With a new year fresh upon us, it is no secret that articles about dieting, working out and creating a “new you” are circulating all over the Internet. Sometimes, it is difficult to avoid these articles and you can fall into a slump. Articles that focus on dieting, overworking and transforming yourself can often lead to negative feelings of self-comparison and self-worth. Adopting healthy habits can make you feel good but that doesn’t mean you need to give into diet culture. In fact, honoring your body can be accomplished in a number of ways without giving into diet culture!
First, let’s define diet culture. According to Ragen Chastain from the National Eating Disorder Association, diet culture includes “weight stigma [that] is so firmly entrenched in our culture.” This can include implementing “food rules and restriction to manipulate body size” or suggesting “people are more or less worthy based on their body size.” Diet culture is toxic and should not, by any means, be promoted during a new year or otherwise.
Some of our favourite ways to honor our bodies without giving into diet culture are listening to hunger signs, working out at our own pace, taking time for ourselves and focusing on our mental health.
Honoring your body by listening to your hunger signs
Hunger signs – we all get them, have them and should know how to recognize them. As explained by Monica Smith from Michigan State University Extension, some physical hunger cutes include an “empty stomach, stomach growling, headache, light-headed feeling, grumpiness, lack of energy and shakiness or weakness.”
When you don’t listen to your body’s hunger signs, you risk feelings of distraction, stress and irritability. As diet culture promotes ignoring these hunger signs, it is important to adopt habits that honor them instead. By doing so, you can honor your body through food and nourishment.
One way this can be done is by equating your hunger signals with cooking/eating something delicious! Some of our favourite meals include yummy ingredients and easy recipes like these Chicken Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.
Listening to your hunger cues also includes cooking what you’re craving. Honoring your body also means honoring your cravings! To ensure you’re getting in those vitamins and nutrients, learning to build a balanced plate is a skill that will help you enjoy your meals while feeling good. Don’t worry – there are many ways to build a balanced plate and can work for your lifestyle and preferences!
Working out at your own pace
Speaking about lifestyle, it is no secret that working out can definitely be a part of your lifestyle. You may be familiar with the new year’s joke about the gyms being crowded due to new year’s resolutions. Whether you are returning to the gym or joining a new one, getting exercise into your day is a great way to honor your body without giving into diet culture.
There are many different ways to get moving, which allows you to modify your exercise to best fit you! It can be overwhelming to see other people at the gym working out at a different pace or level than you. However, it is also harmful to intensity your workouts if your body is not ready. Comparing your workouts to others’ can be extremely detrimental.
Listen to your body and exercise at your own pace! Physical results are not linear and don’t look the same for everyone. Going at your own pace and listening to your body’s limits is very important when working out. By mixing healthy eating habits with safe exercise routines, you are one step closer to honoring your body without giving into diet culture.
Take time for yourself
Burn-out is real and can have serious mental and physical effects. The World Health Organization defines burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The WHO outline three symptoms of burn-out:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy
Some physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, exhaustion and, muscle pain and fatigue. As such, taking a break from work or stepping away from the office is a must when you are facing severe impacts from burn-out.
Taking time for yourself can take many shapes and forms. Whether that be working from home for a change of scenery, taking a few days off completely or getting moving and away from your desk during the day – focus on yourself.
Honoring your body means focusing on mental health
That being said, it is just as important to pay attention to your body both physically and mentally. Further, physically working on your body should be treated as important as working on yourself mentally. For example, sometimes you just need to step away and do something you enjoy. Some ways we like to take a break include reading, spending time with family, watching our favourite show or meditation.
Don’t forget that being a student can take a toll on your physical and mental health, too. Whether you’re a student, parent or employee, it is critical to know when you need to take a break. Focusing on enjoying yourself, decreasing stress and overall unwinding will keep you feeling great while completely honoring your body without giving into diet culture!
Dieting and promoting diet culture is in no way the only method to adopt healthy habits. In fact, there are endless amount of ways to honor your body without giving into diet culture. By focusing on physical activity at your own pace, feeding your body and focusing on your mental health, you are sure to find ways of honoring yourself that fit your lifestyle.