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10 Healthy Things to Do Instead of a Diet

by | Jan 12, 2023 | Intuitive Eating | 0 comments

I know, I know. We think diets make us healthier, better, smarter, faster, stronger. But do they? In my experience, no. And I say this as a dietitian practicing since 2011.

If diets worked, you’d still be on the one you started 5, 10 or 15 years ago, right? There are a LOT of healthy things to do instead of a diet.

Diets suck for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because they 1.) rob you of joy and a healthy, balanced, empowering relationship with food, 2.) are a bandaid quick fix that does nothing for your actual health. They’re not realistic, enjoyable, or sustainable.

So instead of a diet that will likely do more harm than good, check out these 10 things to do instead of going on a diet that will ACTUALLY bring about true health – physically yes, but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally as well. 

Talk nicer to yourself

Our thoughts control our behaviors, and we can change our thoughts. What we feed grows so if you’re always talking crap about/to yourself, of course you’re gonna feel poopy. 

Notice your self-talk. Is it mean? Would you talk to someone you love that way? The next time you bully yourself, say STOP! Then, ask what your inner loving self might say, or what you would say to a friend. Notice how this changes your behavior. Some examples: 

Bully: I am so horrible for not exercising this week

Loving self: I guess I needed some time to rest my body, good for me!

Bully: I can’t believe I ate ____ last night. 

Loving self: I had such a nice dinner with my family last night, I nourished my body with delicious food and had an awesome time! 

1st step noticing, 2nd step reframe. Nothing good ever comes from shame, blame or guilt in my opinion. 

Need a book for this? Try You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. 

Less phone time

One great option for healthy things to do instead of a diet would absolutely be less phone time.

Before I addressed my own phone addiction, my screen time calculator on my phone showed a whopping 6+ hours a day. So in a year, if I kept this up I’d have spent 2,190 hours on my phone or NINETY ONE and ¼ days!!!!!!!!!

That’s ridiculous. And definitely NOT how I want to be spending my precious time here on earth. You guys know I LOVE books, and I read a lot of them. If there’s ONE book I’d recommend you make it a goal to read this year it’s Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Click here to check it out. 

The thing I love about Cal’s book is that he doesn’t talk down to you from a moral hilltop about how bad social media and phones are and how they’re ruining the world. He simply provides the backstory (why we care), exercises for introspection based on how YOU want to utilize your phone/social media.

He offers practical suggestions for how to create a relationship with your phone and social media that YOU are in control of and feels good to you. 

Some things you can do with all the time you’re wasting scrolling:

  • clean out your car
  • go on a walk
  • grab coffee with a friend
  • read a book
  • discover a new hobby

Clean up your feed

START curating a social media feed that reflects your values and promotes a positive healthy relationship with food and your body.

Social media is obviously very beneficial. You probably heard of me/my blog via social media! I’m not saying it’s all bad BUT I notice a direct relationship between how my clients feel about food and their bodies based on the accounts they’re following on social media.

One of my initial suggestions in working with them to heal their food and body relationships is to do a social media reboot. Some quick tips to improve your feed:

Unfollow anyone that: 

  • Promotes, idolizes, or glorifies one body type over all others 
  • Fails to celebrate natural body diversity
  • Recommends cutting out entire food groups or foods without a legit medical diagnosis
  • Promotes a perfectionistic way of eating
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of achieving higher status, happiness, worth, or value
  • Makes you feel like shit when you look at their page/posts

Follow people who:

  • Promote and celebrate body diversity – the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes
  • Promotes a variety of foods and food groups and eating for emotional, mental, and spiritual health in addition to physical health
  • Makes you feel good/positive when you look at their page/posts

Check out my other post for more info on how to do a social media detox for better body image.

Create a better morning routine

Do you immediately grab your phone as soon as your eyes open up? Do you realize you’re letting your emails, text messages, or bank alerts dictate the mood you wake up in?

I didn’t either until I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and started realizing how addicted I was to my phone – starting from my very first moments waking up.

I also realized I was letting my phone alerts dictate what kind of mood I was starting my day in, rather than ME deciding what mood or what kind of day I wanted to have. 

One of the best things I ever did was invest in a soothing alarm clock (click here) to wake me up to the sounds of birds chirping and a gentle artificial sunlight filling my room instead of my phone alarm.

This way, I can leave my phone in the other room overnight and I’m not tempted to check “all the things” as soon as I wakeup. THEN spend as long as you can NOT looking at your phone. Try not to look for the first hour you’re awake.

Develop a morning routine to start your day how YOU want to whether that means a soothing bath or shower followed by a quick meditation, journaling or reading a few pages of a spiritual book, or snuggling your pet(s) or kid(s).

And make sure that eating breakfast is part of your morning routine! See “eat enough food during the day” below for more on why this is so important.

My routine is:

  • feed my cats
  • drink coffee while sitting with my thoughts
  • journal – free write whatever is on my mind for a few minutes
  • meditate 3-5 minutes
  • morning skincare routine
  • start the day!

