Did you make a new year’s resolution to lose weight or change your eating habits way back in January? If so, you are in good company as these are generally in the top five (if not top two) of resolutions made. As we approach the middle of the year how are things going?
If you’re like most people I’m guessing your best-laid plans may have fallen by the wayside. Don’t worry, you’re in good company as generally, less than 10% of people stick to their resolutions. Why is that?
Well, when it comes to tackling weight and healthy eating people usually dust off a tried and true diet or the newest shiny diet offering. And the truth of the matter is pretty simple: diets don’t work.
Why don’t diets work?
All diets have one thing in common: they use some form of energy (calorie/kilojoule) restriction. They might limit certain foods, involve fasting or keep you to a certain number of total calories, but the end result is the same: less food in. This seems to make sense logically but our body doesn’t see it that way.
Our body basically reacts to energy restriction like there is a famine going on – because that’s how it evolved to survive. If we don’t eat enough energy for a day or a meal our body will generally cope by making a few small adjustments. However, if we restrict energy intake for too long or too often it
triggers a series of changes. Our metabolism slows down, we store extra energy more efficiently and we get a little crazy around food.
Our body does everything it can to stop weight loss and get you to eat more. And you just can’t compete with that.
What are the stats on that?
But don’t take my word for it, let me share a few interesting statistics with you:
- – Diets fail 95% of people
- – Two-thirds of people will end up heavier at the end of a diet than when they started
- – Women who diet are 75% more likely to experience depression
- – Regular dieting is associated with more disordered eating and extreme body dissatisfaction
- – And from my own experience working with women for 15 years:
- – 100% of women feel like a failure when they break their diet
- – 100% of women blame themselves when the diet doesn’t work
Diets may help you lose weight in the short term but the evidence is clear – the weight loss is not sustained and the diet itself is not sustainable. The not-so-fun bonus is that diets also damage your physical and mental health while you are on them and in the long term.
So, what can you do instead?
– Stop dieting and stop the famine cues. If the body doesn’t think it has to survive a ‘famine’ it won’t go into weight saving mode.
– Don’t blame yourself – it’s not you it’s the diet.
– Start listening to your body, not the diet rules. We are all born with an inbuilt feedback system to manage our food intake and our weight. To reconnect to that again start listening to physical cues like hunger and fullness. Try to eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel satisfied. Use your body as a guide instead of a set of rules outside of yourself.
– Be patient and trust your body. It can seem a little scary to trust your body because diets have told us that we can’t be trusted, that without the rules we’ll be out of control, but it’s simply not true.
When you listen to your body, build trust with your body and eat with awareness you can learn to eat in a way that works with your body and get a little less crazy around food.
Perhaps it’s time to try a new mid year’s resolution?