The diet mentality has great potential to compromise important moments ever holiday season.

Holidays are meant for celebrations, so how does the diet mentality make sense if it’s the thief of joy?


As the holidays and the start of the new year approaches, it’s natural to start thinking about your health and what you can do to improve it. The first thing that comes to mind for many is weight loss, and how to ‘be better’ about how you’ve been dieting and exercising this past year.

Here’s a little secret to better health: reject the diet mentality.

But wait, doesn’t that indicate you don’t care about your health? In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

If you ask yourself what benefit dieting has brought you, what would you say? How much does it really benefit you through constant acts of:

  • Chronically restricting your intake of food or nutrients
  • Avoiding social situations because you aren’t sure what you can eat there
  • Commiserating with friends about how much it sucks
  • Enviously eyeing everyone else’s plate
  • Feeling guilty or shameful because of your food choices
  • Over-exercising or compulsively exercising because you have to atone for your perceived sins
  • Cutting your sleep short to wake up early to exercise because that’s what you’re supposed to do
  • Sacrificing time and experiences with loved ones who aren’t dieting
  • Obsessively memorizing the calories in every bite of everything you put in your mouth

Does the diet mentality really help, or does it cause more anxiety, stress, and unhappiness in your life?

Don’t get me wrong, everyone who eats is on a diet…and people who don’t eat are on a diet.  What we fail to recognize is that ‘diet’ is just another four letter word, and you have the ability to reject its control over your life.

Food is not a form of currency and you don’t need to earn the right to nourish your body. You can enjoy the same foods, equally, in a non-judgmental way, regardless of how active or inactive you were that day.

Forget about calories in, calories out.

Food is so much more than calories, and movement is so much more than a way to burn through them. All foods are made of carbs, fat, protein, and other nutrients which our bodies need to run on.  Food is not good or bad, and eating food doesn’t make you good or bad.

As we head towards long winter days, dark cold nights, holiday meals, favorite recipes, and time with loved ones, please stop telling yourself you don’t deserve it or that you didn’t earn it. Your ability to enjoy or crave a food isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and independence from the lies that diet culture has told you for most (or all) of your life.

Rejecting the diet mentality might be the best thing you ever do to be happier heading into the holidays and the new year,

And the best thing you ever do for your health.


Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD is a Kansas City-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals jumpstart their journey to wellness. By breaking the cycle of dieting, Cara focuses on creating sustainable lifestyle changes for people who are motivated to reclaim their health. Connect with Cara over at Street Smart Nutrition.

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