As I write this post, it is currently the last day of January 2021.
The beginning of the month is full of new resolutions, intentions, hope and a ton of motivation to organize and plan your "New Year, New Me" schedule. During this phase of the process, our brain releases dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter that gets us motivated to set and achieve our goals...temporarily at least.
There are a few reasons for this to happen, and although it might be contrary to what you have been told or believe...it actually has nothing to do with willpower or being a failure. Let me explain...
5 Reasons You May be Struggling to Keep Your "Get Healthy" New Year Resolution
You're way of thinking stems from Diet Culture. We have been brainwashed by Diet Culture into believing that with just enough willpower, we can shed the weight, sculpt our body and finally be happy, successful and accepted. But when we "fall off the wagon" as we so often do, WE are the failures. WE didn't have enough willpower. We blame ourselves for a system that is designed to fail. The diet industry is a $72 billion dollar business for a reason...if it worked, there wouldn't be repeat customers and this type of profit. This is an industry that creates our insecurities by promoting an unrealistic beauty standard and “ideal” body size”, then turns around and sells a products, system, serum, or diet promising to be the solution, to achieve it. But the jokes on us...98% of dieters regain their lost weight, and often more within 1-5 years.
The Focus is on Weight-Loss. Weight loss does not equal improved health. Diet culture teaches us to focus on and value weight, shape, and size over well-being. The resolution season is SATURATED in diet culture messages, so it makes sense this is what we believe. But in actuality, focusing on weight rather than health is most likely to produce compulsive eating, weight cycling, and over time, increased weight. When we instead focus on modifiable health behaviors, such as balanced eating, more movement, body acceptance and stress management ,we are more likely to impact our health in a positive way- and maintain these health improvements long term.
It's either all or nothing. Again, thank you diet culture influence. We are either working out 5x a week, eating salads every day for lunch, skipping dessert and drinking black coffee OR we are not stepping foot in the gym at all, ordering takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and thinking "eff it" whenever someone comes to the office with a box of donuts...there is no grey zone in this type of thinking and it leads to self-sabotaging behaviors.
You Hate Your Body. Again, thank you diet culture and unrealistic beauty standards and a culture that idealizes thin bodies. But guess what? You can't hate yourself to health. When we obsess over our bodies and think how we are not good enough, not thin enough, not smooth enough-we cycle through a negative thought pattern. These negative thoughts create anxiety, fear, discomfort and chronic body dissatisfaction. It keeps us monitoring our bodies and continually try to change them, but does little to motivate us to take care of ourselves. Consider how people care for something they really like. The more they like it, the better they take care of it. When a person likes, or at least, accepts their body, they are more inclined to take good care of it, regardless if their weight.
You have a long list of Forbidden Foods. The problem with diets that have forbidden food rules or omits entire food groups, is it prevent something called the habituation effect. Habituation basically means, that after repeat exposure, the stimulus (food) is no longer appealing. With repeated exposure of the same food, there is a decrease in desire to eat it. But when we say for example, sugar is off limits, we put it on this pedestal. It is the forbidden fruit. It tempts us, we begin to notice it everywhere and then all of the sudden, we try to subdue the craving with "healthy alternatives", only to break restraint and feel out of control around it. This "proves" to us, that we MUST be addicted to sugar, we just can't have it around and the only way to "get back on track" is to tighten the grip- eating must be controlled even more, willpower must be tapped into, entire food groups are once again, forbidden. But instead of being an effective strategy, it just becomes a viscous cycle.
The Solution: Let go of the perfectionist way of thinking diet mentality requires of you.
This way of thinking is actually ruining your relationship to food, your body and pushing you further from sustainable healthy behavior change.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Albert Einstein
Year after year, it's the same goals, the same all or nothing mentality, the same strategy of aiming for perfection. And year after year, we find ourselves a few weeks, or months later, feeling like garbage for once again "failing". Our brains reinforce this cycle and create neuropathways that find comfort in restriction, then falling of the wagon; another diet, then feeling out of control around food; signing up for a new work out class and going every day for a week, then not going for two months.
With that said, I want to encourage you with he fact that there is another way. There is a way you can create a KEEP new healthier habits, focus on wellness and self-care and NOT have to start over every year, month, week or even day...
Create a minimum baseline goal...
Also known as a mini habit or anchor habit, a minimum baseline goal is about rebuilding trust with ourselves to follow through on our commitments. It's about choosing actions or habits from a place of self-care and respect- not punishment or hate. It's about setting realistic, manageable goals, following through with them and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It teaches our brain, that when we set a goal, we are capable of accomplishing it. When we take these smaller steps, it leads to being more self-compassionate and associates this habit or behavior with positivity...instead of negative thoughts due to "failing" to achieve an unrealistic expectation.
Here are a few examples:
Minimum Baseline Goal: I'll go to the Saturday Morning Spin Class once a week until it's a habit and feels like a natural part of my lifestyle, then I'll add a second day a week.
Diet Mentality Goal: Starting Monday, I'll go to the gym 4 times each week for an hour, plus yoga twice a week and in one month, I'll go to the gym 5x a week and continue yoga 2x a week.
Minimal Baseline Goal: I'll plan to cook 2 weeknight dinners each week, and once it's feels easier to manage, I'll plan and cook 3 weeknight dinners each week.
Diet Mentality Goal: Starting on Sunday, I am going to plan out my breakfasts, lunch and dinners for the entire week, hit up the grocery store and come home and spend 3 hours prepping all my meals. I plan to do this each week.
Do you notice the difference between minimum baseline and diet mentality? Minimum baseline is the smallest action you can commit to, that you know you can follow through on. It's not about the result or how quickly you achieve a goal...it's about rebuilding trust by setting goals and actually following through with them. It's about showing yourself respect by taking care of yourself from a place of self-compassion, with realistic expectations.
Word of warning: Your brain will resist this different way of thinking. You have spent months, years or decades being brainwashed by diet culture, which leads you to believe that if you're not all in at full throttle, then it's pointless. You'll have thoughts that your "not trying hard enough", that your "lazy" for not having this big elaborate, complicated plan. But falling for those thoughts is exactly what keeps you stuck...
Stuck in the All or Nothing way of thinking.
Stuck in the restrict/out of control cycle.
Stuck blaming your body for not conforming to unrealistic standards.
Stuck in self-sabotaging behaviors.
So if you are ready to try something new, to become unstuck, then give minimum baseline goals a try! If you need a little support while making this shift, you can schedule a free call with me to get started.
Love and Health,
Katie is an Ann Arbor-based Holistic Nutritionist, Intuitive Eating and Body Image Coach on a mission to help women stop hating on their bodies and feeling out of control around food.
Katie is a Registered Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, Licensed Body Positive Facilitator and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health Education.
After overcoming her own battle with eating and body image issues, it was clear there was a need for a different kind of conversation around health. She began her virtual wellness practice in 2019 with the goal to spread the truth about taking care of our bodies, regardless of weight, and dispel the myth that health "looks" a certain way. Katie is Health at Every Size Informed and is ready to change the conversation from eating to control body size and shape, to eating for nourishment & well-being.
She is now accepting new clients of 2021. Apply here.