What does a healthy new year even mean, honestly? And how do you make it stick?
If you feel like if one more person says “new year, new me” you might snap.
I’m saying – same, girl. Same.
You are determined to start this New Year differently. In the past, you have dieted at the top of the new year every single year for as long as you can remember.
The pattern is completely predictable and you’re sick of it. Each new year, you start with enthusiasm and a new diet. And then the diet doesn’t actually solve the problems or cultivate better self-esteem…or lasting weight loss.
Your enthusiasm and willpower peter out.
And then, predictably, you quit. Cue the mixed bag of emotions…shame, relief, confusion…why does it seem easier for other people?
And then dieting goes on hold until the next time you feel badly about your size. Maybe it is your own birthday, or a wedding invite or a chance to travel. Or it is triggered by those persistent Noom ads saying that this time it will be different…this time the results will last…it will be so easy.
How would you feel if I told you that you don’t need to live like this anymore? And friend, you deserve to live a life, starting with a healthy new year without those dang impossible diet resolutions. You can get out of the lifelong diet cycle and learn to live life for more than dieting.
This blog shows you how. But first, what is Intuitive Eating?
umm…what is intuitive eating?
Before we dive in too far, we should all be on the same page about what Intuitive Eating is. Intuitive Eating is how I practice as a dietitian, helping my clients to achieve a healthy life that feels good, mentally and physically.
Being a dietitian means that I am into nutrition (duh!), but nutrition isn’t just about what we eat, it is about how we eat, too.
Let me explain: if your usual eating pattern is rigid, strict, and makes you feel anxious if you’re not able to follow the plan to the letter, is that actually a healthy way to live?
Or what about if you are at a weight you like, but in order to maintain that weight, you have to say no to social events, work out intensely every day and meticulously track each nibble and bite of food that crosses your lips?
I say no.
Your best weight should be easy to maintain and leave you feeling good physically…and mentally. Your best weight is something called your set-point weight – I’ll cover that later in this post.
It isn’t just about what you eat, it is about how you eat and your relationship with your body and eating.
If you’re new to Intuitive Eating: a warm welcome to you! Here are six intuitive eating tips for beginners.
One important principle of Intuitive Eating is that it is definitely not a diet. Diets don’t work, they cause harm and they make you feel worse. Let’s take a look at that, now!
diets don’t actually work (really!)!
For many of us, a healthy new year equates to weight loss. Our culture, specifically diet culture, tells us that thinness is best, healthier and the key to leading the life you’ve always dreamed of.
The truth? It’s BS.
Diets don’t work. They may offer short-term weight loss “results” but since they don’t stick the majority of the time, it just sets you up for a cycle of yo-yo weight cycling, frustration and shame. But saying “diet’s don’t work” is such a counter-culture notion that I wrote a whole post about it: why don’t diets work?
Basically, the dieting industry is a multi-billion dollar scam that promises life-changing weight loss and then, like a bad boyfriend, breaks its promises. Diets don’t work. And the truth? The diet culture doesn’t want them to work, because if they did, you wouldn’t be their paying customer, buying the next subscription, app, or tool.
And if you’re curious about my thoughts on Noom – another diet – as an Intuitive Eating dietitian, check out this post: is Noom a scam? Noom isn’t the key to a successful relationship with food.
In order to have a truly healthy new year, you need to know the truth: weight has little bearing on health. And lasting weight loss from fad diets is a fantasy. Here is a bit more info about letting go of the weight loss fantasy.
So…what are you supposed to do instead?
get clear on your values
Now that you’re clued in on how body insecurities keep you stuck dieting (damn you, diet culture!), it is time to explore what values are important to you outside of weight loss. The best version of yourself is you living in alignment with your truest values. How does that sound as an actual healthy new year?
Write down ten values words (go on: grab a post-it or jot them down in your notes app). For example, some of my core values are CONNECTION, IMPACT, and FUN. I want to make a difference in the world, and I want to have fun doing it. Now think about your values.
Got ‘em written down? Awesome.
Not reflect on them. What activities or behaviors are you already doing that express these ten core values? Celebrate those!
Next: think about the values that you are not living as fully and think about what activities will help to cultivate them. Deepen this part by reflecting: how have diets gotten in the way of you living your values? One client told me that her disordered eating got in the way of every single thing that mattered to her. It distanced her from her family, robbed her of her ability to connect with others, and made life chaotic.
adopt a growth mindset
Do you know one of the (many) fallacies of diet culture? This all-or-nothing mentality about food and exercise simply isn’t sustainable.
To be truly healthy, our habits are a lot more nuanced than that. What matters is what we do most of the time. One day, week, or meal has little bearing on our overall health and wellness: what we do most of the time is the key to how we feel on the daily.
For a healthy new year, I recommend adopting a “try it” mindset. Or a “most of the time” mindset – whichever resonates with you more.
I invite you to be more experimental with the intention to find out what works. Curiosity, over judgment.
Here’s an example: diets tell you that in order to be healthy and hydrated, you must drink 8 glasses of water. NO flexibility…and honestly, no real evidence to support that 64 ounces of water is where it is at for most people’s adequate hydration. These guidelines can feel rigid and make you feel resentful after a while.
Try setting goals such as drinking one glass of water before lunch, most of the time. This invites hydration to be an easy part of your routine and create a healthful trend, without burning out or quitting.
And as you try a new routine with this mindset, don’t forget to reflect on how you’re feeling. Does the one glass of water help to keep your brain feeling focused? Or are two glasses of water better for a productive morning? Maybe it makes no difference, and you’d rather try honoring your hydration differently! Understanding your unique body’s response to the goals you set is powerful knowledge to have!
just say no to diets
For a truly healthy new year, you can’t kick off this season with a new diet. One more diet is not going to be different from all of the other diets you’ve tried before. It will just give that cycle of yo-yo dieting another crank and keep you trapped.
