What Happens Next? When Your New Year's Diet Isn't Working

The good news is that you can optimize your basic nature. In addition to genetics, certain attitudes and lifestyle behaviors also contribute to you finding and settling at your healthy weight.
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By Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN and Susan Albers, psychologist and author of the New York Times Bestseller, EatQ

It's the third week in January. How is that New Year's resolution to lose weight working for you?

If you're like most people, your resolve is waning. And it's probably because you went on a restrictive diet to take off some weight. The trouble is, dieting sets up most people to fail. If you do succeed in losing weight, you're just as likely to put it back on, plus some. Clearly, this is not what you had in mind.

So what are you to do?

Make a healthy weight your goal. And understand that the way to reach your healthy weight is with habits that you can actually live with.

What's a Healthy Weight?

A healthy weight is a person's natural weight. It's very individual, based primarily on genetics. For instance, if you come from a long line of tall, slim ancestors, you have a good chance of looking like them. If your ancestors are short and stocky, that's what you might see in the mirror. All the healthy eating and exercise in the world can't change that.

Basically, your weight tends to fall in a particular range. At times, you may be toward the top or the bottom of that range.

The good news is that you can optimize your basic nature. In addition to genetics, certain attitudes and lifestyle behaviors also contribute to you finding and settling at your healthy weight.

In honor of Healthy Weight Week, Jan. 19-23, 2015, here are 5 attitudes and actions for a healthy weight:

Ask yourself these five questions:

1.Are you eating according to internal cues for hunger and satisfaction? Weight loss diets teach restrictive eating. "Eat this, don't eat that, eat this much." There's no room for eating based on what you feel like in the moment, whether it be how hungry you are or whether you'd much prefer ice cream to an apple.

Aim to: Listen to your body. Letting it be your guide is the true path to healthy eating.

2.Are you enjoying a mix of foods that leaves you feeling well? You do this naturally if you are a mindful eater. Diet rules lead you to the opposite -- narrowing our food choices, selecting foods that have the fewest calories, and preparing those foods in a way to keep the calories as low as possible, e.g., steamed vegetables sprinkled with dry herbs vs. sautéing them in a tasty oil, which contributes its own important nutrients.

Aim to: Eat "forbidden" foods in balance with more nutritious foods. This can add up to an eating plan that truly supports health because it supports happiness, an often ignored foundation for good health.

3.Are you being physically active with a goal of well-being rather than weight loss? The truth is, you can never make up for unhealthy eating with exercise. It just doesn't work that way. What happens more often is that you end up hating exercise because it is done as a punishment rather than a path to feeling good.

Aim to: When you connect with the pleasure of physical activity, while we're doing it and after, it begins to truly motivate you to move.

4.Have you accepted the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes? Size acceptance is not beating yourself up for your size nor is it just "giving up."

Aim to: Understand the factors that go into you being the size you are and then, if you choose, optimizing your lifestyle to make the most of who you were born to be. That means treating yourself well by eating well, moving your body regularly, getting enough sleep and managing stress.

5.Are you living a full life that isn't focused on how you look? This last step is important because of its relation to stress management. Consistently high levels of stress send many of us to food to cope, simply because food is such a great source of pleasure. Emotional eating, which is another name for stress eating, is part of normal eating and it can be something that actually supports our health -- except when it's our only tool to cope. Then it starts to create more problems than it solves. So much of the stress in women's (and increasingly, men's) lives today comes from worries about eating and weight.

Aim to: Relax! Forget about the numbers on the scale. Think about what is truly important you. Relaxing about our eating, forgetting the number on the scale, and then spending our time focused on what is truly meaningful to us can transform our health.

If you are practicing these behaviors and attitudes most of the time, you feel well, and your weight seems to stay within a certain range, you may already be at your healthy weight. A scale won't tell you if you're there. Your body will.

Susan Albers is a psychologist and author of New York Times Bestselling EatQ Download the free Mindful Eating Pledge: 5 Ways to Ditch Dieting and Start Making Do-Able Changes

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, is president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a residential healthy weight loss program that pioneered the non-diet approach to healthy weights over 40 years ago.

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