Healthy is the New Skinny by Ursula Ridens, BrightQuest Dietitian

Year after year, weight loss ranks as one of the top New Year’s resolutions for many people hoping to turn a new leaf and improve their self image. However, many of those resolving to shed the extra pounds by dieting end up unsuccessful – sometimes in a matter of a few weeks – and fall back to their old habits.

Young women, including teenage girls, are more likely to fixate on their weight, as they are exposed to messages and images in the media that idealize being skinny. In turn, these women develop unrealistic perceptions and expectations about body image, blurring the line between being skinny and being healthy.

As we hear more about the “obesity epidemic” in America, it’s important to understand why weight loss resolutions can often be misguided. Instead, shifting focus to overall health – not necessarily on losing weight – is a more attainable and approachable way to start the new year.

The downfall of focusing on losing a certain number of pounds or reaching a certain weight fuels the yo-yo dieting cycle and can harm your mental and physical health. It can perpetuate a cycle of weight loss and weight gain and place emphasis on external appearance rather than internal health.

Dieting implies restriction and deprivation, with pitfalls such as increased hunger, cravings and a sense of loss. This usually means only temporary change and a return to the previous eating patterns. The term diet often implies that there is a start and an end.

A non-diet approach focuses on adopting lifestyle changes that leads to long-term health improvements. Knowing these three tips are helpful in establishing a more realistic approach to making positive changes to your health:

  1. Focus on specific aspects of your health and actions you can take to generate healthy outcomes. Don’t get caught up in the amount of weight you need to lose. Instead commit to gaining positive, healthier habits. Add weight-resistance activities to your exercise routine to build muscle strength and increase bone health. Increase cardiovascular activities to build endurance and lung capacity. Eat five to nine servings of fruits and veggies every day to lower blood pressure. Eat fish at least two times a week to decrease high cholesterol.

  2. Focus on what you can increase rather than what you should decrease. Spending a lot of time thinking about what you should decrease in your diet, like fat and sugar, can make you feel deprived and frustrated, making it hard to actually make the diet change. Emphasizing areas of your diet that you can increase to be healthier, like water, fruits, veggies, whole grains, as well as behaviors like slowing the pace of your eating, will empower you rather than lead you to dieting depression.

  3. 3. Focus on appreciating your body – no matter what your weight is. Build your self-esteem by recognizing all the amazing things your body does for you.

Now is time to shift our focus to health, rather than weight, by changing diet-mentality into health-mentality.