creative joy, single heart, 2012

Losing weight is a top resolution here in America, and no doubt, in many other countries, too. Maybe some of you are also considering it.

Resolutions are, of course, a personal choice.

But I encourage you to consider what healthy and truly nourishing habits you can cultivate instead. Consider intentions that focus on the journey, not the destination; that bring you joy, and aren’t punishing; that expand your life, instead of restricting it.

Recently I interviewed Judith Matz, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating binge eating disorder and emotional overeating, for a piece on setting nourishing New Year’s resolutions. I loved what she said about dieting and weight loss.

(By the way, Matz is also co-author of one my my favorite books Diet Survivors Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care.) 

According to Matz,

This time of year also brings a bombardment of ads for weight loss products and programs that work in the short-run, but are destined to fail. In fact, the majority of those who resolve to diet in January are off their plan by February.

Unfortunately, after the diet, there is a rebound effect both physically and psychologically; people are set up by the diet/binge cycle to overeat the very foods they’ve restricted, and the pounds will return, often leading to higher than pre-diet weights due to the mechanisms that control our natural setpoint. If fact, that’s why our tag line for The Diet Survivor’s Handbook is: People don’t fail diets; diets fail people.

She suggested readers try these resolutions instead:

For people concerned about their eating patterns and weight, I encourage them to set an intention to truly nourish themselves with food by honoring their physical cues for hunger and fullness, and choosing from a wide variety of foods; this approach is known as attuned or intuitive eating.

I also encourage people to find ways to take care of their body – physical activity, plenty of sleep, meditation or mindfulness practices – without the focus on weight.

Of course, like other resolutions, changing overeating patterns is not a one-time promise to do things differently, but rather a process of cultivating practices that are nourishing and sustainable.

Here are a few other ideas and questions to consider before setting your intentions for the new year:

  • Consider changing your food mentality from calorie counts and low-fat labels to nourishment and enjoyment: What nutrients are you eating? How do different foods make you feel? What gives you energy? What always gives you a stomach ache? What foods do you love to eat because of their taste?
  • Remember that normal eating is flexible.
  • What does self-love mean to you? What does it look like every day?
  • What are your favorite ways to move your body?  For instance, I love what Tara Sophia Mohr told Mara in her self-love interview:

As I write this, I’m in a week-long dance workshop. Dance gives me a physical vitality that I love, and moves me from stress to relaxation, from cranky moods to relaxed, loose, contented moods. And there’s a spiritual aspect to dance – somewhere in those two hours of dancing, I find communion with the sacred. It’s a pretty incredible list of benefits. In one activity I get physical exercise, emotional processing, community, and spiritual connection. Not to mention—a big libido boost too. For me, it’s not sustainable to do a form of exercise that is just about the physical. I want something that supports me emotionally and spiritually as well. I believe every person is granted at least one form of physical moment their heart and soul will truly enjoy – and it’s our job to find out what that form is and do it!

Again, what — if anything — you pick as your resolution for 2013 is up to you. I just want to remind you that it’s actually healthier  (and more satisfying and exciting)  to pick intentions that focus on nourishment and your needs, and on self-compassion, self-care and self-love.

I’d love to know what resolutions you’re setting for 2013. Please share in the comments!