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FOOD: Scrap the diet resolutions, urges nutritionist

In this week's Ask the Nutritionist, Nonie De Long offers suggestions for a change in mindset for readers who want a healthier diet and lifestyle
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Dear Readers, this time of year it’s typical for people to start thinking about the year past and planning for the year ahead. I love this practice in my own life because it helps me take stock and course-correct if need be. I can check to be sure my values line up with my actions and that I’m moving toward the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s exciting to envision what will come with the year ahead and how I will be different by the same time next year. And if we want to live intentionally, I would suggest it’s absolutely essential.

Invariably, people also take stock of their health around this time of year. This leads to setting resolutions about dieting, usually for weight and appearance and sometimes for improved health. But these resolutions almost always imply giving up diets that are yummy in favor of those that are bland and restrictive. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret from those in the nutrition industry to save you a lot of effort and time and money this year.

Don’t do it.

Dieting as a New Year’s resolution doesn’t work. Dieting doesn’t work. And it sets you up for the dieter's cycle of eating disorders that nobody in their right mind wants to sign up for. So don’t do it. Don’t set that dieting resolution!

If we want to change our health - really, truly, and permanently - what we need is not a new diet. Or a diet called a ‘lifestyle change’. What we need is a mindset change.

If we want to do something forever it needs to not be restrictive. It needs to not be boring and dull. It needs to not be bland and repetitive. If we want to eat a healthier diet for life what we need is to get excited about healthy foods. And nothing will do this for us in a way that is more powerful than learning to grow and cook delicious foods at home.

Children who are exposed to growing gardens at school come home all fired up about vegetables their parents may never have used. Have you seen this in your child? Adults get similarly fired up when they go to a friend’s home (remember when that wasn’t a crime?) and they sample a new dish that excites the senses. Food is incredible and the options are limitless. And when we get excited to play with food like this we become passionate about quality. And quality food means nutrient-dense food. And when we eat like this everything changes.

A body that has bountiful nutrients doesn’t crave sugars for energy. It doesn’t need them! It can fast comfortably without any cravings! A body that has organic, nutrient rich, biologically appropriate foods is not full of inflammation and pain. A body that is thus nourished has a strong immune system and ages sans the inflammatory diseases of our society. The joints move without pain. Muscles recover from work quickly. The brain recovers from trauma without getting stuck in it. The digestive system works as it’s supposed to. A flu is just a flu. Our minds keep their acuity.

A person who is excited about food like this does not come home and loathe dinner prep before dropping in front of the TV in exhaustion. S/he has a plan for dinners to make sure the ingredients are on hand and the prep has been done and s/he whips up something healthy with ease and joy. The kids feel the joy and meals are transformed.

Remember joy with food? No? Then you need to take a cooking class or a gardening class, not start another diet.

Unless you have food allergies/ intolerances or a disordered metabolism or chronic health condition there is no reason eating should be restrictive. Guidelines are good. Learn what the healthiest options are and learn how to include them more. That’s healthy. If you fall into the categories that require some sort of restriction to rebalance your body, do not do it from a dieting point of view. That will make it far more difficult to be successful! Do it from an exploratory point of view.

Yes, it makes a difference! It makes all the difference if you want to do it for life and keep the weight off. Or encourage children to choose healthier foods. How we frame things mentally makes all the difference in how eagerly we tackle them and how successful our efforts are.

Think about the following two statements. Think them and see how they make you feel.

  1. I will never eat sugar again!
  2. I will find healthy recipes I love just as much as I love sugar!

Which one made you want to take action?

Now if you want to amplify that even more, think about a salad or meat or other blatantly healthy food you had once that was absolutely delicious. Something you loved. Something that was surprising. Now start to train your brain to make the connection: healthy food can be absolutely delicious! Now you’re on your way to reaching your goals, without another dieting resolution!

Want to take it a step further? Get a little grow kit and grow your own herbs for using in your new recipes. Or sign up for a healthy cooking class. Or contact local farmers to see how they can help you purchase food that is superior for your family. Sign up for a community garden in the spring. Get window boxes and heritage seeds to start growing edible plants and flowers. Join a seed savers group. Find out when the Seedy Saturday is nearest you. Join a gardening group. Start a healthy recipe swap with your closest friends/ relatives.

Now you have a resolution that’s going to have a deep and lasting impact on your health! Here’s to the new, excited-about-healthy-food-you that awaits you this year! I hope you will join me in a cooking class to share that excitement for food.

As always, readers can send their questions to me at or find me online at Happy, Healthy New Year!

Nonie Nutritionista