Ditch the dieting resolutions this year

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Ditch the dieting resolutions this year

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Here’s why dieting isn’t the aspirational New Year’s resolution you might think it is.

For many of us Christmas is a time to come together with friends and whānau for delicious food, a day off and some festive cheer. It can also mean our usual eating patterns might get a bit out of whack for a while; while the kids are on school holidays, we’re spending days lazing at the beach or we’re just indulging in the more readily available pavs, pies, and roast potatoes. But guess what, it’s ok – we all do it (even us nutritionists).

As we emerge from our sleepy food-induced comas in January (and realise what day it actually is) we are often bombarded by a wave of marketing campaigns for detox diets, shakes, pills and potions. Along with social media accounts promoting weight loss and dieting as a tool to rid ourselves of all the guilt and the many kilos of “evil” (delicious) foods we ate over the Christmas period. Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

Dieting doesn’t work. Numerous studies have shown that over the long term, drastic diets that cut out whole food groups do not result in sustained weight loss. The reality is, individuals often end up gaining the weight back, plus a little bit more.

Dieting is not just a fad that comes and goes – it can be a dangerous pathway to further health issues. Registered Dietitian, Katrina Dixon, states “Health professionals have shown that dieting can be a vicious cycle. For some, when they restrict food they feel deprived and crave it. This can lead to binge eating, which can lead to enormous amounts of guilt, which then makes people restrict food all over again. Dieting can not only mess up your metabolism, but it can damage your relationship with food and your body and can leave you in a worse place than where you began.”

So, when you’re contemplating setting yourself a resolution to fit a certain pair of jeans by June, or get to a certain weight, remember that resolutions imply that we are resolving to change or fix something – but our bodies don’t need to be fixed.

Instead of going down the black hole of dieting, ridiculously photoshopped influencers and “cleanses” (NB: not a real thing), consider a few of these things:

  • Adding in, rather than cutting out - If you do want to make some positive changes to your health think about including more vegetables in your meals and snacks, eating a balanced plate with enough protein and wholegrains, or drinking more water throughout the day. These can be easy ways to make changes. Sometimes the reason why we snack on less healthy choices is because we haven’t eaten enough from the core food groups during the day to keep us feeling satisfied.
  • Take your time – It takes about 20 minutes for food to reach your stomach and send a signal to your brain that you are full (or that you need a little more). So, before you wolf down your second helping it can be a good idea to set your knife and fork down and have a breather. Chewing more slowly can also help you to savour your meal (and can also be part of eating more mindfully).
  • Listen to your body – tune into your hunger. Hunger is a natural process that signals that our glucose stores are getting low, and we need to refuel. Some of us may have become conditioned to ignore hunger signals or are no longer able to notice the subtle signs of the beginning of hunger. Hunger is your body saying I need food to keep functioning at my peak, so if you’re hungry, eat. And remember, your body needs food every day, no matter how much you ate the day before.
  • Seek support - Food guilt is something many of us will experience in our lives, but it shouldn’t control your thoughts. If you’re finding thoughts of food are overwhelming your headspace or you have been cycling through different diets throughout the year it might be time to give yourself a break and ditch the diets once and for all. If you need further one-on-one help, seek advice from a Registered Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian.

If you are set on making a New Year’s resolution or goal this year, stick with something that is sustainable, achievable, and realistic (and forget about the diets). Focus on creating healthier habits, one change at a time – our brains get overwhelmed if we try to change too many things at once.

Keep in mind the Christmas and New Year period is just a few short weeks out of your year and does not determine your overall health status. You’ve made it through a year that undoubtedly had its ups and downs and a few curve balls thrown in, or it might have been your best year yet; either way we all deserve to celebrate, relax, and enjoy our Christmas dinner without the side dish of guilt.

Posted by Joanna Bunt