Whilst sitting quietly in a public space and shamelessly listening in to a conversation between two young females, around the age of 20, I was horrified to hear detailed discussions of dieting specifically calories and fat in foods and declarations of all the ‘bad foods’ they used to eat . They were conducting most of this conversation with the aid of a popular fitness tracking app which helped them to quickly find out just how ‘bad’ these foods are. I became increasingly saddened and irritated in equal measures listening to two young, presumably fit and healthy, observably low to average weight girls discussing their reams of imagined flaws and areas needing ‘overhaul’. Then I remembered its January and the joys of festive eating have now been replaced by the woes of self punishment, restriction and the desire to ‘fix’ everything about ourselves.
The conversation continued and I restrained myself from jumping in to save these lovely young people from all the misinformation they were sharing with each other like it was gospel truth. I listened on, one girl described how much she misses eating chocolate then proceeded to look up each of her favourite chocolate bars to see just how ‘evil and fattening’ they are, whilst her friend listened on with rapt attention. I began to zone out after this for fear that I would leap uninvited into their conversation and make a name for myself as the local preachy weirdo. So instead I’m channeling my frustrations into semi coherent internet ranting!
For anyone who is currently beating themselves up about everything they are not, resolving to make huge changes or generally feeling crappy after the festive season here are 5 reasons to ditch the ‘January diet’
1: Overly restrictive diets can do you physical and psychological damage
Saying no to things you love can be very draining, it leaves you feeling wanting and hard done to. Cutting out entire food groups like dairy or grains without adding proper substitutes to your diet could mean losing out on vital nutrients. Avoid making huge changes that could harm your health, if you want to make changes to your diet or exercise regime do your research first, don’t jump at the first thing you find in a google search. Consult your GP or other healthcare professional before undertaking anything drastic.
2: ‘Body Goals’ suck
I hate the term ‘body goals’ largely because it values aesthetics over anything else but also it suggests that one type of body is better than another thus must be aspired to. The hashtag #bodygoals on Instagram conjures up photo after photo of tanned, taught, slender and well filtered young bodies; these bodies are not yours and no amount of diet or exercise will make them yours. Your genetics, lifestyle, gender and many other factors have created your unique physique and ultimately you can’t fight that. Im not saying change isn’t possible just that obtaining someone elses physique is not going to happen, and even if it did chances are it still wouldn’t make you happy. Health goals are not only more reasonable but they are about you and your wellbeing. Deciding to get stronger, be more active, eat new foods or cook more often will reap the best reward of all, a healthier you!
3: Set SMART goals instead of lofty new years resolutions
Ask yourself these 5 simple questions
Specific: what do I want to achieve and how can I make it happen?
Measurable: how will I know if I have achieved my goal?
Attainable: is this possible?
Realistic: do I have the time and the motivation?
Time based: when do I want to achieve this? is the the timeframe manageable?
4: Learn to value more than your aesthetic
If there is one statement which I wholeheartedly subscribe to it is this “you are more than your aesthetic”. Looking nice and feeling good about the way you look is a’ok but I am 100% sure you have more value than a nice haircut, pretty eyes or good teeth? So start telling yourself everything you are rather than everything you are not! Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments regularly, be proud of all that you are and stop focussing on what you need to change.
5: Self acceptance not self punishment
It can be a very long road to self acceptance but self punishment won’t get you there. A simple way to start is by changing the way you speak to yourself; that internal monologue can be pretty harsh, critical and down right mean. You wouldn’t speak to a friend or loved one with language you taunt yourself with. Cut out the negative language and start speaking positively about you, your physicality and personality. I challenge you to stop calling yourself names and start celebrating all that’s good about you.
This new year step away from the fad diet, put down the calorie counter app, beware the miracle exercise plan and instead just be nice to yourself January is hard enough already!