Often times we know these things (meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, quiet time) fill our soul and our cup up, but we “don’t have time”. Yet when I ask clients how long they spend on social media in a day, it’s typically around 2-4 hours so the whole don’t have time thing I don’t buy 🙂 

Eat more vegetables

When someone asks me what’s the #1 thing they could do right now to improve their physical health, my answer is simple – eat more veggies. They are legit POWERHOUSES of nutrients – fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and are super filling so they can help you feel more satisfied with your meals. 

2 tips on how to eat more veggies…

1.) Add butter and salt. If you give me a plain bowl of steamed broccoli and expect me to eat it, you’re going to be disappointed when I politely excuse myself from the table and never come to your house for dinner again. And this is coming from someone who LOVES vegetables. But I have a few tricks. 

If I had a dollar for every time my clients started eating WAY more plants because we gave them permission to flavor their veggies, i’d be filthy rich.

Only about 10% of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies per day.

And why? Probably a lot of reasons. 

Access, not as fresh as they should be, etc. One huge reason I see my clients avoiding veggies is because they say they’re “boring”. And I don’t blame them! They’re forcing themselves to eat sad salads with low-fat flavorless dressing or plain steamed broccoli.

So what happens? They avoid veggies altogether and they get constipated, their energy suffers, they get sick easier, etc etc. They know they should eat more veggies but they’re too scared of full fat dressings or butter or salt so they avoid them.

I’m zero percent concerned with adding a little butter or salt to some roasted veggies, or full fat dressing to a salad for the regular Joe – and this is after 8 years as a registered dietitian.

If you’re on a sodium restriction from your doctor or have heart concerns, ask them. But for everyone else, the health benefits of eating more #veggies FAR outweigh any negatives that #dietculture has led you to believe exist in a little extra butter or salt. What’s your fave way to eat veggies? 

2.) Add veggies into what you’re already eating. Some of my faves are:

  • Mac and cheese + broccoli
  • Pizza + bagged salad (for ease – i’m not a salad from scratch kinda gal personally)
  • Scrambled eggs + spinach
  • Sauteéd pepper and onions with tacos or fajitas
  • Roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts as a side dish

Need more help on how to cook veggies? Check out my dietitian colleague’s amazing cookbook literally called How to Cook Vegetables. She breaks down TONS of veggies in terms of how to cook, store, and prepare. Highly recommend!

Eat enough food during the day

Want to stop bingeing at night? Eat enough during the day. 9 times out of 10 when I first start working with a new client, they tell me they’re bingeing in one way or another. Either at night, when they eat ___ food, or on the weekends.

Our bodies and brans like a consistent influx of food – and a variety of food, not just the same boring salad over and over.

If you notice yourself bingeing at all, try eating more regular meals and snacks. Are you a breakfast skipper? Don’t eat until 2pm? Yeah no shit you binge at night! Your body and brain are starving.

Stop obsessing over food and hating on your body

Life is WAYYY too short to spend it on diet after diet, obsessing over food measuring peanut butter and hating your body. Luckily, there’s a solution and a different way.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet food freedom filled approach to nutrition and wellness. There are ten principles (you can read more about them here!) that help you make peace with food, your body and health.

Things like developing coping skills, learning your hunger and fullness cues, and discovering ways to move your body that promote health vs. punishment. 

Check out my Intuitive Eating and Body Image resource list here to get started or book a free intro call with me here

Focus on your mental health

Naturally, therapy would be on this list of healthy things to do. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or struggling in any way – ask for help. I’m only sober since March 17, 2014 because I asked for help.

I’ve also been on/off in therapy since I was 16. I’ve had anxiety and depression since I can remember. I’ve struggled with panic attacks and suffered from PTSD as a result of a jet ski accident that almost took my life.

No matter what you’re struggling with, this is your friendly reminder that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Two resources I like are psychologytoday.com and Therapy Matcher from the National Association of Social Workers here

Do exercise you actually enjoy

person stretching on a yoga mat

Our relationships with exercise can be a sticky subject for sure. We know ALL the health benefits (improved cholesterol, blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. Not to mention the endorphins/feel good hormones!)

So why don’t we do it? Tons of reasons… Money, time, energy, convenience, lack of motivation, non-inclusive gym spaces, etc.

The key is to find ways of moving your body that align with your values. Do exercise you actually enjoy & that serves your values too. i.e. if you value community, don’t do a solo workout at home.. Or maybe join a climbing gym or roller derby team.

If you value nature, go for a hike. If you value family time, start a nightly family walk. Incorporate movement that you enjoy AND checks other boxes (family time, nature, spirituality, etc.)

Check out my post on how to develop a healthy relationship with exercise if you need more support.

I know I said 10, but just ONE more…

Read more!

If you know me, you know i’m a total bookworm. IDK the question, but the answer is probably to read a book 😂. I really do think that reading makes us better people and it’s something we should all work to keep as a key part of who we are as humans.

Want some tips on this topic? Check out my post on how to read more books.

I hope this post inspires, encourages and empowers you and leaves you feeling like there are so many healthy alternatives to starting yet ANOTHER diet.

Blog Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

Hi, I’m Lexy!

I’m a Registered Dietitian, yoga teacher, & body image coach.

I help women make peace with food and built trust with their bodies so they can live the lives they desire and deserve.

Hop on my email list for your weekly dose of food freedom, body liberation and self-care!

Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

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