• Emma Townsin

Avoid the diet trap this New Year

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

There's no doubt a post holiday diet is tempting. The promise of well-being, love and happiness growing in proportion to your shrinking body. The nostalgia and excitement that you will be a "new you" starting from the magical moment the clock strikes midnight.


What we don't get told is diets don't work. Ninety-five percent of people who diet to lose weight do not keep this weight off. You are actually more likely to gain weight than lose weight in the long run and a shrinking waistline does not equal health and happiness.


Have you made dieting resolutions before? Have you embarked on a diet or lifestyle or wellness plan (or any other plan) that required you to restrict, count or follow rules? If yes, take a moment to consider how it worked out for you?


How did following food and body rules make you feel? Did it affect your mindset? Did it impact your social life? Was it financially sustainable? Did it affect your energy levels or make you feel unwell? Was it something that you could happily and freely follow for the rest of your life?


Most people find that a restrictive way of eating, restricts their life as well. Is this worth it?


Now think about the moments before your diet. The moments you felt free of the impending restrictions and could let yourself indulge on all the foods you would never eat again. How did your eating feel? What was guiding your food choices?



Dieting affects our eating before the diet even begins

The impending doom of food restriction triggers a deprivation effect. Food thoughts increase, particularly towards "to-be-restricted" foods. Attunement to body's cues weakens, mindfulness towards eating decreases, guilt and shame towards food take over and we end up eating more than we would have without the anticipation of a food restriction.


Have you ever found yourself feeling out-of-control or "last supper eating" the day before a new diet begins?


Now this may seem innocent and just a part of dieting, but this trend can play havoc with our self-trust. Feeling out-of-control around food can feel scary and even as though your body is broken. This perfectly natural response to food restriction can reinforce the need to diet and live within food rules, creating a damaging cycle.


A new year diet can decrease your food enjoyment over the holidays

The holiday season can further heighten the impact of these impending restrictions. The deprivation effect at a time when there are abundant meals, treats, social pressures, marketing, diet talk and weight loss ads create an intense drive towards food. Mixed with a season of strong emotions, diet plans at this time of year can create havoc for your mental health and overall wellbeing.


So when it comes to your New Year’s Resolution are you really going to go down the diet path again? Or is it time to opt for a kinder approach to health? One where you work with your body rather than against it. Where your healthy behaviours and improved well-being actually matter more than a number on the scale?



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References

Keeler et al. Anticipatory and Reactive Responses to Chocolate Restriction in Frequent Chocolate Consumers. JObesity (2015); 1130-1135.

Rothblum. Slim Chance for Permanent Weight Loss. Archives of Scientific Psychology (2018); 63-69.

Pietilainen. Does dieting make you fat? A twin study. IntJofObesity (2011);1-9.

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