Research has shown that about 50% of adults make New Year’s resolutions each year. Unfortunately, fewer than 10% keep them longer than a few months. Many of those resolutions have to do with health, fitness and losing weight. That leads many people into “fad” diets or extreme lifestyle changes that can cause dramatic weight loss quickly.
The problem with those extreme diets is that they aren’t often sustainable. They might try to eliminate a certain type of food or be so restrictive that it’s hard to maintain. When they don’t work or you think a particular diet isn’t right for you, you might try moving onto the next one.
Falling into the trap of “diet culture” isn’t a safe or healthy way to live. Whether you make a resolution to lose weight or you just want to be healthier overall, it’s not about dieting. It’s about making smart lifestyle choices that will stick with you forever, not just for a window of time until you hit your goal weight.
So, how can you leave diet culture behind and focus on your long-term health?
Don’t Focus On Weight Loss
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re trying to get healthy is solely focusing on losing weight. For some, they make this mistake for good reason. There are some major risks to obesity, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Instead, it’s better to focus on your overall health and put weight loss on the back burner. Concentrate on things like getting enough physical activity, and eating a diet that consists of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. When you focus more on your wellbeing instead of just shedding a few pounds, some incredible things can happen.
This way, you’ll be less stressed because you won’t have to worry about the strict rules of a fad diet. This can do wonders for your mental health and reduce the risk of conditions like anxiety or depression.
Manage Your Mental Health
Ultimately, prioritizing your mental health when taking care of yourself is crucial, and unfortunately, difficult. Some even find it easier to focus on the physical side of things. But, your mental health will ultimately drive you to take care of your body.
If you’re trying to lose weight and you hit a plateau or things aren’t going as expected, it can take a toll on your mental health. Even if you end up losing a lot of weight, it can have both positive and negative emotional effects. Being aware of some of those negative effects ahead of time can help you to work through them healthily. Some of the most common emotional struggles those who experience bodily changes include:
- Feeling underwhelmed or disappointed
- Feeling exposed or vulnerable
- Depression or anxiety that you might gain the weight again
- Anger toward those who haven’t recognized your weight loss
This is another reason why it’s so important to care for your mental health as well as your physical health. Losing weight won’t be enough and could ultimately leave you feeling “empty” or with unmet expectations.
Practice mental health fitness as often as possible. Do something each day that helps you reduce stress, and incorporate it into your wellness routine. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are all fantastic ways to stay centered on your journey toward better health.
Get Back to Basics
To fully leave diet culture behind, one of the best things you can do is get back to basics. There are two major components to a healthy lifestyle: eating right and exercising. Of course, there are plenty of other factors that fall underneath those categories, but if you focus on them, you will start to see how easy it is to change your entire life, rather than just lose weight.
Diets that make you feel deprived or keep you from eating certain things aren’t good for you. If anything, diets can feel like a punishment. That’s why so many people fall off those diet wagons or end up feeling depressed when they “fail” — even though it’s the diet that’s failed.
So, instead of depriving yourself or trying an extreme diet, focus on the basics of eating. Listen to what your body truly wants, focus on natural foods as much as possible, and enjoy things in moderation. Combined with staying physically active in ways you enjoy, you’ll never miss dieting! When wellness is your goal, not just weight loss, you’ll experience so many additional benefits and positive, healthy changes that will last a lifetime.
Image courtesy of Nathan Cowley.