The weather is warmer, the reigns of quarantine are loosening up, there are places that you can actually go to, and you are giving the side eye to those jeans that you have not adorned in months and are thinking… “I’ve gotta lose a few pounds before I start wearing clothes in public again.”
I get it. I think the majority of us would say that we have significantly upped our chocolate, french fry and/or wine intake over the past couple of months (I know that I certainly have) and the rest are well, lying of course. Your body may feel differently as a result. Perhaps you are like me and you have noticed that those legging aren’t feeling quite as stretchy as they once did, perhaps you have some that aren’t comfortable at all anymore. It would make sense that the idea of a diet or plan to slim down that would “fix it” would sound enticing, but it is not what this dietitian would recommend and here is why:
- Diets cause weight gain. I know you are like Say What?!? But it’s a true story that pursuing weight loss predicts future weight gain. This means that if you try to lose weight, you have a significant chance of regaining that weight plus some down the road (think 2-5 years). This is actually something that has been proven over and over again in studies for years. You may be wondering if that is just from diety-diets like Weight Watchers or South Beach or the grapefruit diet, but it actually refers to any voluntary attempt at weight loss, so even just some “little ole” lifestyle change in the name of weight loss can, and for most, will, result in future weight gain.
- You need to eat to stay healthy. Your body needs nourishment to remain healthy. Undernourished bodies, meaning bodies that are taking in less calories, carbs, fats and proteins than they need can become immunocompromised bodies. Diets often create an energy deficit. An energy deficit means not enough nourishment, which can leave you more at risk for getting sick, becoming sicker than you would if you were nourished, and staying sick for longer.
- The stress is not over. The stress from the global pandemic is not over, and that means that you may still find yourself using food for comfort more than you are used to. So why set up a rule structure that will make you feel like a failure when you “mess it up” with a big bowl of ice cream, thus sending you into a full on “cheat mode” for the rest of the day/week or month? Sound familiar at all? This rule setting/messing up/got off track cycle is a big part of why diets don’t work in the first place. Not to mention that diets often cause both physical and mental stress. Increases in stress hormones and preoccupation with food (aka thinking of food all the time) are symptoms of dieting that can be exhausting, and who needs that right now?!?
Right about now you might be thinking “but what do I do then? I don’t want to continue this way and I need to do something about my body?”
I say, be gentle with your eating right now. This means that when YOU feel ready, you can gently return to some of your pre-pandemic eating and drinking rhythms if they were serving you well. If there is something that you are eating or a way that you are eating or drinking that you don’t love right now, move one degree towards something else you were doing before. For example, if you didn’t drink wine every evening pre-pandemic and you are now, and you don’t love that and don’t feel as good as you did before, drink a little less or try an evening or two without, when YOU are ready. There is no need to make a whole thing out of it by making a drastic change, as a matter of fact, it is better for you that you don’t. If pre-pandemic eating or drinking is not going to work for you now but you still don’t love your current ways of eating and drinking, you can also work on finding your new normal, eating and drinking rhythms that work well for you now, it doesn’t have to look like before.
But then there are those jeans, and the idea of not doing something that feels like a significant something to “fix” your body right now seems like the only thing that will feel good. But if you have ever experienced the diet cycle that I have mentioned above or have watched someone else go through it, then you know where this will end up. Be gentle with your food and movement adjustments instead, and just buy a new pair of jeans if need be… there are certainly some great sales out there right now!