Weight loss as a New Year's Resolution

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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

8 comments

  • Brilliant! Thankyou Kasey.

    Commenter
    Robyn
    Location
    Macedon
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 7:52AM
    • Absolutely be kind to yourself! Yet also be realistic when it comes to your habits. I have never been on a "diet" in the popular term, and do not wish to be. I am prhaps lucky, as my weight is the same whether I eat a block of chocolate a day or whether I eat healthily, yet I have learnt that I feel so much better when I eat healthy foods - which tend to leave less room for junk - that looking after myself is incredibly worthwhile. People need to apply common sense as well to marketing fads; why would avoiding bread be good for weight loss when children grow up eating sandwiches at school every day, or avoiding rice which is a staple of countries with far lower obesity rates? Why would skipping breakfast help you lose weight when you replace it with a massive latte for morning tea? If you lose weight drinking diet shakes, isn't it only logical that when you stop drinking them if you haven't changed your eating habits weight will come back? Do you really do as much exercise as you think - not "I'm too busy to lose weight, I'm a mum and I work and don't you tell me I'm lazy!", rather do you park at the back of the car park when you do grocery shopping or pick your kids up from school, etc. Being healthy involves respecting your body, and importantly, other people's bodies.

      Commenter
      SamSam
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 9:12AM
      • Totally agree. People saying they are "on a diet" implies a temporary behaviour so regaining weight is inevitable. Being a healthier weight requires a change of lifestyle including exercise and healthy eating for life. But eat foods that are unhealthy too, eating is a big part of our social lifestyles, so don't get a salad if everyone else is ordering chips. Just eat well most of the time, healthy food tastes good too.

        Commenter
        Damo
        Date and time
        February 13, 2013, 9:55AM
        • Agreed - healthy food is great! But the muck that is sold by Big Diet Firms That Cannot Be Named looks like crap. I would want it to be temporary too if I had to eat that stuff! And that's where diets fail - because people look at these miserable, micro-sized, microwave meals and just can't face eating even one more. If only they knew that there are so many tasty alternatives out there that they can cook at home - and that probably only have a fraction of the calories that are in the processed muck!

          Commenter
          andilee
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 13, 2013, 1:22PM
      • "Weight" is a terrible measure anyway. Whenever I substantially increase my level of exercise my weight increases, but I feel (and look) better. Lean muscle mass weighs more than fat. The only scales I pay any attention to are the crazy expensive ones my personal trainer has which measure body fat percentage and lean muscle mass. Eat healthy and get out and move more - hard in modern life to make time for but very necessary.

        Commenter
        ReadyForReign
        Date and time
        February 13, 2013, 11:29AM
        • Agreed! I have started some heavy duty strength training and gained 3kgs! Initially I was horrified and wanted to stop, but I've kept going because I feel so much better and parts of my body like my arms look so much leaner. Weighing yourself is the worst.

          Commenter
          nomza
          Date and time
          February 13, 2013, 4:02PM
      • We all eat too much, talk too much and sleep too much ... we eat so much of this world that we are just unhealthy and obese.
        A regular sports, physical activity, working hard, and avoiding processed fast food junk would get rid off our lazy attitude!
        Eat lots of fruits and veggies and cook at home, is the way to go.

        Commenter
        Positive
        Date and time
        February 13, 2013, 11:57AM
        • I've been on more diets than I can remember. Each time I lost massive amounts of weight and size and each time I eventually ended up back where I started with extra on top.

          This year I decided to do the smart thing and just eat better. No diets, no gimmicks, no time limits and no obsessing about every calorie and every kilogram. Now I cook all my food myself. I buy everything fresh from the markets and prepare it all at home. I figured out which foods hurt me and which ones don't. All the no-go foods are things I shouldn't be eating anyway: sugar, dairy, refined flour, refined carbs, alcohol.

          I don't eat out a lot, so changing my eating habits wasn't a hardship to fit into my lifestyle. And an odd thing happened: I started shedding body fat without even trying. Now whether I exercise or not is irrelevant. I'm feeling healthy and fit and I'm not having painful digestive issues any more. And I'm actually happy with the way my body is looking.

          I often wondered when wisdom and self-acceptance would show themselves. At the ripe old age of 46, I've finally achieved both.

          And the best part is, I'm sticking with it without even trying. My mindset has changed so much that I can't believe I ever fed myself the garbage I used to eat. It feels like a betrayal and a personal insult to eat food that isn't healthy for me.

          Commenter
          Audra Blue
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          February 13, 2013, 1:52PM
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