When it comes to food and nutrition, have you ever felt like you are living inside a never-ending, ever-exhausting hamster wheel? Maybe you feel like you are constantly changing what you eat, constantly fluctuating in weight, never enough energy to be as active as you’d like?
You are not alone.
Many people are affected by this seemingly perpetual cycle. You may find yourself stuck in a loop with good intentions of improving your health while still being bombarded by society’s unrealistic and so-called ideal body images.
Through research, we know that diets have a success rate of less than 5 percent and 95 percent of dieters regain the weight that they lost within one to five years. In addition, based on NHANES data collected from 2013-2016, 59.3 percent of young women age 20-39 were actively trying to lose weight. Enough is enough.
At Skyterra Young Adult, we believe that unrealistic lifelong dieting endeavors are not the answer and offer instead ways to change your thinking surrounding food and body image. We offer a research-based, effective approach to health and wellness that contradicts what much of society pushes on you.
Below are eight ways to foster a lifelong, healthy relationship with food and nutrition, and opportunities for you to consider a more compassionate, freeing approach to nutrition. Hamster wheel not included!
Step No. 1: Remove the Focus from Weight Altogether
Dieting begins with a desire for change and a goal in mind, whether it be weight loss, improved health, or another reason. Taking care of ourselves and our physical health is important. However, it should never come at the expense of the many other aspects of health, including our mental, emotional, and social wellness. When we are all-consumingly fixated on food and body, it gives little space to think about and truly experience everything else.
The human body is incredibly complex and is the ultimate expert when it comes to keeping you alive. Behavior, such as meal patterns, exercise/movement frequency, sitting vs. standing throughout the day, steps taken, etc. is the aspect we attribute most of our success or failure to when it comes to weight management. Behavior plays an obvious role in weight trajectory, but it’s evident that the impact of biology cannot be denied.
Physiological response cannot be neglected as an important factor to weight trajectory. Weight loss is accompanied by persistent hormonal adaptations that increase appetite and decrease satiety thereby resisting continued weight loss and conspiring against long-term attempts. In other words, as individuals progressively lose more and more weight, they fight an uphill battle against the biological responses that oppose weight loss.
We now understand that energy input and output are actively influenced by each other and body weight. Attempts to alter energy balance through diet or exercise are countered by physiological adaptations that resist weight loss. This concept showcases just how intelligent our bodies are and how hard our bodies will fight back to maintain homeostasis.
Recognize that weight loss is often a symptom of wellness. Rather than thinking about all of the ways that weight loss can make your life better or easier and trying to “hack” the body into losing weight, focus on building strong wellness-focused habits and watch your body respond naturally for the better.
Step No. 2: Make Things Simple
Dieting and restriction often leads to feeling deprived or starved, resulting in increased hunger, cravings, and compulsive thoughts about food. You might begin to feel a sense of loss of control around food as time goes on. The cravings eventually become too overpowering so you “break the rules” and give in, indulging in the forbidden foods that you were trying to avoid. You’re flooded with feelings of guilt, shame, and failure, blaming yourself for lack of willpower. You go right back to your diet, promising to be more diligent this time, because it worked and you failed.
The cycle persists.
Instead of jumping on the next unsustainable fad diet trend, use the Skyterra Plate as a framework for meals. This is a help lead to the creation of a balanced place that will assist with improved satiety, improved blood sugar regulation, mood and energy regulation, etc.
Step No. 3: Turn From an External to an Internal Focus
If dieting is something you haven’t ever given much thought to, we encourage you to consider: Could dieting be promoting the exact opposite of what it’s intended to achieve?
The world we live in can at times feel as though it is consumed by diet culture. This is unfortunate because of the confusion and distraction that it can provide. This ever-present “nutrition noise” and constant side chatter seems to always be there, not always making sense, often contradicting itself, and inflicting stress, anxiety and confusion.
Instead of focusing on external factors such as calories, points, etc., turn your focus to all the messages that the body is providing (hunger, fullness, pleasure, etc.) and find truth and validity in those cues.
Step No. 4: Change Restriction to Addition
Diets are not new. They have been around for years. A new way of eating (or not eating) gains traction every few years and is often promoted as being the “solution to our overweight and obesity problem.” But we have yet to consider that if diets worked, why is there a new standard of food consumption launched every few years? They go by different names, but they all come with the exact same underlying strategy of restriction.
Think of food in the context of having three roles: food, function and fun. Going on a diet typically restricts one of more of these roles. Instead of buying into restrictive mindsets and diet rules that have you eliminating things from your daily intake, try to establish new goals that focus on adding things in (i.e. making meals as colorful as possible, consuming a vegetable at every meal, etc.)
Step No. 5: Explore the Process of Intuitive Eating
On one day, we’re told that carbs are good and fats are bad, but at the flip of a switch, the opposite is made to be true by diet culture. Some days fruit is healthy, and on others it has way too much sugar. Counting calories is replaced with counting macros, real food is replaced with celery juice and diets like the gluten-free diet, the vegan diet, the paleo diet, and the ketogenic diet all rotate rankings for the “best way to lose weight.”
We live in a society that leads us to believe we are smart and our bodies are not. That we have all the answers, it’s just a matter of strength and “willpower” to stick to a diet. Often, we buy into this belief and commit to dietary regimens that are extremely strict and unrealistic to maintain from the beginning. Black-and-white thinking (i.e. some foods are good and others are bad) and all-or-nothing thinking (I can have these foods but I can’t ever have these other foods) is extremely common.
Failure to achieve and maintain substantial weight loss over the long term is then simply attributed to our own poor adherence to the prescribed lifestyle changes, thereby potentially further stigmatizing you as lacking in willpower, motivation or fortitude to lose weight.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming and confusing to not know what to consume and how much. Using hand models can be helpful in this case. When building meals, you can incorporate a palm-size worth of protein, a mounded handful of carbohydrates, a thumb-size worth of fat, and fist full of vegetables. This method can be used as a guide to provide you with a framework to build upon as you learn more about your body and how to fuel it appropriately.
If you struggle with frequent food cravings, try to take a few moments to focus on your thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors, etc. or explore a 20 to 25 minute activity when you do so. Sometimes that is all the body needs for an urge to pass.
Step No. 6: Find Movement That is Joyful and Feels Good for Your Body.
We know how important movement is for our overall health and longevity. We also know though that finding a movement that is enjoyable and feels good is going to lead to more consistency with engagement in that movement.
Explore your options when it comes to movement and exercise and find something that brings you joy that you are able to stick with. There is no right or wrong way to move your body! For more ways to incorporate movement into your life, click here.
Our hope is that, through reading this article, you gained a clearer understanding about why dieting is not the answer and now know that you have other options. With a renewed view of food, health and body, we know that you’ll have more than enough space for everything important in life.
We at Skyterra Young Adult want you to feel confident in your ability to walk away knowing and understanding these key strategies which we believe can help you escape the dieting hamster wheel, stop fighting your body’s physiological needs, and begin to work with your body, not against it.
For more information on our culinary and nutrition philosophy, click here. To watch Skyterra’s Lead Dietitian cover this topic in one of our wellness masterclasses, click here.