7 Non-Diet Changes for a Happier, Healthier You

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This article was originally written by Haica Rosenfeld, PSY D and has been updated by Lesley Wayler, MSW for content accuracy.

As we enter 2019, many of us begin to see the new year as a fresh start, an opportunity to set new goals and discover newfound motivation.

For many, the new year can be an amazing time to reflect on our accomplishments and consider how we can better support our health and happiness. As such, many of us kick off the New Year with well-intentioned resolutions for making change to our lives – usually with the hopes of losing weight.

But let’s be honest, if you’ve ever started out a new year by making a resolution to lose weight with the latest fad diet or exercise program, most likely you already know that these resolutions don’t stick.

Here’s why: Dieting has a 95% failure rate! Dieting also creates a yo-yo effect, which can lead to binge eating out of feelings of deprivation, and ultimately breaks down our self-worth and confidence.

Not exactly what you had in mind for the new year, huh?

There’s a better way to go about finding change than getting sucked back into another diet. Plus, wanting to take better care of yourself and have more energy is doable!

Tell Me How!

This year, try something different. Embrace this radical approach: have a diet free year!

The following are seven non-diet changes that will promote a happier, healthier you in 2019. 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 our bodies feel. Try these suggestions below:

  • 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

At one time, we were all mindful eaters. 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 using the elliptical, then don’t bother with the gym, try these instead:

  • 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. Honor the Body You Have Today

Yes, today. Not tomorrow. Not ten pounds from now. Not at the end of 2019 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 honor their bodies 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! First, 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. 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 only way to add meditation to your life. All it really takes is a moment of mindfulness.

  • Learn to quiet 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. Prioritize Yourself!

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 well-being.
  • Take a minute just to make and drink a cup of tea – or breathe.
  • Finding 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. Decrease Your 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! Try these suggestions for some relief:

  • 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 2019 really be the new year that unveils a new you.


2 responses to “7 Non-Diet Changes for a Happier, Healthier You”

  1. Bill Fabrey says:

    Lesley’s seven suggestions are great! I always appreciate the helpful information that appears on this blog. If the views published here catch on, there will be a lot less stigmatization of larger persons, and more people will feel good about themselves. And I don’t know what to say about the social media–I guess that is something I have to work on! LOL

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About the Author

Lesley Wayler, MSW

As a Master of Social Work, Lesley Wayler is passionate about helping individuals struggling with disordered eating and body image. She is the granddaughter of our founder Thelma Wayler and has been fortunate enough to grow up with the philosophies taught at Green Mountain at Fox Run. Before pursuing her Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California, Lesley received a Bachelors of Arts in media communications from Austin College in 2011. She works to combat weight stigma and wants to learn about and contribute to furthering the treatment of binge eating to help individuals suffering from the disorder. She has extensive training in mindfulness, including workshops in mindful eating, self-compassion and stress management.

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