This year, commit to ending your dieting ways! Boldly state that this year “getting your life in order” won’t revolve around weight loss. And once more, for the people in the back, diets don’t work.
Do you know that your body has an ideal weight based on your unique genetic build? Your body has an innate wisdom and knows how much you should weigh to have easy maintenance and feel good mentally and physically. I don’t have the formula to predict it, no one does. Doesn’t make it any less true.
So what is this weight you’re supposed to be? It is called your set-point weight. This may be a totally new term to you. If so, check out this post: how do you reach your set-point weight?
Every time you diet, you not only defeat your own self-esteem by setting yourself up for failure (because diets fail, not because you are a failure).
Weight gain isn’t good or bad – but it’s worth noting that dieting is a predictor of weight gain (1).
Diets are a waste of time and go against the goals you had in mind.
Remember those values you wrote down earlier? Look at those again and see if yo-yo dieting is a true expression of your personal values. I’m guessing that the answer is no. (For example, recall my client who’s values included “family” and “relationships” – both were harmed by her disordered eating. She was too distracted about how “healthy” she was eating to really be present!)
But I also recognize that this can feel confusing when you’ve been taught that weight loss is healthy. It is what I was taught, too (and then what I unlearned with my Intuitive Eating training and personal experience).
My clients consider what they want to experience as a result of weight loss. Is it to feel attractive? Free? Healthy?
Then, we set up goals – without dieting – to achieve that experience.
It is similar to what we did earlier with naming your values and working on an action plan from there.
These plans help you to accomplish your values and to actually live the life you want: healthy, happy, and free.
Would a few more examples be helpful? Let’s go!
healthy new year values
Wellness is so much more than the number of vegetable servings we cram into a day.
And health is so much more than the number on the scale.
We are healthy when we have a purpose in our role here on this planet, a community of friends and family who are rooting for one another and encouraging one another’s growth.
We are secure when we have a safe and comfortable home, financial wellness, and the ability to be generous with those we care about most.
Doesn’t that sound way more important than weight loss when you really think about it?
Circle back to those values. Maybe this New Year, you start a new habit to boost your savings or to pay off debt, little by little. Would that make you feel more free?
Or you go through your clothes, only keep the things that fit and make you feel like the vixen you are, and then donate or sell the rest (do I spy a way to boost your savings account?).
Maybe you make a goal to eat the rainbow more. This is an example of Gentle Nutrition, one of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating – that the nutrition of our foods does matter, but work on the goal in a way that feels sustainable and fun. Isn’t “more” a more fun goal than “less?”
Another option? Look for a way to volunteer and give back to your community. Maybe you’ll love the chance to get away from your dang laptop and take a dog from the shelter on a much-appreciated walk. Or students at your local school will love having someone to help with their homework. Would this make you feel more connected to your community and grateful for your own life?
So, you’re excited, but maybe there are some friends or family members who aren’t quite getting it yet? Let’s talk about that now.
help: my partner doesn’t get it
This new year, you’re all set for being healthy. Really healthy, without diets.
But what if your best friend, mom, Aunt Karen, or partner is still on the diet train and doesn’t get this new path for you?
You get to work on the goals and values that best serve you. You have been on your own journey with Intuitive Eating. Everyone is ready for change in their own time, and trying to force your own beliefs onto someone else doesn’t work. In fact, it tends to backfire in a big way that isn’t all that exciting or fun.
Instead, focus on implementing what works for you, and having good boundaries to protect your own needs. Let your newfound feelings of purpose and joy draw your people to you and your beliefs rather than trying to chase them down and convince them.
If you’re feeling like you and your partner are the only ones struggling: take heart knowing that you’re not. In fact, this is such a common question, I wrote a post with some additional tips and strategies to stay on track with your own journey while still having constructive conversations with your partner. Check it out, here: how to communicate better with your spouse about Intuitive Eating.
This new year: you have the opportunity to do something completely different: you get to have a healthy new year that is actually healthy and sticks long past when most folks’ diet-focused resolutions have become a distant memory. You have the opportunity to reach food freedom.
seeking food freedom
Intuitive Eating is a self-care framework that helps you to no longer need dieting new year’s resolutions…or even any resolutions at all. The hope is that you create a sustainable way of being around food that can sustain you year-round.
Intuitive Eating is a journey that takes you to food freedom. Food freedom is having a positive and constructive relationship with food, eating, and your own body. It is about having trust in yourself and eating instead of being weighed down by food rules and poor self-image.
And as the daughter of a chronic dieter, food freedom is something that I had to work hard to achieve, beginning with unlearning all of the diet culture and messages that I was immersed in as a kid.
My mom was doing her best, based on the information that she had. Luckily, I learned how to have a better relationship with food, my body, and eating and I would love to help you to achieve the same.
We do not have to be destined to have the same yo-yo relationship with dieting that our families have for generations: we can break free.
Curious about food freedom? Click here: what is food freedom?
key takeaways: healthy new year
Intrigued by a life without short-term diet goals and a repeat of the cycles of years past?
I’m so excited to hear that!
Don’t delay! Get your hands on this 3-step guide to eating without guilt. This proprietary guide has helped 100s of my clients walk through a vision-setting exercise, helps you to develop and understand your own hunger and fullness cues, and then guides you through flexible goal setting that will motivate you instead of making you want to quit.
Take that: New Year’s! We don’t need your stinking yo-yo diets anymore: we are on a path towards real health and food freedom.