Shannon at table with farmers market basket

How to Set Health Goals for the New Year Without A Diet

Does going on a new fad diet excite you? I bet not. I actually bet that about 80-95% of you would say heck no to that question. And guess what? About 80-95% of dieters regain the weight they lost within the next 5 years of going off said diet. Most of this weight regain occurs because of unrealistic health goals.

Fad diets are fad for a reason. They are like a shiny new toy in the store. Exciting with a lot of hope but also a lot of unknown. It’s something to talk about when it works for the first two weeks, then something to rage over when it gets frustrating. Whether it is keto, paleo, Whole 30, Noom or the cabbage diet, a diet serves the purpose to restrict something. It may restrict overall calories, macronutrients, certain foods, or entire food groups. This restriction is viewed negatively. “Don’t have this.” “I can’t have that.” Negativity is hardly rewarding nor motivating in the long run.

What if instead of going on another restrictive diet or setting extreme health goals, we think about positive habits. How can you ADD more nutrition to your plate versus just taking something away? How can you ADD more movement throughout your day rather than limiting it to an intense 60 minute workout? How can you ADD more positivity to your day, your habits, your thoughts?

Diets Don’t Work

If you are still unsure whether going on a New Years diet is the right thing for you, let’s look at some of the facts:

  • 80-95% of dieters regain the lost weight within 5 years, most often because the dieting and exercise habits were unsustainable in the long-term.
  • 51% of men and 58% of women only exercise to control their weight which can lead to increased physical and mental stress and lack of enjoyment leading to lack of exercise later in life.
  • Recurring weight loss and weight regain, known as weight cycling, can increase overall risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, and chronic inflammation.

A Dietitian’s Point of View on Short-Term Diets

As we continue to refer to “diets”, we are referring to this term as a personal choice to alter one’s dietary pattern that includes food rules or guidelines. The following information does not necessarily pertain to medically-prescribed diets to manage a health condition.

  1. Food restriction leads to increased cravings. It is human nature for us to crave things we cannot have. The more we deprive ourselves of the foods we truly enjoy, the greater the craving. Eventually, we give into these cravings. This can result in shame and guilt for “breaking the rule”.
  2. Diets are often unsustainable in the long-term due to extreme rules or restrictions. Telling yourself you can’t eat after 7pm at night plays a role in your social life. What if you want to go out to dinner with friends? Time restraints can be difficult on a social life. Eliminating entire foods or food groups also limits your food options. This can lead to meal boredom and increased cravings, as well.
  3. Boredom with the limited food options and required food rules. Food is meant to be craveable, delicious, and satisfying. With limited food options or restricted ingredients like added sugar or condiments, our food may turn out to be unpalatable. Our taste buds need exciting food, not bland food.
  4. Food labels (such as good versus bad and red, yellow or green) can cause us to have a negative relationship with food. This can increase stress, anxiety, and guilt around food.
  5. Your body is unique, requiring unique nutrition needs. There is no one-diet-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. Even if every person on the planet ate the same exact thing every day, we would all react differently and still have different bodies. Instead of following a meal plan created for the masses, learn how to nourish your unique body and listen to what it needs. This is what I help with in my 1:1 nutrition coaching!

How to Redefine Your Health Goals

Throw the negativity out the window and turn that frown upside down. This year and beyond is for you to make positive changes. What opportunities do you see in your lifestyle to create positive change for yourself? Focus on you and how you want to feel. Try to avoid goals that focus on body manipulation such as weight loss or “toned” arms. These goals may have good intentions, but it can be frustrating down the road if your body doesn’t change the way you want it to. Internal motivators such as increased energy, improved mood, creativity, and joy are feelings that will last a lifetime.

Try some of these goal tweaks:
  • I am going to lose weight. >> I am going to move my body in ways I enjoy most days of the week.
  • I am going to eat less carbohydrates. >> I am going to increase my daily fiber intake with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • I am going to stop eating desserts. >> I am going to try making my own desserts from scratch at home.
  • I am going to cut back on coffee intake. >> I am going to drink more water throughout the day.

Do you see how these simple rewrites also redefine your purpose? If not, leave me a comment below or send me an email! I would love to talk through how your health goals can make a positive change in both body and mind.

How to Measure Progress in Your Health Without Weight

Let’s face it. Most of us go on a diet to lose weight whether it is to help you hit a goal weight or improve a chronic health condition. But, weight loss is not the only way, nor is it a good way to measure improved health. Body weight alone does not tell us the amount of lean muscle mass to fat mass. It doesn’t tell us your cardiovascular health or what your hormones look like. Body weight doesn’t indicate healthy cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, or blood pressure. It doesn’t tell us how happy you are.

Skip the scale and focus on non-weight progress instead:
  • Increased energy throughout the day
  • Improved mood, motivation, and/or creativity
  • Improved productivity
  • Greater resilience to handling stressful situations
  • Improved relationship with food
  • Greater confidence in the kitchen preparing nourishing and enjoyable meals
  • Improved bloodwork and labs related to managing a health condition
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased stamina to play with kids, do housework, or exercise
  • Greater physical strength making daily tasks easier
  • More joy when moving your body in fun, creative ways
  • Increased plant foods in overall diet
Shannon holding apples

Learn How to Set the Best Health Goals for You

At this point, I hope you’re contemplating a change in mindset with your New Year’s health goal setting plans. Your overall goal should align with your purpose and where you are in life right now. If you still aren’t sure what this looks like, you may want to grab a journal and cup of coffee or tea and just write it all out.

Let your mind wander on paper towards your purpose and set an intention for health. 

Setting goals can seem overwhelming and scary. We think we have to have the perfect goal. It can be hard to focus on what our body truly needs versus what society tells us we need. If goal setting is something you struggle with, I would love to hear your story. I incorporate big picture goals and baby step goals into my nutrition coaching. My clients enjoy the simplified approach and appreciate the daily and weekly progress that can be made to feel successful. Feel free to book a free discovery call if you have any questions about what nutrition coaching would like for you. Like I mentioned earlier, there is no one-diet-fits-all, so you will get a 100% personalized nutrition plan that works just for you.

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