Aspen Valley Hospital dietitians offer guidance on establishing a healthy diet during the new year. And it may be different advice than what you’re used to.
Getty Images/Malte Mueller

It’s “New Year, New You” season, when the wellness industry points out flaws and offers solutions. Through this marketing model, the biz expects to reach $7.6 billion by 2030.

The concept of physical self-improvement is always in the cultural zeitgeist. However, the discourse surrounding weight loss and “healthy habits” seems to explode around this time of year, according to Lauren Mitchell, a registered dietitian at Aspen Valley Hospital.

With the new year looming ahead, individuals may feel pressured by friends, family, or individuals online to try weight-loss practices like fad diets or unsustainable exercise regimes, she said.

A survey of 413 U.S. citizens found the top-three most common new year resolutions for 2023 are to exercise more, to eat healthier, and to lose weight.

While many earnestly wish to lose weight or establish healthy habits in the coming trek around the sun, the discourse this time of year can also place unnecessary burdens on people that are rooted in misinformation.

If you spend five minutes scrolling online, you may find yourself sifting through a labyrinth of quick-fix weight-loss regimens rather than sustainable healthy solutions. Influencers and marketers will try to sell you catch all supplements, detoxes, or diet plans that they claim will “empower you” but are really meant to profit them.

Mitchell said people should be wary of anyone selling something that will “jumpstart a diet.”

“It’s not always sustainable to do something like a keto diet or the paleo diet or these very-strict, fasting-diet fads,” she said. “I think one thing a lot of dietitians across the board will always preach is lifestyle change — something that’s attainable and realistic — that you can achieve.”

According to a study from the Journal of Food Research, “Fad diets have been linked with many physiological conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, renal dysfunction, and osteoporosis, as well as psychological implications like eating disorders and depression.”

Overhead view of a large group of different types of food that includes fruits, vegetables, seafood, beef meat, sausages, chicken meat, legumes, spices, dairy products, raw pasta, canned food, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and honey, among others.
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According to Kristy Bates, director of nutrition services and a registered dietitian at Aspen Valley Hospital, many experts in the field teach the practice of intuitive eating, which encourages more mindfulness around food consumption.

“It doesn’t have to mean you can never have your favorite food, especially around all the holidays coming up,” she said.

Healthline defines intuitive eating as “a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.”

Individuals who practice intuitive eating take a mental note of their food-consumption habits and try to focus on eating foods with certain nutritional value they may not have eaten throughout the day.

Intuitive eating may also look like trying to incorporate more vegetables and healthy grains into your diet. This is a goal that one could set for themselves without the pressure of cutting out food they enjoy from their diet completely.

“You shouldn’t restrict because, when someone’s in an all-or-none attitude, then they obsess over that food or drink, then they think they’re a bad person if they have it,” said Bates.

Getting comfortable in the kitchen is also a way in which people can practice healthier habits, according to her.

If cooking isn’t your thing, or you don’t know where to start, Bates and Mitchell started a series called Dietician Demos, which is free on Aspen Valley Hospital’s website.

It’s also important to remember the concept of health is multifaceted. Yet, society seems to conflate health with a number on a scale, BMI, or the way someone looks. According to Bates and Mitchell, these metrics do not do a great job of representing the health of an individual.

With this, when dietitians work with their patients, they may set many goals that aren’t entirely based on what they eat in a day. Mitchell said that, when working with patients, she’ll also include goals for healthy sleep habits, drinking more water, and making time in the day to eat.

“Have a healthy relationship with food, and remember that bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” said Bates.

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