Dr. Kristen Mitteness
Setting Goals re: Body Image; A Rant
Updated: Dec 23, 2018
Do you set goals? I set goals quite often. Now that I think about it, they are more like check lists or to do lists. Don't worry, I've read many books (and worked at lululemon) that clearly explain how check lists are very different from goals. Yeah, I get it. My goals change a lot and one thing I have learned in the past few years is that no matter what your goals are or what you plan for, life has lots of twists and turns and rarely turns out the way you expected.
That's a pretty poor introductory paragraph for what I really want to say in this post. Scattered rant begins now. As you know, I'm big into food and nutrition. People even pay me to help them figure out their diets. I don't like the word "diet" because it has become something we think of as temporary when really, your diet is simply what you eat. For me, that means I'm going to choose to eat lots of veggies and locally sourced meats, meats covered in fat, coffee on the regular, gluten free baked goodies (mostly baked by myself), wine, cider, water, tea and whatever else I feel like eating on any particular day. 90% of my days I eat the same things. Occasionally, I eat a croissant (a real, freaking croissant!) and I love every minute of it. Every once in a while I eat some cheese, rice or refried beans. I've been known to crush chips, salsa and guac or gluten free pizza from Pizza Hotline. That's my diet. It's pretty easy. I don't eat fast food. I prefer to make my food over eating out. If a food is starting to bother me I avoid it for a few weeks and reintroduce it (lately that's been eggs, but I seem to be ok with them again). I prefer not to eat processed grains or anything that comes in a package because other foods can give me more nutrients. Does bread taste good? Duh. I just don't want to eat it. People often ask me if it's hard to eat like this. It isn't. I have figured out which foods I thrive on and which I want to avoid. I want to eat like this. It is a process that is constantly changing. I check in with myself every day. Fun fact: this is the first time in my life that I haven't craved chocolate. Yahoo! I feel good most of the time, but I'm also very aware when I don't feel quite right. I like the way I look and how my food fuels me. I don't count calories, macronutrients, micronutrients or anything else. To me, that sounds miserable. But, I have found a "diet" that works for me. Consciously choosing my food and figuring out what works has been a 17 year journey and will continue as long as I'm alive. What works for me may or may not work for you. I also can't discount the fact that I sleep on average 9 hours per night, walk more than I drive, spend as much possible time outside and have incredible family and friends.
Up to this point, I have found that most people start tinkering with their diets when they want to change the way they look. I get that. It makes total sense and is a really good place to start. Food is your fuel and the best source of information you can give to your body. Oftentimes, diet is modified to lose weight or lean out. Great, I'm all for that. But, how realistic do you think it is to expect to have the "lean, sexy body you want" by eating a certain way for 3, 6 or 12 weeks after you've been eating another way for 20, 30, 40 years? Our bodies are really awesome and respond quickly, but I want you to check in with yourself. How often do you eat McDonald's or drink 6+ beers during one night out? Do you really think eating well a few days a week for a few weeks is going to over power the other food or lifestyle choices you have made this far? I'm not saying you can't do these things or that you need to be perfect. You're an adult and can make adult decisions. You simply need to be realistic in the goals you are trying to accomplish. If you run 10 miles or exercise and burn 1000+ calories in one day, do you really think your body is going to be okay with you limiting your calorie intake to 2000 or less? It thinks you are in starvation mode! It will be holding on to every. single. calorie. you consume for the next few days just in case you need to go a few days without food (like we used to, not that long ago) or decide to burn another 1000 calories during your next workout. Are you stressed at work? Or at home? Do you have dysfunctional relationships? Did you know that your body can't tell the difference between the stress you undergo at the gym (working out is a stressor!) and the stress you undergo at work? And when you are constantly stressed, your hormones are all over the place and your body is not going to respond to your food the same way it would when you aren't stressed. A stressed out body will respond to your diet very differently than a relaxed body. I could probably go on for another 5000 words. There are simply so many factors that influence your health and thus, your body composition.
Here's what I'm trying to get at: you probably have goals to look a certain way. The reality of the situation is that we all look different and are all in a different boat. You might never look like him or her. That is okay! When it comes to what you eat, my advice to you is to find food that makes you feel good and function well. Find a way that you can eat without stressing about it. I want you to be healthy. If you are not, I want you to get there. I do think that there are foods that are better for us than others. I think learning to manage your stress and getting enough sleep are also key players in your health and body composition. You should also know that your journey through life is ever changing. So is your health. You need to check in with yourself to make sure what you are doing today works for you. Just because it worked last month, last year or when you were 20, doesn't mean it's going to work now. Please be patient and kind to yourself. I truly want you to get the the point where you are happy with the way you look and feel, but it might take a while to get there. I am happy to help you at any time during that process. Your health is a journey and it's not over until you're dead.
If I didn't do a good enough job of getting across these key points, I will break it down here:
Abs do not equal healthy.
Food is a huge player in body composition, but not the only player.
Although we are much the same, we're different.
Weight change is not the only marker of a modified diet or lifestyle.
Don't expect quick fixes if you want long term changes.