How many times have you heard a friend or family member say their New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight or follow whatever diet fad is trending at the moment? I can tell you for myself that I hear this often — from friends, family and all over social media — and not just during the holidays or before a new year. It’s a form of societal conditioning that is incredibly challenging to avoid and the narrative around these topics is even harder to change.
2020 has been HARD. Many people have been working from home, or working “out in the world” with that added stress, or, perhaps most stressful, just not been able to work. There has been far too much talk about “quarantine weight gain” everywhere you turn and we are about to be bombarded with how to lose that weight in 2021. I am here as your friendly dietitian to remind you to drown out that noise and to look to yourself, with empathy and kindness, to determine what is best for you in the upcoming new year.
Depression, loneliness, and boredom have skyrocketed this year. Isolation and missing the people we love is no joke and has a big impact on our wellbeing. Turning to food for comfort and familiarity is allowed. Familiar and comforting foods are part eating in a balanced way and allow us to focus less on restriction and limitation. When we focus on restriction and limitation we tend to eat passed what feels comfortable, punish ourselves, and the cycle goes on and on. Before you succumb to the pressure of diet trends and the chirping of those around you, look inside to find how best you can feel good around food and nutrition. We all know endless cookie and cake eating doesn’t make us feel great in the long run, but neither does the focus on these types of foods when we never allow ourselves that cookie or that slice of cake.
If you have found that you aren’t feeling well from the foods you are choosing, instead of looking to cut out and restrict, think about what you can add that will make your body feel good. Adding feel-good foods, whatever that means for you, is a healthy way to bring awareness to what your body needs and allows your diet to be the vehicle for the energy your body craves. When the focus shifts from restriction to addition, the narrative can start to shift around how to eat for personal wellness.
Additions to your wellness don’t have to be only food related. Wellness includes activities that bring you joy like yoga or a walk on the beach. It can be increasing the time you spend engaging in healthy hobbies like painting, reading, or whatever sparks that peace within you. Connecting with people we love in safe ways can also provide happiness in our day-to-day lives. When you think of New Year’s resolutions, think of all the things you want to add: food, activity, hobbies, etc., instead of the things you want to limit or take away. This can make these resolutions more attainable, more enjoyable, and — even better — healthier for your mind and body. Shifting our thinking around food from restriction to addition can take time, so make being patient and loving towards yourself a part of your New Year’s resolutions too. I think if 2020 has taught us anything, it is to view ourselves and those around us more through that lens.
Food is pivotal to our health and wellness. There is no doubt about that. How we go about viewing food and, in turn, eating food, is often where it can get tricky. Being aware of how you feel when you eat certain foods can help you navigate how to feel your best from food. Never forget that restriction often leads to low energy, frustration, and an unhealthy focus on what becomes perceived as “off limits.” You deserve to eat now and always. Our bodies need carbohydrates, fat, and protein to function to the best of their ability. Skip the calorie counting and food group eliminations, and focus instead on the additions to your diet, and to your life more broadly, that will make you feel your best.
Eating is essential to vitality and your mental and physical wellbeing. Choose the positive action of adding what you need more of and shed the toxic conversation that plagues society about weight loss and unrealistic body image. Everyone deserves to be nourished, body and mind. Find what works for you and resolve to drown out the noise that causes you self-doubt, because it’s likely far more harmful than any cookie or slice of cake.