The new year has arrived! And with it, we're all usually considering some sort of diet. Here are a few tips to help you achieve your diet goals this year!
- Don’t try to be perfect! I know this may seem backwards, but striving for perfection with eating and exercise may lead to more struggle. In fact, a recent research study (How Perfectionism and Eating Disorder Symptoms Contribute to Searching Weight-Loss Information on the Internet? (nih.gov) with over 200 women demonstrated that there are connections between a falling at an overweight status, possessing a perfectionistic personality and engaging in chronic online searches related to food, diet, exercise, body appearance and eating disorders. Searching for a perfect way to start your weight loss journey will consume you and probably not be very productive in the end. Don’t fall into the trap of maladaptive perfectionism! Focus on establishing a holistic healthy lifestyle with consistent, but not perfect behaviors. Setting an expectation for perfection is unrealistic and can lead to feeling like a failure within the perfection diet trap (How To Break Free Of Perfectionism And Lose Weight For Good | Prevention). Don’t do that to yourself.
Don’t avoid your trigger foods! Having worked with eating disorders for over 15 years as a nutrition therapist, one of my recommendations that surprises my clients most is to work foods you would commonly overeat into a meal plan. This may sound crazy! However, forbidden foods increase the risk for ultimate overeating, sometimes even pathological binge eating as described by authors at Eating Disorder Hope (The Importance of Incorporating Fear and Challenge Foods in Recovery (eatingdisorderhope.com). They also create a preoccupation with whatever foods are viewed as bad, leading to a series of problems including overeating, unhealthy compensatory behaviors and the emotional backlash that comes along with these behaviors, often in the form of guilt and shame. Strategically incorporating foods into your meal plan helps to identify how, in moderation, they fit into a balanced diet. For example, instead of avoiding chocolate candy like the plague, incorporate it into a salty trail mix. Now it has a purpose. Research published in the National Library of Medicine (Dietary Restriction Behaviors and Binge Eating in Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder: Trans-diagnostic Examination of the Restraint Model - PubMed (nih.gov) illustrates how manipulation of how an individual eats may have a greater impact than what they are eating. Using a meal prep service to build a meal plan (Healthy Meal Plans Delivered | Custom Meal Prep | Clean Eatz Kitchen) that controls for food portions may be a great teaching tool to increase insight to what normal portions looks like, to establish a consistent pattern of eating and to reduce the potential for binge eating secondary to unaddressed hunger or chronic overeating. These changes in how an individual eats will contribute to more consistent and long-term weight loss without creating good and bad foods.
Don’t make weight loss your primary goal! Even though this is what we all go to, it really isn’t the best measure of holistic wellness. As discussed in an article published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience (The Assessment and Measurement of Wellness in the Clinical Medical Setting: A Systematic Review (nih.gov), there are a variety of tools aimed at measuring overall wellness. In addition to physical health, the factors assessed with these tools include areas like nutritional health, interpersonal relationships, mental health, cognitive function, autonomy and self-acceptance, among others. It is essential that individuals see themselves as more than just a number on the scale. If losing weight contributes to increased mental health issues or a strain on personal relationships, was it really a win in the end? If not, the risk for rebound weight gain due to increased overall distress rises.
Develop a flexible plan! As I mentioned before, no plan will ever be perfect. It just doesn’t work like that. Develop a plan that allows for flexibility and adaptation. Research conducted with older women struggling with weight loss (Flexible Eating Behavior Predicts Greater Weight Loss Following a Diet and Exercise Intervention in Older Women - PubMed (nih.gov)) demonstrated a better outcome when rigid plans were avoided and flexibility was the focus. One of the easiest ways to have a flexible meal plan is to allow for a variety food types, preparation styles and delivery methods. You don’t have to cook every meal from scratch at home! That doesn’t even make sense in today’s world. Plan for a busy lifestyle by identifying meal prep delivery services near you (Clean Eatz Kitchen - Healthy Meals Delivered) that can compliment what you cook at home. Having healthy prepared meals in your freezer is a great strategy to avoid throwing in the towel when you are too tired to cook or are running short on groceries. Plus, having healthy meals delivered will give you new ideas to build into your meal plan!
Crystal Zabka-Belsky, MS, RDN, CSSD, LMNT, LDN
Resident Dietitian, Clean Eatz Kitchen