“I honestly used to be an extreme dieter,” Sepel shares. She soon discovered, however, that counting calories and carbohydrates and watching the numbers on a scale fluctuate wasn’t helpful. “Giving up my scale actually gave me so much freedom,” she says. “You know, like constantly weighing myself and letting it determine my self-worth. It was so unhealthy.”
Sepel’s realization is backed by science. A journal review on various studies examining the practice of regularly weighing yourself found a negative relationship between the habit and self-esteem. Plus, various research indicates that there are better ways to measure health than body weight. In 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article calling into question BMI’s ability to predict mortality. Research shows that your behaviors can also predict general health, so it can be better to focus on lifestyle rather than a figures.
Still, Sepel knows getting out of the numbers game might take some time, so she suggests a gradual approach. You don’t have to throw out your scale right away. But if you’re considering weighing yourself (or engaging in the equally numbers-focused and frustrating practice of counting calories), think about being kind to yourself instead, she suggests. You can also do something to reconnect to your body in a healthy way instead of climbing on top of the scale — do some stretching, go for a walk, get in a workout. There are also plenty of meal-time hacks you can apply to better enjoy and appreciate what you’re eating.
Sepel, for example, always shuns screens when she eats. “That’s my biggest rule, phones are nowhere near my eating… I think food is such a beautiful way to connect to loved ones. My husband and I just sit down at night and we eat a meal together and we just love it. Food is here to be enjoyed.” Amen.
Sepel’s approach to food is all about eating healthy while being balanced. Her recipes are nutrient-packed, but not flavorless and are easy to make even if you’re no Julia Child. She also encourages treating yourself every now and again and not beating yourself up if “again” happens sooner than you anticipated (her favorite dessert is hazelnut gelato).
“As corny as it sounds, perfect should not be the goal in any way,” she says. “The healthy life does not mean the perfect life, and perfect doesn’t exist, anyway.”
That’s important, especially this time of year when many of us are resolving to eat better in 2020. Despite our good intentions, a Strava analysis of over 800 million activities predicted that most people will give up on their 2020 fitness resolutions by January 19, and a University of Scranton study found that just 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals. Sepel’s anti-diet, non-restrictive approach won’t make you feel overwhelmed (or disgusted by all the kale you’re supposed to eat). It works long-term.
We asked Sepel to provide us with 30 days of nutrient-packed recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that’ll help you start 2020 on a delicious note, not one filled with deprivation. So check back here on Jan. 1 for Week 1 of her meal plan — we promise that with Sepel’s program, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your healthy New Year’s resolutions past the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Jessica Sepel is the founder of JSHealth and JSHealth Vitamins. She’s the author of four books, including Living the Healthy Life.