New year, new you. That’s what society is telling us right now– and it’s not fun to listen to. Go sugar free (how about not?). Go keto (I love carbs, thanks). Try Whole 30. Hit the gym. The dieting world is a $60 billion industry– and it keeps growing. Why do you think that is? If diets worked, they’d put themselves out of business.
The one thing that does work to improve your overall health and well-being? Listening to your body and practicing intuitive eating.
Here are 18 awesome ideas for what to do instead of dieting this year.
Reject the diet mentality
The idea of not dieting is scary to many. For some, it’s the only tool they’ve known to try to help them lose weight (only temporary). Hitting “diet bottom” is the feeling you get when you just can’t go on another diet. I experienced this feeling after my wedding was over and I gained back some of the weight I had lost. I felt pressured to lose the weight again, but just couldn’t bear to log my calories for one more day. Quitting dieting doesn’t mean you’re “out of control”, either. When practicing Intuitive Eating, you’ll rely on your internal signals rather than external ones (aka the diet rules).
Ditch the scale
Weighing yourself usually means judging yourself. This judgement can affect how you feel in every aspect of your life. I remember back in my dieting days, that if I lost weight, I’d indulge in a little more ice cream, or push myself to go harder. If I gained weight, I’d throw myself a pity party with even more ice cream or restrict more to “catch up”.
The scale isn’t the best judgement of health anyway. It gives you one number rather than the whole picture. If you want a better perspective of your health, go see a doctor and get a physical. You can even refuse to be weighed at the doctor’s office. Most are okay with it, or at least will agree to not show or tell you the number. Some situations really do need your weight number, such as having surgery or if you have diabetes.
Your weight fluctuates daily anyway– your normal body weight is a range of 10-20 pounds. This includes water weight from hormones, your hydration status, and even if you’ve had a bowel movement that day. Focus on how your body feels — your energy levels, digestion, etc.
Buy clothes that fit
Nothing is worse than too-tight underwear. Or pants. Or too-tight anything. Don’t force yourself to wear clothes that don’t fit your body shape. Likewise, don’t hold onto smaller clothes that you want to try to fit into “someday”. You’d be surprised how much better you feel in your body when you don’t feel constricted.
Do a social media cleanse
The only cleanse I’d recommend doing is a social media cleanse. Our feeds are jam packed with dieting messages. Unfollow everyone that makes you feel bad about yourself, that you compare yourself to, or posts pictures of their unrealistic lifestyles (who wants to drink only green juice for breakfast every day…).
Find a supportive tribe
Surround yourself in a non-diet bubble. Follow people who inspire you to love yourself and ditch diet culture. Here are some of my favorite non-diet bloggers and instagrammers:
Rachael from Rachael Hartley Nutrition
Sumner from Intuitive Eating RD
Kylie from Immaeatthat
Kara from The Foodie Dietitian
Hayley from INSPIRD Nutrition
Alex from Delish Knowledge
Fiona from The Mindful Dietitian
Ashley from Donut Eating Dietitian
Robyn from The Real Life RD
Dixya from Food, Pleasure & Health
Meme from Living Well Kitchen
Kaleigh from Lively Table
Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment. This can help tremendously when you venture into intuitive eating. Mindfulness can help you determine how you’re really feeling in the moment– are you hungry or full? Sad or happy? In need of self care? Our brains are wired to constantly worry about the future and ruminate about the past. All we really have is this present moment.
You can read more about the five mindfulness trainings here. One of my favorite mindfulness quotes:
I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.
Learn to meditate
Meditation is a scary word. The first thing people imagine when you say “meditate” is a person sitting on the ground with their legs all crossed saying “Ohhmm”. They also seem to be afraid of the concept of not thinking about anything. “How can you brain be empty?!”. But it’s so different than you imagine. Meditation can relieve stress and anxiety, increase concentration, help you sleep better, and so much more. Learn how to begin a meditation practice and how to make it a habit.
Sometimes just writing down your anxious thoughts can help them go away. Find yourself a pretty hardback journal and your favorite pen and get writing.
If writing on blank pages scares you, try a journal with prompts already added. Some of my favorites include: The 52 Lists Project, The Mindfulness Journal, and Start Where You Are (affiliate links).
