7 Non-Diet Changes for a Happier, Healthier You

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The New Year brings excitement, new goals, a fresh start, and motivation.

As such, many of us make New Year’s resolutions and have really good intentions for keeping them and changing our lives. It’s an amazing time to sit back and reflect on the person we’ve been and to consider how we can better support our health and happiness moving forward.

If you’re hoping to start 2018 off by making a resolution to lose weight with the latest fad diet or exercise program, most likely you already know that these resolutions usually don’t stick. Dieting has a 95% failure rate, creates a yo-yo effect, can lead to binge eating out of feelings of deprivation, and ultimately breaks down our self-worth and confidence.

That doesn’t sound like the “new you” you were hoping for, huh?

But don’t worry. If you know that there are habits in your life that aren’t serving you, and you want to work to change them so that you’re taking better care of yourself and have more energy and joy to offer the world, that’s doable.

This year, instead of becoming another statistic of failed New Year’s weight-loss resolutions, how about embracing this radical approach: have a diet free year!

The following are seven non-diet changes that will promote a happier, healthier you in 2018. They’re habit- and body-based resolutions that we can get behind. Because instead of promoting restriction, deprivation, and a decimation of self-worth, they encourage you to become in tune with your body.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you take on all of these changes at the same time. That can be exhausting, which is a recipe for failure. Instead of creating multiple resolutions, which can leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed, focus on one or two suggestions on this list. Once you’ve successfully incorporated them into your life, you can gradually add other goals any time throughout the year. That’s a way more sustainable way to think about changes

1. Switch From a Weight Focus to a Health Focus

In our current cultural climate, which often conflates the two, this can be really hard. But the idea is this: Your weight and your health aren’t inherently related. And you can work on the latter without being obsessively concerned about the former. Usually, we stress so much about how our bodies look that we forget that our real goal is to change how they feel.

Create daily healthy habits that help your body feel balanced and supported. Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, emphasize healthy behaviors, well-being, and how you feel. Read a non-diet approach book that supports your journey. A few suggestions are Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating; Health at Every Size; and Intuitive Eating.

2. Learn and Practice Mindful Eating Skills

The way that we tend to eat is super weird. We’ve been taught our whole lives that we can’t trust ourselves and that we need to eat according to schedules and plans. But have you ever seen a baby eat? A baby cries when they’re hungry, and they simply stop suckling when they’re full. They don’t need anyone to tell them what they need.

Get in touch with your inner baby!

Rely on internal hunger and fullness cues. Learn to separate physical and emotional hunger. Legalize all food, and give yourself permission to eat anything. Focus less on numbers and more on fuel. Eat for health, pleasure, and taste.

Yes, I said “pleasure” and “taste.” You’re allowed to find joy in food.

3. Explore Joyful Movement

It’s a fact: Movement is good for you. Having some kind of a fitness practice in your life, especially as we spend so much time sitting in chairs, starting at computer screens, can make a huge difference in your overall health.

But many of us believe that the only way to engage in a fitness practice is to (a) join a gym and (b) push ourselves past our limits. But neither of these things have to be true!

Find a form of movement that you really enjoy, as movement is meant to feel good on the body. If you don’t love weight training and ellipticals, then don’t bother with the gym! Find a dance class. Try yoga. Go for walks around your neighborhood. Go old school and dig those old aerobics tapes (Jane Fonda, anyone?) out of your basement.

This year, create a healthy and fun relationship with exercise, so you actually look forward to movement. There’s no need to push your body until you collapse or hate every moment of working out.

4. Celebrate the Body You Have Today

Yes, today. Not tomorrow. Not ten pounds from now. Not at the end of 2018 when you finally fit back into a size whatever. Today.

Don’t keep putting your life on hold. Be her now – the person you want to be in the amazing body that carries you through the world. Practice honoring and accepting your body – the one you have today. Research shows people who are body-positive are more likely to engage in healthful lifestyle behaviors than people with high body dissatisfaction. You wanna know why? Because you can’t hate yourself into loving yourself.

When you believe yourself to be unworthy, you don’t take steps to take care of yourself. But when you love and appreciate yourself, you want to do what’s best for you!

Stop being uncomfortable. Go through your closet and get rid of anything that is too tight, uncomfortable, or doesn’t make you feel great. And no longer participate in body shaming yourself or others. People come in all shapes and sizes – and all bodies deserve respect, including yours.

New Year Resolution

5. Create and Cultivate a Meditation Practice

Often, when people think of meditation, they think automatically of sitting still in lotus pose, chanting mantras – and can be really turned off to the idea. Of course, while that’s a totally legitimate and awesome form of meditation (and definitely worth a try!), it’s not the be all, end all of a consistent meditation practice. All it really takes is a moment of mindfulness.

Learn to shut down all of the noise around you and be more present. Add mindfulness to your life and develop awareness of the internal states and feelings that are driving your behavior. Be present in the moment, as opposed to in the past or future. Your life is now. And you will savor, enjoy, and appreciate the present much more if you are in the here and now.

6. Focus On and Prioritize Regular Self-Care

Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury! Yes, self-care can be indulgent and time-intensive (like, you know, a vacation). But it doesn’t have to be. Self-care is as simple as recognizing your need for relaxation and rejuvenation – and honoring that you have to find ways to feel good.

Block out some “me” time and learn to be okay with saying “no.” It is important to sometimes put yourself first. Learn and practice self-compassion. Whenever you find your self-talk being critical and mean, stop, take a moment, and ask yourself if you would talk to a good friend in the same way. Sleep more, as sleep plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing. Take a minute just to make and drink a cup of tea – or breathe.

And having support can be crucial. Open up to the people you care about and let them know what is going on, so they can support you when you need it.

7. Cut Time on Social Media Screen Time

I know that it can feel like you’re not really in touch with anyone in your life unless you’re following what they’re up to on Facebook, but social media can be really detrimental to our health. It allows us to feel like we’re connecting with people when face-to-face contact would be much more meaningful. It pushes us to expand our limited resources of emotional energy on people who are only acquaintances. And it bombards us with images of people who we believe to be happier, healthier, and more attractive than we are.

Social media is exhausting!

Spend more time doing things you enjoy and cultivating the important relationships in your life. Clean your social media and unfollow those who make you feel bad about your body, choices, and values. Add body positive accounts and follow others who embrace bodies of all shapes and sizes and embrace diversity.

Are You Ready to Take Action on Your New Year Resolution?

Of course, for many of us, making small daily changes isn’t enough to help us heal our relationships to our bodies. If you are struggling with your relationship to food, consider working with a professional who specializes in Health at Every Size (HAES), intuitive eating, or eating disorders.

And even better, consider coming to Green Mountain at Fox Run. We can help and support you through your journey – and offer you the tools you need for successful change.

Let 2018 really be the new year that unveils a new you.


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About the Author

Haica Rosenfeld, PSY D

Clinical Psychologist

Haica brings 10 years of experience working with individuals who suffer from Eating Disorders, in both a residential facility and private practice. She has received extensive training in mindfulness-based approaches, intuitive eating, self-compassion, HAES and the non-diet approach to health and wellbeing. Haica is bilingual and can provide all services in English and Spanish. Additionally, she brings to Green Mountain at Fox Run her therapy dog, Kuma, a Goldendoodle.

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