Has the season left you worried about packing on a few unwanted pounds, or slipping on your diet? Anne Buffington, Michigan State University nutrition programs coordinator, says a strict diet-reliant mentality is counterproductive.
“Health messages that promote the diet mentality and pressure to lose weight during the holidays can lead to negative feelings of guilt and shame for eating those foods we enjoy,” Buffington said.
“The pressure to follow a prescriptive diet plan and/or to lose weight is counterproductive as it usually results in you doing less well with eating, not better.”
Buffington suggested that instead of allowing a diet to induce anxiety, thanks to a perceived violation of its rules, try working toward becoming what nutritionists call a more “competent” eater.
Healthy habits for this goal noted by Buffington include:
“Having regularly scheduled meals to keep yourself focused and energized, eating a variety of foods to satisfy various nutrition needs and trusting your body. By eating well and being physical active, your body will settle at a weight that is most natural for you.”
The nutritionist does acknowledge that it’s common to eat more during the holidays, especially foods exclusive to the season, but she said to “trust your body to regulate your food intake naturally.” Buffington also said diets can cause unnecessary mental strain, negatively affecting one’s ability to concentrate and potentially causing intense food cravings, which often lead to unhealthy binge eating.
She’s staunchly against the notion of cheating on a diet, saying she “cringes” at the idea and laments the idea of feeling guilty for enjoying delicious homemade food through the holiday season.
Buffington also touted statistics that don’t fare well for the culture of dieting — namely that “approximately 90 percent of dieters will regain their weight and over 50 percent will regain more weight than what they lost.”
Buffington said the diet is actually “cheating you” out of the “food you love most.” She recommends not fearing certain dishes at the dinner table.
“This helps previously forbidden foods can become ordinary foods you learn to enjoy in ordinary ways,” Buffington said. “Feeling like you have to ‘cheat’ to eat your favorite foods will only further disrupt your eating patterns in a negative way.”
Actually, the nutritionist is opposed to the trappings of a diet lifestyle altogether — especially when it comes to committing to a quick “cleanse” diet after a supposed food binge. Buffington said these quick weight loss regimens do more harm in the long run than good.
“Your body is already a detoxing machine, filtering 24 hours/day,” Buffington said. “If a diet is labeled as a ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox,’ it is unlikely to support your health, and could put you at higher risk for experiencing problems with eating.”
So, if hopping on a new diet once the holidays clear out isn’t the answer, what is? According to Buffington, it isn’t guilt or quick cleanses — it’s putting trust in your body and getting a regular amount of exercise.
“It is important to explore physical activities that are associated with enjoyment and pleasure instead of focusing on weight,” she said. “This can help individuals learn and grow when it comes to eating well and exploring opportunities for movement in a way that will enhance health.”
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