If you want to focus on feeling better in your body but you don’t want to focus on weight loss...where should you start?
This can be a tricky question, especially if you have been a dieter in the past. Since you won’t be tracking calories, macros or following rigid “health rules” it is easy to feel like you are adrift.
image via The Wellfull
The reality is that you don’t need to follow those old routines in order to improve your health and well being! There are lots of different metrics when it comes to improving your relationship with yourself, your body, food, exercise and yes- even your definition of health.
The following simple steps are a great place to start! I’ve also included resources below to help you continue your journey.
...Remember- this is a process that will have many layers and can take time. Take a deep breath, recognize yourself for getting started and enjoy the ride!
Before we begin...What is Diet Culture? Diet Culture affirms the belief that smaller is better, you need to look a certain way to be healthy or fit, and that large bodies can’t be healthy or acceptable. Diet Culture also encourages the idea that dieting/deprivation/restriction/food rules is a valid way to lose weight. (Want to dig into this subject more? Check out my “Diet Data” page here)
Disengage From Diet Culture
Stop following or exposing yourself to influences that aren’t helping you. If you follow an influencer who is counting calories, going on a “cut” diet, competing or making you feel uncomfortable- stop! It can be hard to unfollow accounts that you have been keeping up with for years- but believe me- diversifying your feed will help you in the long run. Below are some recommendations on who to follow, remember the less exposure you have to diet culture the less ‘normal’ it will seem. You’ll be able to call it out faster and see it for what it is- BS.
Assess Other Health Habits
How are you doing in these areas- Stress, Sleep & Hydration? When working with health coaching clients I always assess these first before we begin. Why? They are all intertwined with how we feel and they have nothing to do with food or dieting.
Active individuals should drink between 60-100 oz of water a day. Hydration is key for everyone and if you are active it's especially important. Water helps keep your muscles and joints supple and even can promote hearth health. The only "cleanse" you need is your body naturally eliminating waste through your kidneys- your body needs water to do that! Check your urine daily- it should be a pale yellow if you are properly hydrated. Being dehydrated can cause headaches, irritability and dry lips and skin.
Keep a week long stress journal. Rate your stress level 1-5 (1 low, 5 high) for 10 days. Before you begin the day do a full body scan and write down your stress level. Do it again when you are ready to retire for the day. Note if you are feeling tension in your neck, jaw or other muscles. Meditation, breath work and boundary setting can all help alleviate stress.
Even mild sleep deprivation can cause irregular mood swings, fatigue and even memory loss in the long-term. Even “mild” deprivation, defined as getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night, can be harmful. To keep to a better sleep schedule, turn off all screens 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Darken your room, diffuse some essential oils (lavender is great for sleep), put on some cozy loungewear and start to relax earlier. Napping is also a great way to boost your energy midday without any caffeine.
Bye, Bye Scale!
It’s not enough to just not weigh yourself! If you are staring at a scale in your bathroom day after day, chances are you are going to get on it. That will not be helpful, no matter what the number says. I recommend clients throw out their scales. You can have a little funeral service for it and everything! Write a note to your scale- what are you giving up to release this tool from your life? Often we see weight as a signifier of our success or failure. Giving up the scale is accepting that we will no longer allow our weight to define us. It’s also scary! Without that crutch of weight and pursuing weight loss- who are we? These are not one size fits all answers. Take your time to create a letter to your future self too. What are your hopes for her? How will getting rid of your scale and focusing on other areas of your life help you to feel healthier and happier?
If you can’t bear to throw your scale out yet, simply hide it in an out of the way place. I hid mine in our storage closet for almost a year and I completely forgot it was there! Whether you toss it or hide it- write that letter and put it somewhere that you’ll see it everyday. You can take a picture of your letter too so you can be reminded of it when you look at your phone as well.
Create a Goal Visual
Have you heard of Canva.com? It’s a wonderful resource where you can make your own calendars and visuals in PDF format. Here you can create a weekly or monthly list of how you are doing. Create this from a place of love and positivity. Track habits like stress, sleep & hydration and give yourself encouragement instead of judgment. Make it fun, use stickers to reward yourself and remember- this is not meant to be a “grade” for your day. This can be a good transitional way to observe your behavior if you're used to counting calories or adhering to a diet. Print out your personalized calendar and use it to check-in with how you're feeling on a daily basis.
Track How You Feel- Not What you Eat
It can be hard to release old habits like counting what you eat, following a meal plan and relying on progress pictures to judge your "success". One way to transform your past behaviors is to create new, healthier ones in their place. Begin a special journal that you can use to reflect on how you are dealing with your new lifestyle changes. Releasing dieting behaviors can bring up a lot of past emotions that can feel overwhelming at times. Give yourself space to feel what you've been trying to avoid with diets. Be kind to yourself, set aside time to reflect and create an imprint of how you are feeling. If you aren't into journaling try creating a weekly 3-5 minute video log or audio file on your phone. In need of journaling inspiration? Check-out the journal prompts in my Strong By Design E-Book or the Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch.
Join A Community
When you're trying to remove yourself from diet culture it's easy to feel alone. The more isolated you feel the more likely you are to fall back into the diet trap! We don't want that! Searching hashtags like "intuitive eating" "health not diets" or "diet culture sucks" is a good place to start. However- be aware that sometimes dieters will use these tags too. I founded the Strong @ Home Diet-Free Fitness Community for this very purpose. It's a safe place to connect with others, move and get coaching and support that is 100% diet free. In addition to 3 weekly movement sessions you'll also get bonus information and videos too. Regardless of what you choose, remember, you are not the first or the last to kick dieting to the curb. Take a deep breath and listen to your inner wisdom and body!
I hope these help you get started!
Remember- this is not a diet activity. You can't fail at taking care of yourself! Healing is often non-linear- you may feel terrible one day and on top of the world the next. Releasing old patterns that no longer serve you is often a process. Give yourself time to get to know yourself in a new way with these tips.
Why Dieting Sucks- Reading List
Lily Fontas, Ed.M is a health coach & helps busy people get strong and kick dieting to the curb.
In addition to being a featured wellness coach for Athleta, Title Nine Activewear she is the founder of STRONG@Home. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and baby son.
About the Author
Lily lives in the Bay Area of California with her husband. She loves to lift heavy, watch vintage movies and cheer on her fellow warrior queens!