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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 had worked out in 2012, then you would not have had to re-declare your goal in 2013. And if you are like most people, by February or March you have probably fallen off the wagon, and then when 2014 rolls around, you find yourself making the same resolution again.
Unfortunately diets only work if we stick to them — forever. A 12-week super-metabolizer momentum challenge or a 90-day extreme tough cross-fit bikini boot camp isn’t going to last forever. So let’s forget about moral judgments and self-discipline because beating yourself or others up for lack of will power gets us nowhere.
The fact is that 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. The Oxford English Dictionary even has an entry now for “yo-yo dieting.” Most people, for whatever reason, just cannot stick to a diet. There are some people who do achieve long-term weight loss, but most dieters do not.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 80% of dieters ended up regaining their weight. This is not even a new finding. A 1992 study in The Annals of Internal Medicine reported that one-third to two-thirds of the weight is regained within 1 year, and almost all is regained within 5 years.
The Women’s Health Initiative had the largest and longest randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial. They tracked 20,000 female dieters over seven years. The research from this clinical trial concluded that there was almost no change in weight over the seven years and that the women’s waist circumference had actually increased.
Despite all of the studies, the evidence will be ignored and the mantra that “diets don’t fail, people do” will just keep being repeated. Perhaps it is time to revise our views and ask whether the current “wisdom” has lead to an even fatter population and increased 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 ever growing diet industry.
The diet industry can make us feel that if we can muster enough self-hatred and shame, we will be motivated to change ourselves and then we will 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 is 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.
Think of your 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 can be very counter-productive to link weight loss with healthy eating and exercise because if you are not seeing progress, you can easily lose your motivation. If you exercise as an act of self-love rather than a punishment, you will be much more likely to enjoy it and stick with it regardless of your body weight or weight loss.
It is not too late to change your resolution; there is still plenty of year left. Resolve to be kinder to yourself and your body and you may just be surprised how much easier staying fit and healthy can be.