While talking to a friend who's a registered dietitian, she shared how much she hates this time of year: resolution time. So many of her female clients come to her with the sole goal of wanting to lose weight. What if we could encourage women to have a new resolution: to stop trying to lose weight and to focus on being healthy and happy?
I'd love to be able to encourage women to give up the "I want to lose weight" resolution. How can someone not respond to the pressure to lose weight, and instead give up dieting after being stuck in the cycle for most of their life? Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN, an anti-diet registered dietitian nutritionist, certified intuitive eating counselor, host of the Food Psych Podcast, and author of Anti-Diet, shared her advice.
"It's totally understandable to have the desire to lose weight in this culture, especially for higher-weight people who are constantly bombarded with messages that their bodies are wrong and need shrinking," Christy said. Giving up the pursuit of weight loss is challenging, and even harder the more weight stigma you've experienced in your life and the longer you've been dieting. If you've been stuck in the cycle for decades, it's incredibly difficult to move away from the dieting mentality, but it's also freeing. "I've talked with countless people who've been able to do it, including those in large bodies, and truly feel they've gotten their lives back."
Be Honest: Has Dieting Worked For You in the Past?
"I think the way to get started on the anti-diet path when you've been dieting for so long is to have a real talk with yourself about whether dieting has actually 'worked' for you long-term, or whether you've just been cycling on and off diets (not to mention weight cycling) for all those years," Christy said.
She added that if you're one of those rare weight-loss "success stories" who's somehow managed to lose significant weight and keep it off through intentional means for more than five years, what have you had to give up in order to maintain that weight loss? What's been the effect on your mental health, your relationships, your life? What about your relationship with food and your body? Have you started obsessing about food, binge eating, or using other disordered behaviors?
And have you had any unexplained physical health issues crop up in the wake of your weight loss such as hair loss, chronic fatigue, osteopenia (weak bones) or osteoporosis, missing periods, or digestive problems?
Explore the Anti-Diet Approach
If you've thought through these questions and come to the realization that diets have never worked for you (or that they've robbed you of your well-being in various ways), then you're in a good place to start exploring the anti-diet approach. Christy said, "It can be helpful to start by thinking of it as an experiment." She suggested taking the next few months to experiment with giving up dieting and making peace with food. Of course, you can always go back to dieting, since diet culture isn't going anywhere.
"But you've dieted for years and it's never brought you the peace and well-being you were looking for, so why not try something totally different for a while?" she noted.
Don't Do It Alone
For some people, the anti-diet experiment can bring up a lot of anxiety and internalized weight stigma, and working with a therapist who's well-versed in intuitive eating and Health at Every Size (HAES) can be essential for helping you process those feelings. If you need help finding someone, here's a list of providers Christy recommends.