The simple changes dietitian Lyndi Cohen made to feel fabulous and love her body

We’ve all heard of BMI (body mass index) and many of us strive to be in the “normal” range. But what if we told you that BMI may not be the best measure of your health?

BMI is just one myth busted in a new book by Accredited Nutritionist, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and body-image advocate Lyndi Cohen. ‘Your Weight is not the Problem’ is billed as a “simple, no-diet plan for healthy habits that stick”. It pulls apart many long-held diet beliefs and instead suggests new ways to think long term about food, weight and good health.

The most common weight-loss mistakes

Good health, not just weight, is something we should all be focusing on, says Lyndi.

“For generations, we’ve been passing on this disordered eating, from mothers to daughters,” she says. “We have this hyper-fixation on trying to lose weight and all it’s doing is creating a so-called weight problem for all of us. And solutions that keep being thrust at us – to just try harder, to use more willpower – aren’t working. If they were working, we wouldn’t have this ‘obesity epidemic’ and everyone feeling like they’re the wrong weight all the time.”

When you create a list of “forbidden foods”, she says, you’re much more likely to want to eat them.

Back to BMI

Did you know BMI was invented by a statistician? It was never meant to be used as a measure of an individual’s health. But, 200 years later, here we are. What BMI doesn’t measure is muscle mass, diet quality, mental wellness, sleep quality, fitness or any other holistic measureetric of long-term good health.

“This whole idea of just taking height and weight and trying to assess someone’s health status is so backward,” says Lyndi.

“I think in the health and wellness world, there is too much focus on the things that don’t really make a difference. We’re missing what really needs to be done.”

A lived experience

Lyndi has lived experience of dieting. She was put on her first diet at age 11 and spent the next decade trying to control her weight. It even influenced her career path, as a nutritionist and dietitian. “By 21, I was categorically obese. I had gained a whole heap of weight through these years of dieting and I took stock and thought, ‘I see the trajectory of where this is going’. I knew I had committed, I had tried and, yet, it had led me down this path of self-loathing, of feeling obsessed around food. I knew so much about nutrition, but I felt completely stuck. I knew what I should be doing, but I wasn’t doing it. So, I decided I was going to learn how to stop dieting.”

So, what should you be doing?

Lyndi’s advice for long-term good health, feeling fabulous and loving who you are is very simple.

  • Think about what you can eat, rather than what you can’t: “Health is not about the foods you avoid, rather about the foods we add into our diet,” Lyndi says. “It’s called ‘crowding’. Add in more of the foods you want to fill up on, that make your body feel good, naturally leaving less room for the less-healthy stuff. We’re adding in a lot more nutrients and we’re not feeling deprived.”
  • Crowd in wholegrains, fruits and vegetables: “A pet peeve of mine is when people tell you fruit is too high in sugar; it’s such nonsense.” Fruits and vegetables can help support your immunity, reduce cholesterol, constipation and protect against chronic disease.
  • Cook at home more: “This is so simple and it’s going to make a difference to how you feel.” Countless studies suggest that cooking at home compared to eating out or ordering takeaway means you eat less sugar, saturated fat and salt. Check out these quick and healthy recipe collections.
  • Intuitive eating: “This is simply tuning into our appetite; this idea that our body will tell us how much it needs. All we have to do is tune out of the diet noise and start tuning into our bodies. Naturally, on some days we’re going to burn a lot more energy and on others we will burn less energy. So, the whole idea that we should follow a meal plan and eat the exact same thing every single day doesn’t make sense.” Being conscious of each mouthful without distractions (no more mindless snacking while watching Netflix) helps you to focus on what you are eating, allows you to better gauge how much you eat and tune into the signs of feeling full.
  • Get enough sleep: “Fundamentally, if you’re not sleeping enough – and around 50% of Aussies aren’t – then your body is going to seek out energy somehow and the obvious source is going to be food. It’s near impossible to add in healthier habits if you’re not getting enough sleep.”

Lyndi’s final piece of advice sends a powerful message: “Stop missing out on life because you’re waiting to lose weight. Go swimming. Be in photos. Life is happening. Don’t miss it!”