Happy New Year! The new year is always such an exciting time for fresh starts and new beginnings. I personally love that about the new year. What I don’t love is that for most people a ‘fresh start’ usually involves starting a new diet and setting unrealistic exercise goals in an attempt to lose weight. Here’s the thing, if all these diet and weight loss resolutions worked long-term, we would resolve to do them once and be done with it. But that’s not the case. For most people it’s almost tradition to try and lose weight every January 1st.
Why? Well simply put – diets don’t work. We have no evidence that shows diets are effective at keeping weight off for more than 5 years for the majority of people (check out this blog for more info!). A recent systematic review of 14 diets including low-carb and low-fat diets showed they led to modest weight loss at 6 months, but by the 12 month mark most weight had been regained.1 Not to mention, studies have shown dieting can increase issues with body image, depression, disordered eating and lead to weight regain.2 I know this might sound very discouraging, but my question to you is – why do you want to diet and lose weight?
There are two common answers to this question:
Reason #1: To be healthier
As it turns out, your weight doesn’t necessarily equal health. Being thin doesn’t guarantee health the same way having larger body doesn’t guarantee sickness. Yes, there are associations between weight and certain health conditions like diabetes or heart issues, but no data can confirm weight or BMI causes these conditions. There are many factors that could be contributing to these health outcomes such as continual yo-yo dieting and weight cycling,3 social status, access to healthcare, education, genetics, weight stigma,4 the list goes on… On top of that, health and lifestyle behaviours may play a considerable role in health outcomes regardless of weight. A review found increasing nutrient dense foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts, fibre and physical activity could reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol even without weight loss.5 So considering weight and body size alone may not be a great reflection of health.
Reason #2: Once I lose weight then I’ll be more confident, happy, loved, successful…
I don’t blame you for feeling that way because our society romanticises the idea that weight loss and a smaller body will fix all our problems. In reality, weight loss doesn’t promise anything of the sort. Happiness, self-confidence and positive body image comes from within, not from winning the approval of society. Chances are if you’re living to please others and meet their standards there will always be something about yourself you feel is ‘not good enough’ – the number on the scale won’t change that.
So how about this year we focus on resolutions that promote wellness rather than weight loss? Read on for five ideas for setting non-weight New Year resolutions:
1) Eat more veggies
Only 7% of Aussie adults eat enough veggies – so rather than starting a diet that cuts out entire food groups, let’s try adding some extra veg to our meals. Blending spinach or carrot into your morning smoothie or throwing some frozen veggies into pasta sauces or curries can be great places to start!
2) Cook more at home
This is a great goal to have as it gives you control of the ingredients and the quantity. It allows you to make healthier ingredient swaps and choose a healthier cooking method (such as steaming, microwaving or dry baking). As a bonus, it can also help you save money as ordering takeaway foods regularly can be expensive and you can use any left-overs for lunch the next day. The best way to get into the habit of cooking at home is to plan ahead as being organised in advance makes it much easier to cook healthy and quick meals at home.
3) Relearn how to eat intuitively
Since we know diets don’t work it might be time to try eating intuitively again. Intuitive eating is basically where you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. It also involves giving yourself permission to eat foods that taste good and make you feel good. It can help you enjoy eating without regret, guilt or shame, sounds pretty good right? It can take time to relearn your internal cues and overcome food fears especially after years of dieting – a dietitian can guide you through this process.
4) Learn to accept your body the way it is
This will take some trial and error but some good places to start are:
- Know your worth is not defined by your body or appearance.
- Combat negative body self-talk. Think about the amazing things your body can do instead!
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Unfollow people on social media that trigger negative body image thoughts
- Start with body neutrality and body acceptance (body positivity is not easy to attain and doesn’t happen overnight)
5) Exercise for enjoyment
When our focus is weight loss, we often force ourselves to do exercises we don’t enjoy which leads to us bailing on our exercise goals by February. For example, I hate running and I know resolving to run everyday is not realistic. For 2022, let’s focus on finding forms of exercise we enjoy whether that’s walking, Pilates, cycling or dancing – just get your body moving!
The bottom line: It’s time we ditched the new year’s resolutions to diet for weight loss. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for building healthy habits to promote wellbeing but these don’t need to hinge on losing weight.
Need some support on your health and wellness journey for 2022? I work with women who are ready to ditch dieting and start listening to their hunger cues. Click here to book your FREE Strategy Call.
- Ge L, Sadeghirad B, Ball GDC, da Costa BR, Hitchcock CL, Svendrovski A, et al. Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. 2020;369:m696.
- Clifford DPRD, Ozier APRD, Bundros JBS, Moore JBS, Kreiser ABS, Morris MNPRD. Impact of Non-Diet Approaches on Attitudes, Behaviors, and Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Journal of nutrition education and behavior. 2015;47(2):143-55.e1.
- Carey KJ. Weight Cycling in Women: Adaptation or Risk? Seminars in reproductive medicine. 2020.
- Vadiveloo M, Mattei J. Perceived Weight Discrimination and 10-Year Risk of Allostatic Load Among US Adults. Ann Behav Med. 2017;51(1):94-104.
- Gaesser GA, Angadi SS, Sawyer BJ. Exercise and Diet, Independent of Weight Loss, Improve Cardiometabolic Risk Profile in Overweight and Obese Individuals. The Physician and sportsmedicine. 2011;39(2):87-97.