We are heading right into the eye of the storm. In a matter weeks, we will start being attacked by magazine headlines and news segments explaining to us why we need to immediately shift our life’s focus onto losing weight we may or may not have gained over the holidays.

The diet industry is here to profit off your insecurities – by trying to tell you that unless you buy and use their products to turn yourself into a lean, mean machine – you will be a social pariah and become or remain unloved and unwanted. But that’s not true. If someone only loves you or wants you when you are lean, I would make the argument that they don’t actually want or love you.

These are the type of messages that unfortunately sell products, but also negatively impact people’s body image and as a result self-confidence. It’s easy to fall into the trap of fixating on achieving leanness to feel validated. When you poke and prod people enough by telling them they are worthless because they have “spare tire to lose” they will believe that. And eventually they will devote all their time and energy to becoming thin so they can be “worthy” and “valuable.”  This is both damaging to the psyche and body.

The reality is everybody’s body has a unique set point. Your set point is weight range where your body likes to be naturally to optimize your health and function. This range will look and be different for everybody. Factors like gender, height, genetics, race, environment, social status, stress, food, and exercise will all effect how your set point expresses itself.

If you fight your natural set point by part-taking in excessive dietary restriction and exercise to control your body, your body will revolt, Some of the negative health effects of dieting behaviour can be:

  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Loss of menstruation
  • Bone loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Increased risk of eating disorder
  • Increased risk of cardiosvascular disease, type II to diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Increased set point

Knowing that dieting is so damaging, how can we pursue health in a way that actually serves us instead of taking on the physically and psychologically damaging behaviours that are going to be promoted to us over the next few weeks?

We can opt in to doing behaviours that are actually focused on improving our health, or what I like to call the JAB. This is how I approach my own health and wellness and also how I coach all of my clients:

  • Joyful Exercise: Exercising in a way that you enjoy, that is engaging, and sustainable.
  • Attuned Eating: Also known as Intuitive Eating, which means listening to your body to guide your nutrition choices. This means paying attention to signals for hunger, satiety, satisfaction, and cravings but also including gentle nutrition practices such  as regularly eating fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient dense foods.
  • Body Peace: Making peace with your body. I’m not going to ask you to love it. But if at minimum you can make peace with it’s existence and all the amazing functions it offers you, you can start to respect your body and take better care of it.

When we engage in behaviours like Joyful Exercise, Attuned Eating, and making Body Peace, these behaviours allows us to live in the present moment instead of focusing on controlling every thing.  All of these behaviours are sustainable and easy to maintain with practice. Where as extreme dieting and exercise patterns can be detrimental to your health and only offer some type of short-time result that is not sustainable.

So instead of hopping on the dieting bandwagon again this year, try listening to your body and treating it with kindness and see where it takes you.