Why are those Resolutions Always About Weight?

It’s January — time for ads about  new weight loss programs and products. We even have the release of a new TV show — My Diet is Better Than Yours!

Just last week, the government released its 8th Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

 

Government Releases the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 
These guidelines are the result of a large body of evidence which shows that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can help people achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout all stages of the lifespan. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reflects this evidence. See graphic below:

 DGA_Graphic1_tn-1
Most notable is the suggestion that a healthy eating pattern limits added sugars, sodium, saturated and trans fats. We are encouraged to eat a healthy meal plan with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, low fat dairy and healthy oils. For the first time, the guidelines have removed the cap on cholesterol in foods. The guidelines also mention physical activity and healthy meal patterns to reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity.

Novel Concept for 2016 – Health at Any Size!While these guidelines are clearly needed to guide health policy — such as what is served in the national school lunch program —  I worry about the effect on our psyches, especially children and adolescents. Overzealous parents are putting their young children on diets, health teachers are creating curricula with lists of foods that are “GOOD” or “BAD.”  Even an offhanded comment by a health professional can be misinterpreted by those vulnerable to eating disorders and unhealthy thoughts about food. 

Having provided nutrition counseling for well over three decades, I have seen firsthand the damage caused by fad diets and the dieting mentality.   Why do we need to wear “skinny jeans and drink “skinny lattes?”   Skinny does not always equal healthy and fit — heavier bodies can in fact be strong and healthy.

We need instead to focus on our HEALTH.  A healthy body can exist in many shapes and sizes.  The Health at Any Size movement is not new.  The goal is to help chronic dieters reshape their thinking, shed unhealthy habits, adopt new patterns of eating, become more physically active, and increase self-esteem.

As clinicians, we need to help our clients lose the guilt that results from obsessing about the numbers on the scale. Instead, we need to teach them (and ourselves) to eat according to hunger and fullness cues from our own bodies.  We need to exercise for sheer joy in moving, not to “burn” calories.

My resolution for the New Year has NOTHING to do with food, diets, or weight. It is about self-care – getting extra sleep, and connecting with friends and family more often! What is yours?

Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year!

References:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov
http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/
http://www.lindabacon.org/haesbook/

Feature photo via source.

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