The holiday season will be gone before we know it, which means we’ll tuck away the cookie tins and gravy boats and prepare ourselves for the season of self-restraint and suppression. In other words, New Year’s Resolutions centered around diet and exercise. And it’s no secret that diet companies and gyms are eager to reinforce shame about our bodies or habits. After all, it’s estimated that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products, according to a study from the Boston Medical Center.
But while these resolutions might seem harmless for some, the glossy language and heavily filtered advertisements full of fake promises can have toxic results. Eating disorders have been on the rise over the last decade and extreme exercise regimens that include training for ultramarathons (that’s upward of 50 miles!) have grown over 345 percent in popularity over the last 10 years. sAZ qAZ
So, with all the toxic and extreme talk around diet and exercise, we asked professionals in the health and wellness arena, what it takes to tackle a new lifestyle change while still maintaining a healthy relationship with your body. Here’s what they had to say.
Like any plan, starting small is always best. Hannah White, a personal fitness trainer and accountability coach, who said she chose her career because of her own struggle with bulimia in high school, recommends creating short and long term goals. “Take your big picture and then decide on the steps you will take to reach it,” she said. “The best way to track and better hold yourself accountable to your goals and progress, is to write these all down.”
She says setting a realistic timeframe is important. If your goal is to lose weight, make that a long-term goal but implement short-term goals that will help you get there. Goals like eating out less, increasing daily water intake and tracking the number of daily steps you’d like to get in are a great place to start.
Other habits like incorporating more colors into your diet or working to include one more vegetable on your plate each day can make your goals seem more attainable, than trying to implement an entirely new diet. Which in turn will help cultivate a healthier relationship with the new changes, because they are gradual and not all at once.
Know where your information is coming from
The language around diet and exercise has been the same for decades, but the amount of misinformation many have to wade through to get to the facts has only pervaded the space in recent years. Sadie Gray and Sausha Durkan wanted to normalize that fitness isn’t a one size fits all, so they combined their knowledge and started the Meathead Test Kitchen Podcast. “On our podcast, we discuss food, fitness, and have a monthly episode surrounding mental health,” said Durkan, who is senior producer.
Their podcast, which doesn’t shy away from telling listeners that food is great and should never be demonized, also includes personal tales of their own trial and errors in their wellness journey. Gray, who is an International Sports Sciences Association certified personal trainer, says that adopting a healthy lifestyle can be confusing for many because of the information overload out there. “Making it work for each individual is going to look a little different,” she said. “So it’s our goal to arm listeners with the best science backed knowledge out there. Bro science isn’t real, and you shouldn’t be trusting it, especially if you’re a woman. We aren’t built the same, and are very different than men on a chemical level.”
Instead seek out information from verifiable sources, and if you ever have any questions, consult with your doctor before making any major decisions.
Take control and create a positive environment
When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, what you consume in your food diet is just as important as what you consume in your media diet. The average person spends 145 minutes on social media each day, and what you choose to view can have a major impact on your overall health. White suggests scrolling through your feeds and if someone’s post makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow them. “How awesome that you can literally remove some of the negativity in your life,” she says.
Taking a real hard look at what accounts you follow, what news you read and what information you allow yourself to consume each day is a great way to take back control and create a positive and healthy environment for your wellness journey.
Durkan says what you see on Instagram is just a tiny blip of a much larger map, and that it can be easy to lose context which is important, especially when it comes to products you see on social media platforms. “All MLM, diet pills, shakes, etc. are snake oil,” she said. “It’s almost always presented without context, because they’re trying to make money off of a mindset that folks have to look a certain way, and weigh a specific number to be healthy. That is dangerous, inaccurate, and just adds to a crappy relationship with food amongst other things.”
And your environment is not just your social media friends, but the people in your everyday life. Gray says that if you’re looking to make a change in your fitness or nutrition, it’s difficult and takes time, but who you surround yourself with can make the difference. “One of the biggest things I tell people is that if someone isn’t supporting you, find a new support system. You need as many people behind you that believe in you and want to help you succeed.”
It’s okay to speak to a professional
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about where to begin or what might be the best plan for you, seek out a professional’s opinion. There’s no shame in talking to someone who’s trained and licensed to provide you with individualized help. Whether that be a doctor or nutritionist, taking charge of your health starts with taking charge of where you’re seeking information. Your wellness journey should begin from a steady and firm foundation.
White says do your research and ask questions before you hire a licensed trainer or dietician.
“Investing in your health is one of the top things you can do for you.” she said. “Without your health you have nothing.”
Before you go, check out our favorite quotes to help cultivate positive attitudes about food and bodies: