I’m looking at you). But, you don’t lose as much weight as expected, or you gain the weight back shortly after the diet, or you were so miserable on the diet that you just give up. So, you’re left feeling like you did something wrong. In reality, the diet was wrong from the beginning!
There is hope though. A new way of life, a life without dieting. It’s time to take charge of your life again and have true food freedom. We can help you take charge of your health without breaking the bank (no more throwing gobs of money at shakes, skinny teas, and supplements). Keep reading for our 8 tips to begin your life free from dieting.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I earn a percentage of any sales made through those links, at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links are identified with an asterisk (*).
What is wrong with dieting?
Diets are not designed to be sustainable. They are too restrictive for most people and leave most feeling miserable and “hangry.” I don’t want you feeling shameful or sad that you weren’t able to keep up with the latest dieting trend. Instead, I want you to consider the “anti-diet” way of life, which is to put the dieting on hold and start making lifestyle changes that will make you feel better and more confident about your food choices, your health, and how you feel.
Here is How to Not Diet:
1. Remember: Numbers are just numbers.
On a typical diet, numbers are everything. Whether they be calories, weight, carbs, BMI or minutes on the treadmill. The problem is that every body is different and has different needs. Nutrition is not a one size fits all approach! As you work on your health and nutrition, your body will find a place where it is happy. Following a non-diet approach, like Intuitive Eating, may or may not result in weight loss. It is about healing your relationship with food, and numbers are not a focus.
If you’re interested in knowing why numbers like weight and BMI are not useful tools in your health journey, the book Anti-Diet by dietitian Christy Harrison* is a fantastic resource.
2. Find movement you truly enjoy
Yoga, walking, running, elliptical, water aerobics, Zumba, step, body pump, tai chi, kickboxing, crossfit, swimming, playing basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hiking, bowling, mowing the lawn, gardening, canoeing, kayaking, ice skating, skiing… the list goes on! With non-dieting, there is no one type of movement (exercise) that you must do. Our Registered Dietitians encourage you to find movement that works best for you and your body. There are no rules with how long you need to work out, or with what intensity. Have 5 minutes to stretch? Beautiful! 10 minutes to ride the bike? Great! 7 minute dance break between work meetings? Count me in! Movement of any kind is beneficial to your body, and movement that you enjoy is good for your mind too!
3. Eat a variety of foods
Typical diets usually require you to cut out some sort of food group. Keto cuts carbs, Whole 30 cuts out sugar and grains. Weight Watchers discourages certain foods by giving them high point values. The list goes on. Healthy eating encourages you to eat all types of foods. Each food group has essential nutrients that your body needs. You will feel much better and much more satisfied when you allow yourself to incorporate all foods into your diet! Restrictive dieting is completely unsustainable. You will feel that restriction and it will become unbearable, often leading to eventual “derailment” from the diet, and overeating or binge eating on the restricted foods. Keep the foods that you love in your life! You will enjoy your food and feel in control around those foods that used to be deemed “unhealthy.”
4. Eat fun foods
Many people disagree and say that these foods are just full of “empty calories.” However, there are no such thing as “empty calories.” Calories are something our body uses for energy: to walk, talk, breathe, think, laugh, hug, run, skip, jump, cook…etc. So yes, the chips or cookies you had as a treat after lunch will help you to stay alive. The trick is to have a better relationship with these foods. They can’t be forbidden or you will feel out of control around them. Intuitive Eating is a process that helps you dig into those feelings around food and enjoy these foods without guilt.
5. Practice self-care
What do diets often fail to address? Mental health. Our stress management and self care is vital for our health. This means taking time for yourself every few days or every day to recharge and relieve some stress. It can also mean seeking therapy to learn how to address your mental health concerns.
When it comes to self care, we need to incorporate activities that we truly enjoy, but also activities that help build that life that you want. Think of activities that bring you joy. Make a list of the things that truly help you to relax so you have them at your disposal for when you are trying to relax! I play Nancy Drew computer games. I know… nerdy, but I’ve loved them since I was a kid! Self care can also be things that you need to do for your mind and body, like financial planning/budgeting, going grocery shopping so you have food in the house, taking time out of your busy day to stop and eat, etc.
6. Try new foods
Trying new foods helps make sure you have enough variety in your diet. Variety keeps us from getting bored. Yes you can eat chicken, brown rice, and broccoli for a meal and that’s nutritious. However, if that’s what you’re eating over and over again, not only are you missing out on important nutrients, you’re also setting yourself to get BORED. Food should be enjoyed! We don’t believe in restricting yourself from foods, but instead thinking about what you can add in! We want to focus on expanding your [food] world rather than restriction which is so common with dieting. What is one new food you would like to try, but have maybe been too afraid to try?
7. Build your “Bubble”
It is so easy to get trapped into the diet culture mentality when you’re completely surrounded by its false hopes and promises. Friends who lost weight on keto, family commenting on your body (or their own bodies), social media influencers promising drastic results. If you want to improve your relationship with food and your body, it is imperative that you build yourself a supportive, non-toxic bubble. Start with your social media. Delete or mute anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself. Start following influencers who are body positive, who live in bodies similar to yours, who are anti-diet dietitians, etc. Check our some of our favorite accounts below!
Next, now this can be tricky, is to start setting boundaries with your family and friends. Let them know that you’re not interested in engaging in diet talk. Tell them straight up, or change the subject, or just walk away. For those close to you, let them know that your body is not up for discussion.
Finally, get the support that you need by building yourself a team. Finding a dietitian and a therapist can be a great place to start. We have a great team of dietitians with numerous specialties, so there is sure to be a good fit for you. Find out more on our About Us page.
8. Tap into intuitive and mindful eating
The idea of being an “intuitive eater” has become popular lately. However it’s not always used in the right context. True intuitive eating is not just eating when hungry and stopping when full. It includes these concepts of recognizing hunger and fullness, however it more so focuses on making peace with food, having the confidence to know what your body needs in specific moments, feeling satisfied with your food choices, and respecting your body through body acceptance, joyful movement, and gentle nutrition. If this sounds like the food freedom you’ve been searching for, check out our intuitive eating blogs below.
What about mindful eating? This concept is about being present during eating. Eating slowly, savoring, thinking about what you’re eating and assessing if you’re enjoying the meal or feeling satisfied. Check out this image for an overview of mindful eating! We also have mindful eating blogs that dive deeper into this topic listed below.
- Simple Steps Toward Mindful Eating with Video
- Mindful Eating Tip: Honoring Your Hunger
- Mindful Eating Exercises for Healthy Eating with Diabetes
Watch Registered Dietitian, Kaitlin Eckstein, dive more into this topic!
Are you ready to stop dieting?
If you’re ready to break free from diet prison, we have the perfect place to start. Take a look at our newest Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating book called Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating for a guide on how to not diet and how to reach your health goals!
Call today to make an appointment with one of our dietitians! Our phone number is 301-474-2499 or visit our contact page.
Blog updated December 2020.
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.