While I’m out on maternity leave, please welcome Kristin Williams, a non-diet registered dietitian from Plano, Texas to the blog.

As I sit on a plane in the early evening heading from DFW to NYC for a long weekend with my husband, I’m filled with anxiety and excitement. Anxiety because I hate flying on planes.  The last time I flew, I was separated from my husband on the plane which lead to me clinging to a middle-aged mom’s arm as she comforted me while her teenage daughter sat totally care free gazing out the window.

But excitement because I’m visiting the Big Apple for the first time! I can’t wait to explore all that NYC has to offer: Central Park, Ground Zero, The Statue of Liberty and shows on Broadway! I look forward to spending my weekend in this great historic place, although “The City that Never Sleeps” sounds like an awful insomniac nightmare to me. When I think about NYC, New Year’s Eve in Times Square comes to mind. I love seeing the big ball drop on the TV as locals and tourists alike ring in the New Year. The anticipation of counting down to midnight, the clock striking twelve with fireworks lighting up the sky followed by cheers of the crowd and kissing amongst loved ones.

When the ball has dropped and the crowd has gone, all that remains are empty bottles, trampled confetti and New Year’s Resolutions. According to a YouGov poll, the most common aspirations for the coming year in the U.S. are to eat healthier, get more exercise and to save more money.

Along with New Year’s Resolutions, we hear the common chant of, “New Year, New Me.” This often takes the form of restrictive dieting, compulsive, rule-based exercise and other drastic measures all in attempt to change one’s size and shape. These behaviors are typically done in the name of ‘health.’ However, after a while, one will likely experience weight cycling (lose, gain, repeat), which increases the risk for developing certain illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the toll that restrictive dieting and militant exercise takes on one’s mind. Engaging in these behaviors can lead to increased reports of anxiety, depression and social isolation. Sounds far from healthy to me!

The challenge is that we live in a culture that admires this form of self-punishment and neglects actual self-care. We praise the woman who can turn down her favorite Danish at the coffee shop and covet the man who finds time in his schedule to hit the gym before, during and after work all in the same day. We exchange phrases like, “You have such willpower and discipline!” and “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!” We strive to lose 10 pounds in 10 days or be “whole” for 30. When we can’t live up to the unrealistic standards that we have set for ourselves, we hide in shame believing the lies that the problem is us and not the diet. If only we had a little more self-control.

So, we vow to tighten the reigns even further on our dieting, removing food groups here and there and skipping some meals completely or drinking them instead. We decide that we need to hit it harder in our workouts and push through fatigue and injuries. The cycle continues and we find ourselves stuck with our old selves – the only thing new being more aches and pains and less carbs in our pantry.

There is a big difference between engaging in behaviors to better care for oneself versus engaging in behaviors to change one’s appearance. If I decided to add an extra serving of vegetables to my dinner each night to increase my intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber, that is very different from the mindset of “I need to lose 10 pounds by next month for a big event and am willing to take drastic measures if necessary in order to reach my goal.” We often set out to change our appearance in the name of ‘health’ all the while engaging in behaviors that are far from healthy.

How do we navigate the ever-rough waters of diet culture? Let’s resolve to give up dieting. Let’s resolve to fast from triggering social media sights and trendy nutrition fads with false claims that are here today and gone tomorrow. Let’s resolve to learn the art of body kindness and to do the hard work of healing our relationship with food. Let’s resolve to practice mindfulness, size acceptance, joyful movement and self-care. This year, let us lay down the mantra of “New Year, New Me” and, instead, focus on “New Year, Same Me, but better cared for…..” Not as nice of a ring to it, but you get the picture. As the year 2018 ends and 2019 is upon us, what will you set as your New Year’s Resolutions?

Below are some ideas for non-diet and non-scale focused resolutions:

  • Find physical activities that you can engage in that are social and enjoyable
  • Add an extra serving of fruits and/or vegetables to a meal each day
  • Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Practice one self care routine daily (reading a book, taking a bath, participating in yoga, journaling)
  • Keep a list of words of affirmation for yourself that are not related to your appearance
  • Un-follow triggering social media sites
  • Hide or get rid of your scale completely if you find it to be triggering
  • Practice listening to internal hunger/fullness cues and work to separate food and feelings
  • Join a body image support group
  • Read a body positive book such as Intuitive Eating, Body Kindness or Health at Every Size

This New Year’s let us resolve to shift our focus from changing our appearance to changing our mindset. Let us resolve to shift from self-punishing behaviors to self-care practices.

Happy New Year’s to the ‘New’ you!

Kristin Williams is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian who works with individuals to heal their relationship with food using a non-diet and non-scale focused approach. Kristin works part-time at Eating Recovery Center of Dallas and has experience treating adults as well as adolescent patients at all levels of care including inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Kristin also has a private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition Counseling, where she provides outpatient counseling to individuals with eating disorders, emotional eating and a history of chronic dieting. Kristin uses Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size and the Ellyn Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding Model in her practice and feels passionate about helping people to break the chains of disordered eating while practicing body kindness.