And there are even dietitians out there whose mission is to help people have better, less weight-loss-centric relationships to food and eating. Tameans Health reached out to some of them to ask how people should go about changing the way they think about food and eating without specifically focusing on trying to eat less or lose weight.
Here are their ideas:
"If you feel like you're in a rut and bored with your standard food choices, one way to branch out is to resolve to buy one new food item, something that is either brand new to you or that you have not had in a long while, each time you visit the grocery store. Peruse the aisles for something that piques your interest: a new ice cream your friend recently told you about, an exotic melon that is in season, or maybe edible flowers you recently enjoyed in a restaurant entree.
If you are not immediately sure how you will utilize the new food and you do not want to risk that it will expire before you put it to use, leave it on the shelf and resolve to go home, look up uses and recipes, and buy it next time you are at the store. Remember, everything you see in the grocery store is there because your fellow humans eat it, so be brave, have fun, and experiment. Who knows what will come with you!"
—Jonah Soolman, RD, Soolman Nutrition and Wellness LLC, Wellesley, Massachusetts
"Some of my clients were labeled 'picky eaters' in their childhoods and were never given a chance to grow their food acceptance skills, or a lifetime of restriction has left them with food fears. Try experimenting with one new food at a time, giving yourself permission to do the following: cook it but not eat it; describe the smell and appearance to yourself; and maybe even taste it but then spit it into a napkin if it doesn’t appeal right away.
Sounds a little crazy, but this is the way toddlers approach new foods, and it sometimes takes up to 20 exposures to a certain food before they’ll accept it; adults only give themselves one or two tries before they reject it permanently. Try the new food in different preparations, too, but always give yourself permission to not eat it if you don’t want to. Once you’ve had a few exposures to a certain food, you can do this with more foods you're curious about — the key is to have patience with yourself!"
—Glenys Oyston, RD, Dare to Not Diet, Los Angeles, California
"If you wait until you get too hungry to eat, you'll be grabbing for whatever you can find, and likely overeating it because it's hard to slow down and be mindful when you're starved. If you imagine hunger on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not hungry at all and 5 being ravenous/hangry, aim to eat around a 3. I've been known to have a snack on the way out the door to dinner — no shame!"
—Anne Mauney, RD, blogger at fANNEtasticfood.com, Washington, DC
"Our daily food choices have a ripple effect that extends far and wide, influencing farmworker welfare, animal welfare, and Mother Nature. There are three dietary adjustments we can make that go a long way toward promoting a more humane and sustainable food system:
1. Eat more beans (and eat fewer animal products).
2. Waste less food.
3. Buy more food from sustainable/organic-ish farms."
—Ryan D. Andrews, RD, author of A Guide to Plant-Based Eating, Norwalk, CT
"Many people give up taste in the name of health or weight change. Feeling satisfied after eating is different than feeling full. When we don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, we are left wanting and often end up eating more. So this year, ask yourself, 'Do I like what I am eating? Does it taste good?'
Why? Because when eating healthy tastes good and it makes you feel better, you are far more likely to sustain the changes you make. The bottom line: pleasure heals."
—Dana Sturtevant, RD, co-founder, Be Nourished, Portland, Oregon
"Many people associate satisfaction with gluttony but this is far from true. Eating food that is highly satisfying, and in a way that feels highly satisfying is correlated with healthier eating patterns and fewer food obsessions! And practicing couldn’t be easier. Check in with yourself after a meal and ask 'On a scale of 1-10 how satisfying was that meal and how satisfied do I feel in my body?' I promise, with continual practice, you will be amazed at how much better you feel with this approach!"
—Marci Evans, RDN, Food & Body Image Healer, Cambridge, Massachusetts
"Humans need food to survive. Period. The more we deprive ourselves of food (amount or types) both physically and psychologically, the more our bodies crave and seek out those foods. Try a new approach by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever your body wants throughout the day with the promise that you will create a pleasant environment to enjoy food, while tuning into and doing your best to honor hunger and fullness cues, and being compassionate and curious with yourself as you explore this unknown territory and discover new tastes, smells, flavors, and food preferences!"
—Natalie Katz, RDN, Feeding Your Soul Nutrition, Glendale, California
"That doesn’t just mean giving up 'formal' diets, since many people have done that but still have diet-based beliefs floating around in their minds dictating their eating and movement choices. The diet mentality is all of those “unofficial” rules, restrictions, and judgments about food and bodies that you’ve inherited from the diet culture we live in. When you let go of the diet mentality, you open up space to truly honor your hunger, experience pleasure in food, and trust your sense of fullness and satisfaction — in other words to eat intuitively, which is better for your physical and mental health than even the most low-key diet."
—Christy Harrison, RD, certified intuitive eating counselor, Food Psych Programs, Inc., based in Brooklyn, New York, but works online with clients worldwide
"I'm not usually a New Year's resolution person, but I've noticed I've been letting my used-to-be-a-chef hubby do a lot of the cooking. While that's fabulous (I mean, who doesn't want a hubby who was a gourmet chef?), I gotta keep up my game. So, I decided to ask my mom for a bunch of our old Italian Christmas cookie recipes! I just started baking this weekend with my 5-year-old and had a fun time heavily frosting some cutouts. Next up: anise-scented biscotti and Italian wedding (aka snowball) cookies!"
—Lauren Anton, RD, Arrive Nutrition, Culver City, California
I always recommend that my patients have two glasses of water or a big mug of tea in the morning. This helps to promote hydration right when you get up and can even replace some of that fluid that may be lost in sweat as you sleep. Many of my patients report that this practice helps them feel refreshed, and sometimes replaces their need for coffee in the a.m. This is also a good tip for people who struggle to meet their H20 needs throughout the day — get some of it in early!
—Jessica Jones, RD, co-founder of Food Heaven Made Easy and co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, Oakland, California
"Instead of running from a food craving, what if instead you honored it? Diet culture says you can't trust your food cravings, yet diets don't work for a reason. Omitting certain foods or food groups just heightens cravings, food obsessions, and worsens your chaotic relationship with food. Eating isn't meant to be that big of a deal! When you give yourself permission to honor your cravings, your relationship with food will feel calmer and include more variety."
—Julie Duffy Dillon RD, owner, Julie Dillon Consulting + BirdHouse Nutrition Therapy, Greensboro, North Carolina
"This year, resolve to change your relationship with food. Diets and dieting behaviors use words like 'dos and don’ts' and 'you should.' It’s black-and-white thinking like this that keeps dieting behavior rooted in shame and judgment, and nothing good ever comes from those things. This year, try incorporating three new words into your food choices.
How could this year be different if all your food choices come from a space of curiosity, self-compassion, and empathy? The goal is to move from a space of shame to a space of healing, and this is where sustainable behavior changes really come from."
—Aaron Flores, RD, specializing in intuitive eating and Healthy at Every Size (HAES), co-host of Dietitians Unplugged, Calabasas, California