By Laura Bottoms, Registered Dietician and chief of Ireland Army Health Clinic clinical dieteticsJanuary 8, 2019
Resolution: a firm decision to do or not do something. Each New Year brings New Year's Resolutions, but I encourage you to avoid jumping on the diet band wagon this year. The dieting culture promotes restriction, labels foods as good or bad, and often results in limited long term success.
The problem most people struggle with is that they decide to hitch themselves to a particular diet wagon and struggle to stay on board. They fall off, regaining any weight loss and end up in worse state than they started.
I propose that you forget the wagon all together--consider shifting your mindset. Good health and weigh management is a marathon, not a sprint. Most people are unable to get off the couch and run a marathon, they need to prepare themselves both physically and mentally. Making dietary changes a permanent part of your life works in a similar way.
When setting goals be S.M.A.R.T about it.
Be SPECIFIC, make them MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE and TIMELY.
Decide what actions you need to take, how you are going to do it, what resources may be needed to support you and set a timeframe for completion. When examining your goals for attainability, ask yourself on a scale from 1-10, "how confident am I that I will meet my goal?" If you can't honestly answer 8+, then readjust your goal. Let's examine a few common unrealistic goals and see how we can improve them using this methodology.
Unrealistic/diet goal: I will plan all my meals for the month, following a strict plan.
Instead: I resolve to plan ahead at least one meal into the future.
At dinner time, try to consider what you are going to eat for breakfast the next day, then at breakfast, plan for lunch, and at lunch, dinner. If we think ahead even just one meal, there is time to gather what items you need for success and helps to reduce feelings of food insecurity that a diet often induces. Once you master planning ahead one meal at a time, move to two in advance and then three.
The more meals ahead you can plan, the better you will be set up for success. However, don't be overly ambitious and attempt to plan the whole week or month right of the bat, because it's hard to predict what life will throw at you each week.
Unrealistic/diet goal: I will not eat any sweets.
Instead: "I resolve to make peace with food."
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat food including those you find enjoyable. Sweets are not bad or evil; they are simply food. We often think it necessary to deny our body something it desires because we think it should be undesirable. When we tell ourselves we "can't or shouldn't" eat something, we try to fill the desire for a particular food with something else we deem OK to eat.
But it doesn't satisfy the craving so we keep eating and eating, never feeling satisfied. Eventually, ongoing restriction leads to feelings of deprivation, these feelings build and build until we can't take it anymore and binge. If we consider something other than food, it makes it easier to see what we should do.
If something is stinky you have a choice to hold your breath or breathe--you can keep holding your breath for only so long before you either are forced to take a big breath or pass out.
Set yourself up for success by keeping food that serve your well, like fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, for when you need to honor your hunger. However, when you have a craving for something specific, honor that too by choosing to allow yourself to have it; truly savor each bite and enjoy.
Unrealistic/diet goal: I will cook clean meals for my family every night.
Instead: "I resolve to try a new recipe."
Step out of your comfort zone and try that recipe you saw on Instagram or Pintrest. Trying new foods may help open opportunities to substitute for meals in your regular rotation that are not supportive to your goals.
Additionally, introducing new foods to the family may take time. It can take kids 10-15 exposures to a new food before they accept it--same goes for spouses. Cook for leftovers (aka: meal prep). Cooking every night may be unrealistic for your schedule, however if you double or even triple a recipe you can cook and have extra for lunches or even dinners later in the week which will save you time and effort.
Unrealistic/diet goal: I will work out--run and lift weights every day.
Instead: "I resolve to partake in activities that support me and make me feel good about myself."
Excessive exercise can wear down the body and increase risk of injury. Additionally, if you are so sore that you can't even bend over to tie your shoe, you are less likely to find the motivation to get back to the gym. From another perspective, if we don't SEE the results we are expecting instantly we become de-motivated as well.
Finding exercise that gives you energy, makes your body feel good and leaves you feeling better than when you started, will be motivation in and of its self to continue. Think of finding activities that you enjoy like you think of finding the perfect career. If you find satisfaction in what you do on a daily basis, it makes it easier to get out of bed and head in to work.
Make 2019 the year you do things differently; focus on shifting your mindset. When you do, the behaviors that serve you well will become easier to sustain as they will support you in feeling good.
When we jump on the wagon of dieting culture and fall off again, we start the vicious cycle of guilt and shame, that lead us to over indulge or pressured into another restrictive diet program.
Instead this year resolve to take care of yourself and try something new.
Note: Laura Bottoms, RDN-LD, has been a dietitian with the Army for 10 years and considers herself a "non-diet dietitian." She believes all foods can fit, encourages clients to eat a variety of different foods, and believes that everyone is deserving of a healthy relationship with food.
If you want to start to heal your relationship with food, you can schedule an appointment with Bottoms by calling Ireland Army Health Clinic Nutrition Service at 502-624-9713.