If you’re anything like me — or the other 49 percent of Americans that start and stop a weight loss plan — then you know some of the drawbacks to dieting.
Restrictive meal plans, a negative impact on your relationship with food, avoiding social activities with friends where there might be temptation, and — yeah, gaining back the weight — can all be part of dieting.
That said, it’s time to take a different approach to how we look at weight loss. Instead of a sole focus on pounds lost or days in the gym, why not resist diet culture and commit to a healthy lifestyle that includes body, mind, and spirit.
If you’re ready to treat weight loss as a side effect of overall well-being, instead of the goal, check out these nine healthy shifts.
1. Let go of the idea that weight loss is the sole goal
Diets or an intense regimen of fat-burning workouts aren’t the most effective option for long-term, sustainable weight loss.
Instead, focus on other measures of success that come from regular exercise or eating more vegetables — such as increased strength and stamina, or a decrease in feelings of depression and anxiety.
When you shift your focus from just weight loss to the other benefits of healthy eating and exercise, it’ll help you keep up your routine for the long run.
2. Shift your focus from losing weight to gaining wellness
When we think about losing weight, it not only includes diet modifications and physical exercise, but also how we feel about ourselves — which is more important than how we look. Instead of measuring your worth or health based on the scale, focus on overall wellness.
That means prioritizing your mental health, activities you love, and time with family and friends. Focusing on these key components may help you lose weight (and keep it off) without fixating on food and exercise.
3. Try different exercises until you find one that gets you excited to move your body
The quickest way to skipping a regular workout? Forcing yourself to do a type or intensity of exercise that causes misery and pain.
But many take this approach because they want to get fit or lose weight as fast as possible.
“This ‘no pain-no gain’ approach ends up being the detour, not the shortcut many hope it will be for making fitness a way of life,” says therapist Erin Risius, MA, LPC. Instead, find your fitness style.
What do you enjoy? What energizes you? What feels right for your body?
Start with these questions and if you aren’t sure, then it’s time to experiment. Don’t try harder at something you hate or that causes pain — try different.
4. Learn how to eat mindfully
Did you know that how you eat is just as important as what you eat? Risius explains that mindful eating is a game changer for achieving a healthy weight.
“Mindful eating allows for portion control management no matter what type of food we’re eating,” she says. When you eat mindfully, you eat with intention while paying attention.
“It teaches you to honor the subtler cues of hunger and satisfaction instead of teetering between ravenous and stuffed,” adds Risius.
Quick tip for mindful eating One easy way to get started with mindful eating is to ban all electronics from meal time. When you eliminate the distraction of emails, social media, and texts, you’re able to focus on the task at hand: slowing down and enjoying your food.
5. Focus on things to add to your diet, rather than to eliminate
“Nothing squashes a well-intentioned eating plan like focusing only on what we feel we can’t or shouldn’t be eating,” says Risius.
Instead, focus on adding in foods that might be missing from your regular food intake, such as fruits or veggies. A well-nourished body tends to experience fewer food cravings, so you’ll see results, but you’ll have a healthier focus on fulfillment — not restriction.
6. Rethink your definition of exercise
Not all physical activity has to come in the form of a dedicated workout. Nutrition coach Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, CISSN, CHC says making small shifts to your day can make a big difference.
“Try adding a walk to your lunch date, spending time outdoors with your dogs, or getting up for water and stretching breaks during commercials,” she explains.
“A little bit of movement is better than nothing, and it adds up over time,” Fundaro says. “Don’t skip the chance to do 10 minutes of activity because it seems like a small amount compared to 30 minutes.”
7. Say a daily positive affirmation that reminds you of your worth
Having the right mindset about weight loss can mean the difference between short-term results and changes that last a lifetime.
To keep yourself on track, carve out 10 minutes each day to sit and “just be.” Use this time to meditate, practice deep breathing exercises, or reset your mind with a few positive affirmations.
Looking for some positive affirmations? Here are a few ideas:
- “I love my strong legs that carry me through the world — and kick ass in Zumba!”
- “My beauty and worth aren’t defined by the number on the scale.”
- “Only one opinion about my body matters: my own. I know I’m beautiful.”
8. Move your workouts outside
If the idea of sweating it out at the gym makes you grumble, then take your workout outside.
Fitbit ambassador and celebrity trainer, Harley Pasternak, says a lot of the movements we do in the gym are things we can do outside — which means you can stop thinking (and dreading) exercise. Instead, take in beautiful scenery, fresh air, sunlight, and vitamin B while you’re doing squats or side bends.
Hobbies like gardening or geocaching are also great ways to be healthy without feeling like you’re exercising.
Make sure you give yourself credit for those moments throughout the day that you’re active without even thinking about it.
9. Change the way you drink
Lots of food and beverage items make it on the chopping block when embarking on a weight loss journey. For some people, eliminating alcohol is easy. But for others, going cold turkey just doesn’t work.
If you drink alcohol, Charlie Seltzer, MD, recommends pouring 1/5 less than you normally pour (i.e. 4 ounces of wine instead of 5). That way, your brain doesn’t know the difference but you’ll consume less.
(If you drink two glasses of wine, regardless of size, you’re still drinking two glasses of wine, thus bypassing the “deprivation red flag”).
Remember that the number on the scale isn’t even close to being the full story about your health. In fact, here are nine weight-related numbers that matter more than the one on the scale.
Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.