Self-Esteem: The First Step to Any Successful Diet

Woman laughing at yoga class
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Chances are you’re one of approximately 45 million Americans on a diet, many of whom spend over $33 billion on weight loss-related products. But no matter what kind of diet or eating plan you’re on or how much you want to pull on your skinny jeans without holding your breath, there’s one key diet ingredient you might have forgotten to include: self-esteem.

Too often we go on diets under mental duress.

In other words, we’re beating ourselves up mentally whenever we step on the scale or reach for that stalk of celery. The old-school thinking is that if we’re hard on ourselves we’re more likely to make positive change. But they key word here is “positive.” So, how can any good change come from bad feelings?

The better we feel about ourselves (and even our appearance) in the present moment, the more likely we’ll be able to find success with any life change we want to incorporate. This is as true for losing weight and getting into better shape as it is for getting that college degree, building better relationships, or even becoming more organized at home or at the office.

I know it sounds like simple math, but that’s because it is. I once met someone from my Joy Fit Club who clocked in at over 450 pounds before dropping several sizes to a healthier weight that he’s maintained for almost two decades.

When showing off his before picture, he loves pointing out that he had gotten himself a “perm” hairstyle even though he weighed as much as he did at the time. In other words, he changed something about his appearance that he could control, which led to even bigger changes down the road (or down the scale as it were).

Similar to any muscle group, our self-esteem must be exercised in order to grow and expand (two words we normally don’t associate with dieting). So here are some simple solutions to feeling better about ourselves, which in turn can give us the staying power to conquer any goals we’ve set for our futures.

Positive Reflecting

First thing in the morning, stand in front of your bathroom mirror and give yourself a big smile. Then list three to five things you like about yourself. These can be appearance or personality related. Whether it’s your relationship with a pet, helping a neighbor carry in groceries or your choice in nightshirts, celebrate it. Too often we’re listing what we deem as negative traits instead of positive ones. Do this every morning for at least a week and see if it doesn’t begin to change how you think about yourself.

Dress for Success

Don’t wait for the scale to reflect a certain number before putting your best foot forward. No matter what your current clothing size, find an outfit or two that you can sizzle in. After all, we only have today. And if shopping for new clothes is cost-prohibitive, give yourself a do-it-yourself makeover or your own mani/pedi to help boost how you feel when stepping out into the world.

(Guys, these tips apply to you as well!)

Build Self-Interest via Pinterest

Since my daughters tell me that scrapbooking is “so 1842,” create a new Pinterest board and start collecting or pinning images, quotes, and articles that help lift your body, mind, and soul. It can be a clipping of an outfit you want to wear once you reach your goal weight, a Before and After story that motivates you, or even of a funny quote about how an apple doesn’t really taste anything like ice cream. Pin it, then skim it—often. This board can quickly become your own personal life coach that you can turn to whenever you’re feeling unmotivated.


By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks. Joy’s latest book is From Junk Food to Joy Food.

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