The next time you find yourself in a bus, cab, or train, try scanning your surroundings for body shapes and other people’s silhouettes on billboards, posters and magazines.
Then, slowly reopen your eyes.
Chances are, you’ll find yourself catching glimpses of a model’s long, skinny body, someone’s six-pack abs, or some variation of the message that says: “If you don’t look like this, there’s something wrong with you.”
You may start feeling inadequate in comparison, decide that something about you needs to be ‘fixed,’ and join the estimated 45 million Americans who go on a diet each year. The irony of this is that many of these dieters go on to regain much, if not all, of the weight they have lost.
While striving to reach a healthy weight and state of mind is great, eating as little as you can, or avoiding certain foods altogether to achieve that shouldn’t be your goal, and here are five reasons why:
1. Food is an Amazing Source of Nourishment and Joy
Food is often a big part of any celebration or social event, and for good reason: It’s a source of nourishment and joy.
If you often find yourself avoiding social situations with the people you love or feeling anxious about being around food for fear of overeating, it’s time to start digging deep to figure out why you’re feeling that way, your binge triggers, and how you can regain a sense of normalcy so your fears (and food) don’t end up controlling you.
2. Being Lean and Healthy Isn’t Just About ‘Calories In, Calories Out’
While cutting down on your calorie intake drastically can seem like the logical thing to do to lose weight, this approach is often too simplistic for many of us.
Where you get your calories from is just as important as the amount of calories you take in — you can eat all the calories you need and still end up malnourished if they don’t come with the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat and antioxidants your body needs.
This is why diets that advocate drastic calorie-cutting or force you to avoid entire food groups can leave you struggling to drop the pounds and feeling worse than before.
3. Today’s Standard of ‘Beautiful’ Isn’t Realistic or Healthy
For most of us, dieting our way to runway-model skinny and staying that way isn’t just unsustainable — it’s also unhealthy and almost impossible.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that dieters who went on a 500-calorie diet for 10 weeks developed hormonal imbalances that set them up for weight gain long after the diet was over. In fact, many of the study’s participants ended up no slimmer than they were before the study began.
Your better (and much healthier) bet: Aiming to reach a goal weight that’s right for you by developing a balanced relationship with food.
4. Your Body is Changing All the Time
Puberty, hormones, stress, kids, aging — our bodies change with age and circumstances. This means that even if you start out skinny, your body’s not likely to look and feel the same way in the next five to ten years.
The two things that can help you manage your weight and health effectively (and keep you that way): Healthy eating habits and exercise, not the latest fad diet.
5. You’ll Have More Time and Energy to Focus on What Makes You Happy and Healthy
All that time you spend agonizing over calorie counting or the donut you just inhaled is time you can’t get back.
Why not focus on mastering the habits that will sharpen your hunger awareness cues so you can eat the foods you love without going overboard, help you master movements you love to get fitter and stronger, and break your binge-eating patterns?
The result: A strong, balanced body. No dieting required.