By Jenni Wolf
For many people, every January brings an onslaught of weight-, food- and body-focused resolutions, goals and messaging. The diet industry is a powerhouse this time of year, promising all sorts of quick results or “easy” plans to follow.
What we often don’t remember is that: 1) the diet industry is a “big business”—$72 billion dollars’ worth of “big business” reported in 2019 by Marketdata, actually,—and is here to make money off all of us, and: 2) diets don’t work.
In fact, research tells us that diets fail up to 95 percent of the time—meaning that 95 percent of those participating in a diet regain as much as two-thirds of the weight they “lost” within a year and nearly all of that weight within five years, according to a 1992 New York Times article by Jane Brody.
So, if you’re tired of spinning in circles on the “diet merry-go-round” every January, here are three things to try that prioritize your health and well-being. They are not a diet and can lead to more sustainable outcomes and a higher quality of life—free from rigid food rules.
• Begin to reject the diet mentality by picking up a book to read more about the origins and effects of diet culture on our society and how that affects the way we think about food and our bodies. To get you started, I recommend “Anti-Diet” by Christy Harrison or “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.
• Buy a new cookbook and cook your way through! Explore new recipes. Try a different cuisine. Experiment with new cooking techniques and methods. Spending more time in the kitchen and planning intentional meals is a great way to practice mindfulness around food. This allows you to connect to your authentic hunger and fullness cues which can help you to recognize what your body might genuinely want, need and enjoy. That puts you back in charge of making food decisions, not some diet plan.
• Add, don’t subtract. Think about what foods you enjoy and what foods make you feel good. What might you be able to add or incorporate into meals and snacks that can increase variety, promote balance and provide satisfaction? When you cut out a specific food or food group you are often only left wanting that food even more. Think about the times you put limits on the number of cookies you could eat after dinner or the number of times you could eat pasta in a week? Chances are you found yourself more preoccupied with those foods than you would’ve been if you knew you could choose to have them every day as part of a meal or snack, if you wanted.
Remember we are humans and our bodies are smart, we want what we “can’t have” or are not getting enough of. That’s not a willpower thing, which diet culture often makes us believe. It’s a biological thing.
Jenni Wolf is a member of the Como neighborhood and a practicing registered dietitian in the community who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.