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A Non-Diet New Year

coffee cup on table that reads "begin"As we embark on a new year and a new decade, it’s natural to brainstorm ways to improve ourselves. We look forward to invigorating changes and vow to be “better” in some way. It’s also a time when we’re bombarded with the message that appearance-based resolutions will provide that #NewYearNewMe. However, if we don’t accomplish these out-of-reach goals (spoiler alert: almost no one does), we then feel like failures.

If you’ve ever considered making a weight-focused resolution, you’re not alone. 45% of Americans vow to lose weight or “get in shape” each year. The odds are not in their favor, though. Not only does dieting tout a 95% failure rate, it does a great job of breaking down our self-worth and confidence.

The act of dieting or restricting caloric intake wreaks havoc on your body and mind, releasing hormones that make food more desirable. Our bodies are smart, they protect us from “starvation” by decreasing metabolic rate and increasing hunger. Hormones are released to make food more desirable and rewarding, and feelings of fullness and satiation drop. Not exactly a conducive environment to weight loss, huh?

Instead of setting unrealistic, externally-motivated goals, we encourage you to cultivate growth beyond physical appearance. Here is a list of ideas to inspire us all to take a deeper look at what we would like to improve upon in the new year:

Become a plant “parent”: Having indoor plants has a plethora of benefits including improved air quality, increased mood and decreased stress.

Do a digital detox: I think it’s fair to say everyone could reduce the use of social media. You may notice your actual social life improves and you have more time for hobbies when spending less time online.

Get more sleep: With phones, TVs, and computers so integrated into our lives, it can be difficult to get enough sleep. Even one night of inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on the following day.

Cultivate a meditation practice: There have been countless research studies looking at the benefits of regular meditation. Although it can feel daunting and even “boring”, there are several smart phone apps that make it easy to implement into every day life.

Learn a new language: Studying different languages is more accessible than ever!

Find joyful movement: change the question of “what exercise burns the most calories?” to “how does this activity make me feel?” Have fun trying different activities and be mindful of your body and what its needs are.

Commit to body acceptance: Body acceptance isn’t a destination, it’s a practice. Maybe you diversify your social media to include all types of bodies, maybe you start or continue with therapy on a regular basis.

Learn to cook: This one may seem overwhelming to some, but it doesn’t have to be! Start small by trying one new recipe every week.

Plan a vacation: Everyone needs some kind of way to refresh and something to look forward to. Even if you never actually go on the vacation to Bali, it can be fun to plan.

Volunteer: Providing time or resources not only helps those receiving, but the volunteers as well. Volunteering has been shown to increase happiness and confidence and a can provide a sense of purpose.

Schedule self-care every day: Self-care looks different for everyone. Something as simple as reading a chapter in a book, getting an extra hour of sleep, or cuddling with your pet can be great.

Keep up with doctor’s appointments: We’ve all been there: “Is it really going to matter if I skip my dentist appt for this year? Or for 2 years?” Being consistent with routine appointments can help with prevention and sends the message to yourself that your health is important.

Declutter and get organized: You know what they say: a cluttered home, a cluttered mind. Get a head start on spring cleaning and see how it affects your stress levels.

About Jennifer Leslie, MS, RD, LD

Jenni completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Southeast Missouri State University and moved on to complete her Master of Science degree and Dietetic Internship through Saint Louis University. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Missouri Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the St. Louis Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After receiving her license and registration in 2014, Jenni immediately began working in the eating disorder field. She is passionate about helping clients relearn how to feel calm and joyful around food, rather than fearful and judgmental. At McCallum Place, Jenni works with adults, young adults, and adolescents in the residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), and intensive outpatient (IOP) settings.

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