Ditch the Diet this New Year: Why Not Invest in Mental Wellbeing Instead?
The button on your trousers is prodding uncomfortably into your stomach. You look guiltily at the shiny wrappers in the waste bin, a sombre reminder of the late-night Celebrations binge. Self-loathing seeps through every pore as you finish off the final three: ‘I’m fat anyway, so why not? You consider that you might as well, before the healthy eating regime begins.
This regime it is not a diet – it says that in the marketing spiel. It’s a ‘transformation plan’ and it seems to include a lot of green vegetables. Said plan looks promising, enticing you with high expectations of success. You picture yourself, lithe and lean-limbed, showing off your new bod by Valentine’s Day. You can already hear the comments of ‘oh you’ve lost weight, you look amazing’ sweetly ringing in your ears.
You have momentarily forgotten the quantities of hard-earned cash spent on previous diets and the many hopes squandered in the process. If the truth be known, you have lost and gained the same 10lbs more times than you care to remember. In fact, your weight might have crept up a pound or two in the last few years.
With a new year dawning, it is seductive to prioritise weight loss and body transformation as a passport to renewed confidence and self-esteem. Sadly, the plans that promise, often cannot deliver long-term, being wholly unsustainable and impractical. Crucially, they have the potential to disrupt your relationship with food whilst exacerbating the critical voice, that damns self-esteem and judges eating.
What if you ranked your mental wellbeing more highly?
When feeling emotionally robust, you can handle the tumultuous emotions and ride the stormy seas of life more effectively. You are increasingly present and mindful, being in the moment. You are less reactive, calmer and positive in your relationships.
If you work on your emotional health, this will undoubtedly benefit your physical health also. You will feel less need to escape your emotions, through comfort eating, drinking alcohol, over-work or over-spending.
5 ways to prioritise mental wellbeing
- Start with the basics. If you are looking after your beloved pet, a child or loved one, you will ensure that they get enough sleep, eat regularly and breathe fresh air. It seems obvious, but many people do not take time to care for themselves in these fundamental ways.
- Life will always be busy and demanding. Alas, you do not have a fairy godmother to give endorsement of you doing kind things for yourself. Instead, you will need to give this permission and to not feel guilty about it. Otherwise, life becomes one giant slog. Then, understandably you will turn to food or drink as a short-cut to gratification and self-love, as you won’t have the energy to utilise more constructive means. Find activities that personally bring you contentment and joy. It can be the little things, such as a frothy cappuccino in your favourite café; trying a new skill such as pole-dancing or reading a book you adore.
- Spend time with the encouragers and cheerleaders in your life who lift you up, accept and validate you. The ones who make you giggle and smile. Not the whiners and drainers; the ones you feel obligated to see and who dump all their problems on you. Learn to say no and protect your valuable time.
- Be mindful of your absorption of information. We are so vulnerable to mindlessly scrolling through social media and unconsciously taking in values of perfection and materialism, then feeling inadequate. Instead, consciously seek out meaningful content – in podcasts, blogs or books. Search to find material that educates, inspires or lightens life.
- If you are feeling stuck in life or continually repeating old, faulty loops of behaviour, think about accessing counselling. You have probably paid pounds for diets or gym memberships with the promise of a physical transformation. As an alternative, consider investing in your emotional health, perhaps through visiting a therapist, and reaping the benefits long-term.