Slowly, stealthily, a kind of national diet exhaustion has set in: Although the number of overweight women is increasing, the percentage of them who are trying to lose weight has decreased, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women quit. They’re done.
And anyone who has dieted can tell you why: The psychological burden that comes with constantly trying to restrict, to calorie-count, to pursue a thinner you, is utterly draining. And, ironically, it’s holding you back from actually shedding those pounds.
“We all need a detox from this unhealthy relationship with food and the restrict-binge-guilt cycle that comes with it,” Alpert says. We couldn’t agree more.
At WH, we know the crucial role eating healthily plays in a person’s overall well-being—and that some of you do want to lose extra pounds. But we’ve also reached a landmark cultural moment, a new way of thinking that dares us to embrace a healthy lifestyle while also loving our bodies.
Here, then, is your permission to go “weight-less”—to drop the strain of letting a number on a scale dictate your self-worth or gobble up all your brain space.
How? Make yourself these research-backed promises to remove the mental pressure of weight loss, and get healthier and mentally—and, yes, probably physically—lighter in the long run.
1. I WILL SEE FOOD AS FOOD—NOT JUST A NUMBER.
Tallying calories, grams of fat, or points can teach you about reasonable portions, but relying solely on numbers to tell you what to eat long-term will make you bitter, not slimmer, Alpert says. “Food is food. It’s not a point or a gram; it’s a piece of salmon.”
2. I WILL LISTEN TO MY BODY AND FOLLOW ITS LEAD.
Trusting your physical signals relieves the pressure of following arbitrary dos and don’ts and connects you with the best weight-loss coach there is: your body. Slowing down and paying attention to when you’re full acts as an internal portion control more accurate than any nutrition label, and noting how your tummy feels after eating ice cream or a salad (bloated? energetic?) teaches you to reach for foods that will support, not sabotage, your goals.
3.I WILL NOT CUT OUT ENTIRE FOOD GROUPS.
Of course, if you’re vegetarian for ethical reasons or passing on gluten because you’re intolerant, that’s one thing. But a scorched-earth policy against entire food groups for diet reasons only makes the verboten ingredient more appealing (and overeating it more likely), a study in the journal Appetite shows. Instead of swearing off all bread, give yourself permission to occasionally follow your stomach to the bagel shop so you don’t resent your healthy new lifestyle.
4. I WILL PUT THE SCALE IN PERSPECTIVE.
“The scale doesn’t lie—but it doesn’t tell the whole truth,” Alpert says. It’s a valuable accountability tool (e.g., when you gain two pounds after going AWOL on your eating plan), but it doesn’t accurately represent other factors, like how your jeans fit or whether you’ve added muscle versus fat. So go ahead and weigh yourself, but also check in with less tangible measures, like your confidence or the drape of that dress, so you can eliminate the power of a single number—and the dread of stepping on that metal box.
5. I WILL GIVE MYSELF THE FUEL I NEED.
Multiple studies show that eating much less than your body burns actually backfires, big-time. Overly restrictive diets make you more susceptible to catching a cold, might lower your fertility, and increase your chances of being overweight in the long run.
6. I WILL SHARE MY STORY.
Posting on social media about your progress (e.g., a selfie on your first 5K training run or a yummy-looking nutritious dinner you cooked) helps you think of yourself as a fitter, more capable person and makes you more likely to hit your target, shows a new study from American University in Washington, D.C. Even posting about your occasional setbacks can help keep you motivated.
7. I WILL MAKE THESE CHANGES FOR MY HEALTH.
People who focus on their general well-being—as opposed to their appearance—as a reason to lose weight are happier with how they look, according to a study in the journal Eating Behaviors. So make these changes to get the life you deserve, not some number on a dress tag.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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