Every year, weight loss tops the list of New Year’s Resolution goals. Let’s think about that for a moment — especially the 'every year' bit.
If your weight loss resolution worked out in 2012, then you wouldn’t have had to re-declare your goal in 2013. And since it’s now February and you’ve probably fallen off the wagon, you wouldn’t have to make the same damn resolution again for 2014.
The trouble with diets is that they only work if we stick to them — forever. Not just for a 12 week super-metabolizer momentum challenge or a 90 day extreme tough cross-fit bikini bootcamp.
Let’s leave the moral judgments about self-discipline to one side — because let’s face it, tut tutting yourself or others for their lack of will power has gotten us nowhere.
People go on a diet, they lose some weight (or not), they break the diet, they regain the weight (often even a few more kilos than they originally lost) and then they do it all over again. There’s a reason why the Oxford English Dictionary now has an entry for ‘yo-yo dieting’.
Most people, for whatever reason, cannot stick to a diet. Yes, yes, I know that some people do achieve long-term weight loss. But most dieters don’t.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 80 per cent of dieters regained their weight. And it’s not as if this is a new finding. A 1992 study in the Annals of Internal Medicinereported that, ‘[O]ne third to two thirds of the weight is regained within 1 year, and almost all is regained within 5 years.’
Not convinced by these smaller studies? Then, what about the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomised, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial which tracked 20,000 female dieters over seven years? The researchers showed that there was almost no change in weight over that period and the women’s waist circumference had actually increased.
Despite the wealth of studies, some will simply ignore the evidence and repeat the current mantra that ‘diets don’t fail, people do’. Perhaps, though, it’s time to revise our views and ask whether the current ‘wisdom’ has lead to an even fatter population and individual self-loathing and shame.
While it may make some of us feel smugly superior to shake our heads at the ‘undisciplined fatties’, the reality is that the only one benefiting from this way of thinking is the burgeoning diet industry.
We’re told that if we can muster enough self-hatred and shame we’ll be motivated to change ourselves and then we’ll be able to like ourselves. Or at least hate ourselves a little less. But just as a rose cannot grow out of a cactus, it’s hard to imagine how self-acceptance could ever sprout from a seed of self-loathing.
Motivating yourself to exercise and eat well so you can lose weight comes from a place of negativity. The logic goes something like this: there is something wrong with you so you need to be fixed.
But if your goal is to be healthy, regardless of your weight, then your motivation is positive. You care enough about your body to want to look after it.
Managing Director & Psychologist Lydia Jade Turner from BodyMatters Australasia says we should think of our body like a car. If you love your car then you will respect it and want to care for it. If you hate your car then you probably won’t get it serviced and you’ll just run it into the ground.
It is demoralising and demotivating to link exercise and healthy eating with weight loss. It’s also counter productive.
Regardless of body weight or weight loss, an increased level of exercise increases health. And if we are exercising as an act of self-love rather than punishment we are more likely to enjoy it and stick to it.
Maybe next year we should think about a New Years Resolution with a greater chance of success — to be kinder to ourselves.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com