Eat more, not less
Many new year’s resolutions or diets encourage cutting something out. It’s time to eat more, not less. I challenge you to include foods that may have seemed “off-limits” or “bad” to you before. Think about which foods you restrict and then later binge because you’ve been depriving yourself of them!! Taking a neutral stance on food (no good or bad foods) can really help if you’ve been overeating or bingeing certain foods. Try including different fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried before and cook them in different ways. Experiment. Now’s the time!
Making eating enjoyable
Europeans take time to enjoy their meals– businesses shut down at lunch and meals are savored and appreciated. Many Americans eat their way through lunch and don’t take time to slow down and be mindful. To get the most satisfaction from your meals, make time to appreciate your food. Sit down. Take a couple deep breaths beforehand. Eat slowly and savor every bit.
Create a friendly meal environment. If you have time, set the table with pretty place-mats and use nice dishes. Buy fresh flowers weekly if the budget allows. Turn the TV off and put the cell phone away, and play some nice music. Enjoy conversation with your table mates!
Plan your meals
Meal planning is one of the best self-care practices you can work into your life. It makes a HUGE difference when it comes to food choices. Yes, you can eat intuitively and meal plan. Think about which foods will sound good and taste good this week — all while thinking about how they’ll make your body feel. Is it cold outside? A chicken pot pie soup might just hit the spot. Sunny and warm and feeling like something cold and crunchy? A caprese salad might be the better option. Planning for the week ahead allows you to have food on hand, which means you’ll eat more at home and save money.
Get into a grocery shopping habit
After you finish meal planning, hit the grocery store. Buy a week’s worth of groceries at once so you don’t have to keep going back. I’ve been loving Kroger Click List and Shipt — both allow me to place grocery orders online and spend time doing other things while someone shops for me. I’ve been using that time to clean up the apartment (so I don’t have to grocery shop AND clean in the same day).
Meet emotional needs without food
It’s okay that sometimes your coping mechanism for stress is to eat a pint of ice cream or a cupcake. But if food is your only coping mechanism, you might want to find other ways to take care of yourself. First, make sure your basic needs are met: rest, sensual pleasure, expressing your feelings, being heard, being intellectually and creatively stimulated, and receiving warmth and comfort.
Practice self care
One form of self-care is making sure your basic needs are met. That means sometimes, taking care of yourself means taking a nap Other ideas for self-care include getting a massage, meditating, taking a bubble bath, going to yoga, playing with your dog and setting out fresh flowers.
Respect your body
One of the most important and hardest things to do in life. Try this mantra:
- My body deserves to be fed
- My body deserves to be treated with dignity
- My body deserves to be dressed comfortably
- My body deserves to be touched affectionately
- My body deserves to move comfortably
Find joyful movement
If you’re feeling stuck and having trouble finding movement you enjoy, I encourage you to take a break from physical activity for a couple weeks, or as long as you need. Pay attention to how your body feels when it’s not moving. Do you feel tired, groggy, and sluggish? Do you find yourself wanting to get up and move around and just do something? At the end of your exercise break, make a list of all the activities that sound enjoyable to you. Maybe its yoga, pilates, or walking. Maybe it’s something more intense like running or weight lifting. What sounds fun and enjoyable to you? Soon you’ll be on your way to fitness freedom.
Connect with the earth
Go for a walk. Fill your home with potted plants to bring in fresh greenery. Plant herbs and use them in your cooking. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, plant a small garden this year. Plan regular trips out to your favorite nature spots– whether it be the local park or lake, or an hour or two drive out into the country. Being in nature helps us stay in the moment and take a break from our technology driven life.
Start or end each day by mentally appreciating one aspect of your life that you are grateful for. I know it can sometimes be very difficult to name just one thing. But there is always something to be thankful in your life, if it’s just that you are alive today, that’s something to be grateful for.
I wish you all a Happy diet-free New Year!
Hi! I’m Emily, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and self-taught intuitive chef. I firmly believe that cooking is the simplest and most important step we can take to improve our minds and bodies and build healthier communities. Join me and let’s bring food back to the kitchen!
Harry Thomas says
The diet mentality is literally what holds so many of us back, but I’ve found that once it’s gone, it’s gone. Eat what works for you. Do exercise you enjoy. On your side with this article and these tips, for sure