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That January feeling (and why you shouldn't go on a diet)

Post Christmas is the time of year when we can start to feel that build of up anxiety about how we’ve overindulged over the festival period, about the weight we’ve put on or about how we regret our eating behaviour. We can feel under pressure to go on a diet and begin scouring the internet for the new cure-all regime. (This can be annual, familiar and therefore strangely comforting territory). Sometimes we consciously overeat at Christmas in the knowledge that January, that miracle month when all our weight issues will be fixed, is just around the corner.

But it isn’t a miracle month, is it? In fact traditional New Year’s ‘resolutions’ are the worst idea for embarking on a weight loss programme. Why? Because a diet in the New Year, although it may promise weight loss in a certain time and all sorts of miraculous results is very often extreme, restrictive, unhealthy and unsustainable. All the reasons why diets don’t work apply but in the New Year they are even more pertinent because we just seem to go for it more than at any time of the year. We think we ought to and we think January is somehow different from any other time of year when dreams really do come true. So it’s not just a diet, it’s bigger, more extreme, more uncomfortable than we might do otherwise. In other words we think that the more extreme the process, the more likely the success – but honestly when is that ever the case?

Of course this temptation to diet is not helped by the billion pound diet and detox industry. You will start to see the adverts and promotions appearing in late December; luring you into a false sense of success by showing you happy slim people who allegedly have had their lives changed by a particular diet or detox regime. Fact is that more than 80% of diets don’t work long-term. Why else do you think the dieting industry is worth so much money? Because we keep coming back for more, repeating the behaviour, despite the fact that it doesn’t work. Plus, diets certainly don’t make you happy. Being on a diet is miserable and the likely weight gain once the diet stops is a source of disappointment and failure.

I know all this to be true partly because I have also lived it (here you can read my story). If you are at this point now, then I know what that feels like. I know the guilt, shame and desperation, in fact the whole psychology which accompanies that January feeling… Here is what I also know.

By restricting our food we create a perfect environment for overeating. Look at this graphic to understand how that happens.

1. Our preoccupation is with being slim or weighing less.

2. We start a restrictive diet because that's what we think we should do.

3. We develop a diet mentality of restriction and seeing foods as good or bad.

4. We achieve weight loss (this is a good moment, but...)

5. We crave food and more specifically the foods which have been disallowed.

6. We blow out because the dieting becomes unsustainable.

7. We feel rubbish about ourselves.

8. We overeat to feel better and eventually put more weight on than we had at the beginning...

So instead of starting a (nother) diet, forget the idea of a weight loss programme and instead focus on change of behaviour and nourishment. Weight loss is often temporary (why diets don’t work) but behaviour change can be long lasting. Here are my 6 super tips for a new way of eating in the New Year:

1. Put the scales away – honestly they are not your friend. Forget about numbers and instead focus on goals of a change of behaviour and nourishing your body with improved nutrition

2. Forget about what you've eaten over Christmas and stay calm. it doesn't define you and it doesn't matter - "let it go!". Start to ease your mindset in into a slower new process of change.

3. Decide what kind of a relationship you want with food – what does ‘good’ look like?

4. Focus on what your eating drivers are.

5. Learn to eat mindfully.

6. Love yourself and trust in a slow which will help you manage your weight long-term.

However you decide to address your relationship with food or your weight, please don’t do it with a restrictive diet. If you want help finding another way then there are many professionals, like me, keen to help you use a more natural, intuitive and mindful way of eating to achieve a happy life with food.

If you want to find a place where dieting just sn't on your radar (as well as a whole load of other amazing help) you need my 6-month programme The Mindful Way.

Happy New Year everyone! xx

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