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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

Does eating real food automatically mean you’ll lose weight?

If you don’t lose weight eating real food, is it working?

What is the difference between being and feeling healthy and losing weight?

As a dietitian, the conversation around weight comes up with nearly every client. For a number of reasons, most of my clients are not happy with their weight – from clients who are significantly underweight to overweight.

While many clients do still value health, our culture often values weight and size over health.

This is exactly why I take a health-based approach and leave the scale behind.

Why Building Healthy Behaviors Matters More than Weight Loss

Most people can lose weight on any diet, if they try. Typically, it involves calorie restriction or fad diets like crazy cleanses. Yet, give it a few months or years, and most people re-gain the weight. While this is very weight-focused, health is missing from the diet approach. The yo-yo dieting, nutrient deficiencies from fad diets, and the beating yourself up about your weight all can be considered harmful from a health perspective.

Your weight is a side effect to your health behaviors, genetics, microbiota, and other factors. By choosing to build healthy habits – like eating real food, moving your body, managing your stress levels, and sleep – your weight will naturally settle at a healthy place for you.

A healthy weight is different for everyone. When people focus on calories or carbohydrates, they often measure success on weight loss. I’m not saying that weight loss is a bad thing. Often, when people build healthy behaviors like eating whole foods, moving more, and sleeping better, people do lose weight. Yet, what if you don’t lose weight but improve your energy or digestion? Those health changes that lead to a better life should be stronger motivators than simply weight.

How can you build these healthy behaviors?

Here’s four steps for your journey towards a health-based approach compared to a weight-based one.

1. Stop Weighing Yourself or Measuring Progress Based on the Scale.

When you measure progress on the scale, it’s easy to focus exclusively on that instead of noticing other changes in your body. As you’re making changes, pay attention to subtle signs from your body over time like energy, digestion, mood changes, and how you feel.

2. Build a Better Body Image.

Use the energy you previously used towards losing weight to focus on building healthy behaviors and a better body image. Notice if you’re holding yourself back from doing anything because of your weight or body – like going to the beach with friends, or going out on a date.

Are you waiting until you are happier, healthier, or more confident? Instead, cultivate that confidence now by deciding not to wait on the weight loss. The more you show yourself that you are deserving of adventure, relationships, and health NOW, the more fun you’ll have in your life. You’ll also realize that you don’t have to be a certain size or shape to do what you want in life.

3. Aim for Progress, not Perfection.

Perfection paralyzes you. Instead of trying to “eat clean” all the time or get in an hour workout at the gym everyday, focus on what you can do. Give yourself the time to build healthy behaviors over time. It’s often easier to focus on one habit at a time rather than trying to do it all at once. It may take longer than you want, but it will be more sustainable, and you’ll learn how you handle setbacks.

This could mean eating around 80% whole foods and 20% whatever you want, or getting a good night’s sleep most nights but allowing yourself to go out dancing until 2 am one night without feeling guilty about it. When you beat yourself up or feel guilty about a decision, that stress may be just as harmful on the body. Also, remember that health is an important aspect of your life but goes way beyond food and movement – my definition of health includes good relationships, play, and pleasure too.

4. Make Habits Consistent, Convenient, and Enjoyable.

If you want to build healthy habits like eating more whole foods, you have to be able to be consistent and make them convenient. If you don’t keep whole foods in your house or pack snacks or a lunch, it’s likely more convenient to order take-out, even with the best intentions. Prepare yourself by doing flexible meal planning or preparation. Find recipes that look fun, delicious, and play in the kitchen while cooking by throwing on some fun music or cooking with a friend. Eating whole foods is not another diet, so don’t allow yourself to classify your new meals as “diet” food, and experiment beyond chicken and broccoli.

Make your habits enjoyable too! Make your commitment to health sustainable by building and play and pleasure. You may decide to grab a friend for daily walks, try out different farm-to-table restaurants monthly, or even blog about your recipes or healthy habits.

I’d love to hear what you do to build healthy habits and move away from basing your success simply on weight loss in the comments below!

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