Your body is precious—but the world wants you to believe otherwise. Toxic diet culture wants you to believe that your body isn’t slim enough or strong enough, and in order to get the “body you’ve always dreamed of,” you need to pay for a highly restrictive 30-day meal plan, or 14-day juice cleanse. While the before-and-after photos advertised by these companies look enticing, the truth of the matter is, fad diets, detoxes, and other “quick fixes” do not work for long-term weight loss. There is no conclusive evidence that shows how a restrictive diet can actually help you lose weight in the long term. And yet, the weight loss industry is flooded with customers hoping that this particular purchase of this particular program will finally change them for good. But all it does is tell you to seriously restrict what you eat, making it the worst possible way to lose weight.
But…the before-and-after photos are real, right? Don’t be so easily fooled. Even doctors say that long-term, sustainable weight loss can’t be achieved with fad diets, and most of the time, those people in the photos will almost always gain their weight back.
Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP, an internist who specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition, and author of Hungry for More, specifically focuses on how diet culture and the weight loss industry continue to notoriously lie to you about what it means to actually be healthy.
“Unfortunately, a common approach is to heed fear-based messaging and false promises from fad diets and quick fixes and take us away from what we know intuitively to be true—that we have what we need within us,” says Youdim. “Often these approaches are overly restrictive and not durable. They set unrealistic expectations which promote sabotage and they catastrophize weight gain or regain which only results in self-judgment and shame.”
Forget the program—focus on you.
Her advice? Focus on yourself and no one else. Forget the false messaging that toxic diet culture is trying to get across, and instead, focus on how you can better your relationship with food outside of some crazy, restrictive weight loss program.
“Look within yourself and explore your relationship with food,” says Youdim. “What does your hunger represent? Maybe you are feeling isolated or distressed, maybe you are anxious or bored. Maybe you are not setting the necessary boundaries for time to care for yourself. Use this information to nourish yourself with what you need emotionally.”
Youdim says the best way to set healthy boundaries while also properly nourishing yourself is to create an “environment for success.” You can do so by creating “new routines around healthy meals and daily movement.”
Here are some of Youdim’s recommendations on how you can start setting healthier routines at home that will help you lose weight for the long term, instead of relying on fad diets and quick fixes. Then, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
“Create the environment for success by having healthy options stocked in your fridge and pantry,” says Youdim.
When your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy go-to items, it’s a lot easier to follow a nutritious diet without having to think too much about it. Snag these healthy grocery essentials, fill your freezer with these healthy frozen foods, and get your pantry ready-to-go with these healthy pantry staples.
“Remember you don’t need to spend all day in the kitchen to prepare a healthy meal,” says Youdim.
Eating healthy does not mean spending hours in the kitchen! In fact, there are many prepared foods you can turn to that easily work well for a healthy diet. You can meal prep these 21 Easy Lunch Ideas Made With 3 Ingredients or Less for easier workdays, and cook up these 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make when it’s time to prep a meal. Or why not keep it simple and stock up on a few of these 25 Best Frozen Dinners when you don’t feel like cooking?
“Studies show that sleep deprivation revs up hunger hormones,” says Youdim.
It may not seem like it, but it’s true. One study published by the Journal of Sleep Research shows that even a single night of sleep deprivation can increase ghrelin levels, the hormone your body produces that makes you feel hungry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the average adult should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for optimal health, so be sure to catch those zzz’s to avoid mindless snacking the next day.
“And finally remember to be kind,” says Youdim. “It is a process but with self-compassion and dedication you will get there!”
Positive affirmations really can go a long way. According to Psychology Today, affirmations can be used as a tactic to get your subconscious mind to change your outlook on particular topics—weight and body image included.
We know that fad diet, quick fixes, detoxes, and any other food-restrictive activity of the sort do not work for long-term, sustainable weight loss. These types of activities have always promised a one-way ticket to a “slimmer you,” as long as you don’t screw up and get off track.
But what if you do? What if you eat that extra cookie or decide on a bowl of pasta instead of a salad? Is that so wrong?
Of course not. As Youdim suggests, be kind to yourself. Eating a healthy diet means finding healthful ways to include all the foods you love into a nutritious diet because food restriction clearly is not working. With a little self-compassion, you’ll find yourself not only physically happy with your new way of eating, but mentally happy in your body as well.
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