Have you ever tried to diet and ended up feeling miserable until you finally gave up? Have you done that more than once? You are not alone. Dieting is a huge industry in the United States.  In fact, it’s estimated that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year.  

I started dieting when I was in the 3rd grade. My doctor told my mom and me that I was too heavy and that I needed to start weighing myself weekly. If I gained weight I was supposed to restrict my food the following week. If only it were that simple. Over the next 15 years, I tried all the diets. I felt like I had to choose between liking how I looked and enjoying food. I was miserable. 

Even if we have vowed to never “diet” again, it can be so tempting to jump on the new diet bandwagon when we see our friends and neighbors dropping weight with the newest fad. But if we hold off, we witness the problem with popular diets.  Most people on most diets eventually go off the diet and back to old habits. They then gain the weight back. Why does this happen, and is there any hope to ever get healthy and stay that way? 

It seems overwhelming, but I promise that you can succeed. First, I want you to recognize that if you are trying a diet that you do not enjoy, you might as well stop. You  can only torture yourself using will power to muscle through for so long. Eventually, you will likely give up if you hate the plan you’re on.  And really, life is too short to be miserable. 

The key to lasting success is to figure out some healthy changes that you don’t mind implementing. One great way to do this is to focus on adding healthy things into your life (instead of taking things away). For example, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less room you have for unhealthy foods. Healthy additions can start a positive spiral. After you eat more fruits and vegetables for a few weeks, you might feel more energetic and decide to add a walk every day at lunchtime. And then that walk will help you sleep better at night and improve your productivity at work. You will lose a few pounds, your clothes fit better, and you will feel more confident. You then might decide that you will use your extra energy to make a healthy breakfast and lunch to bring every day. And your spouse might notice how happy you’ve been and decide to help plan healthy dinners. Often, the commitment to one healthy addition can be the start of many positive changes. 

 Make your goals realistic, attainable, and preferably enjoyable. Make them simple so that you know when you’ve accomplished them and celebrate the success. A good example would be to add one fruit as a snack every afternoon. Another example would be to walk during your lunch break every Tuesday and Thursday. Try to figure out what would really make a difference that you can realistically implement without feeling tortured.

Every positive change matters and I know you can do this. I encourage you to take a few minutes right now to think about your current situation and set a goal. And if you want support from like-minded women doing our best to stay healthy, please join us every first Monday from 5:15-6pm at the Women’s Resource Center for the Women’s Health Education Network meeting. 

Rebecca Henson MPT, MN, RD