So If You Don’t Diet, Then What? Four Non-Diet Nutrition & Exercise Goals for 2018

National Diet Month is upon us… but diets are supposed to be out right? Day one of January and already like fans at a football stadium yelling a team name back and forth “Wolf” and then “Pack” and then “Wolf!!” and then “Pack!!” (I went to NC State btw). I hear “Diet” and then “Don’t Diet” and then “Diet!” and then “Don’t Diet!!” yelled back and forth across the social media field. Maybe you are someone that has had many previous New Year’s resolutions that were related to weight loss and fitness. In year’s past the excitement of a new beginning was palpable once the confetti settled - the promise of a new, fitter, thinner, healthier version of yourself. But maybe now you are someone that is beginning to question all the hype around weight loss resolutions. But if you don’t diet, then what?

The answer is lots of awesome stuff with nutrition and exercise that is far less distracting and harmful and is more sustainable than focusing on weight loss, but here are four to get you started for 2018.

Find Movement That You Enjoy

There are a lot of rules out there about exercise and how long it should last and how intense it should be. The reality of it is, if we are moving our bodies, regardless of time and intensity, we are benefiting from it. We are more likely to move our bodies if we like the movement, the way the it feels, and the way it makes us feel after. So explore what this is for you. Do you like being indoors or outdoors? Do you like being by yourself or with others? Some of both? Start with these questions and identify some types of movement to try. Maybe try a new type of movement once a month. Eventually you will have your go-tos. So the three criteria you are looking to fill are 1.) Is my body moving? 2.) does it feel good? 3.) do I like it? That is all.

Switch It Up

One of the hallmarks of dieting is eating the same foods over and over again. The same salad or sandwich for lunch, pretty much the same grilled chicken breast, sweet potato and green beans for dinner, the same Kind Bar for snack day after day after day…. playing it safe so not to make a "wrong" move. The problem with this is that we end up not being satisfied and more often than not we overeat because our bodies are looking for a variety of tastes, textures and nutrients, our bodies are looking to be satisfied. Dieting or otherwise, if you are in a rut with your food, switch it up. Where should you switch it up? Think about where you are bored or are just going through the motions with your eating. Maybe dinners are growing old. Open up that Pinterest folder with 446 recipes that you have pinned or knock the dust off of one of those cookbooks on your shelf and dog ear a few that look interesting and aim to try 1-2 new ones a month. Maybe you take the same lunch everyday, try packing something new one day a week, or if the budget allows, eat out one day a week instead. Maybe you eat out all the time, try something different on the menu, or try a new restaurant once a month, or try taking your lunch one day a week instead. Same snack all the time? At minimum, try some new flavors of Kind Bars, but much better, try some different snacks…. including sometimes having something from the “forbidden” vending machine. It is important that the foods that we eat include variety and are enjoyable so that we can feel satisfied.

Practice Mindfulness

Like switching up your foods, mindfulness is about satisfaction. Have you ever been driving somewhere and end up at your final destination but you don’t know how you got there? We do this with eating all of the time. We eat while studying, working, watching tv, surfing the internet, driving. Often we don’t get to really look at, smell, taste and enjoy our food. Sometimes this leads to regularly over or under eating, most of the time this just leaves us unsatisfied and looking for more food to enjoy later. Often the pace of our lives doesn’t lend itself to routinely experiencing food mindfully. But we can take steps towards being more engaged when we eat. Maybe it is eating one meal or snack a day while not doing anything else. Maybe it’s eating dinner one day a week at the table if you usually eat on the couch. Maybe whenever you have a snack or a meal that you are excited about eating, you slow it down and really savor it. Or maybe it is just pausing for a moment at the beginning of each meal to notice the appearance and smell of it before taking that first bite. Try on different things and see how it changes your eating experience. Take note of what increases your satisfaction.

Be Kind To Your Body

When you feel better about your body, you inherently treat it better. Honestly, the way we feel about are bodies has very little to do with what they actually look like. If loving your body feels about as realistic as your laundry learning to do itself...then maybe start by resolving to hate it less. Take one step towards body acceptance by not participating in the things that leave you feeling in despair about the way you look. Body check in the mirror less, unfollow that person that posts half naked pictures of themselves sucking in and flexing on Instagram, and hide those people from your Facebook news feed that keep talking about their body transformations. Even better, add some in that encourage you in trusting and accepting your body instead. Make a goal of finding one new body positive, Health At Every Size or intuitive eating blog, podcast, or social media outlet a month to check out and maybe even follow. Here are a few to get you started:

Podcasts: Love, Food, Body Kindness, Dietitian’s Unplugged

Instagram: @body_bloved, @three_birds_counseling, @marcird, @dlbenfieldrdn

Whatever you do to care for yourself in 2018, just remember to do it compassionately. It can feel exhilarating to go gangbusters and change a bunch of things at one time, but rarely is that sustainable for anyone and can leave us feeling defeated when we can no longer juggle many changes at one time. Instead be curious, try some things out, and be forgiving to yourself if a change that makes you feel good doesn’t take a permanent hold immediately because we are all practicing in life.

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