As we enter the start of 2016, millions of people will think not of the wonderful accomplishments of the past year, but of the improvements they hope to make in the year to come. Rather than gratitude and appreciation for all that we have, we see the New Year as a time to “start fresh” and chase fantasies of the life that we believe we should be living.
As in years past, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in 2016 is to lose weight. Weight Watchers and other diet companies capitalize on this phenomenon by unleashing powerful advertising campaigns to intensify our insecurities and convince us that the answer to all of our problems is weight loss, which of course we can all achieve if we only follow their simple plan (read my post about Oprah’s WW ad). Weight loss is an immensely popular New Years resolution because we associate it with all kind of other things. Do you want improved health, happiness, a better job, better relationships, a better life? The answer of course is weight loss. I say that tongue-in-cheek because really of course dieting isn’t the answer to any of those things. So, in case you have made yet another New Year’s resolution to lose weight, here are a few reasons to go ahead and break it—if you haven’t already done so.
1. Dieting will NOT make you happy
We watch the weight loss advertisements on television and we see images of happy joyous thin people enjoying all that life has to offer. The media convinces us that dieting leads to happiness. But when has dieting ever lead to happiness? Can you recall any experiences when you joyously counted points and euphorically abstained from tempting chocolate cake? I’ll let your own past experiences speak for themselves on this one. But research does show that, rather than leading to happiness, dieting has a negative impact on psychological wellbeing.
2. Dieting will NOT make you healthy
Eating delicious foods in ways that are mindfully attuned to your body and engaging in enjoyable forms of physical movement are fundamental to health. Our body has an internal compass that can guide us towards good health. Diets only serve to distract us from what our body is trying to tell us. When we are dieting, we ignore our body’s natural signals, trying to override our natural physiology, following instead the advice of some diet guru.
3. Dieting will NOT improve your self-confidence
Dieting is based on the assumption that we are not good enough as we currently are. Therefore, we need to deprive ourselves to atone for our sins of overindulgence. Dieting keeps us focused on our perceived flaws, somehow convincing us that self-criticism will serve as motivation for weight loss. This does not work. Harsh internal judgments take a toll on our self-esteem making us feel sad, inferior, hopeless, and all around lousy.
4. Dieting will NOT lead to weight loss
Research study after research study shows us that dieting is simply not an effective means of achieving meaningful long-term sustainable weight loss. In fact, the most consistent predictable outcome of dieting is weight gain. Most people will lose weight in the short term on a diet but will regain the weight—with interest—in the long term. This is because diets don’t work. Not because you aren’t doing the diet correctly.
So, for 2016, I’m resolving not to diet. I hope you’ll join me in resolving NOT to diet in 2016.