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Ditch the diet

2014-01-07 13:47:01

Published on 2014-01-07 13:47:01

It’s the start of January and I’m already sick of hearing about the latest diet that promises ‘dramatic weight loss’ and the body of ‘your dreams’. January has become synonymous with diets, when vast numbers of people resolve to shift a few pounds.

There was a time when ‘diet’ simply meant what we eat as a human species. Thanks to the diet industry (worth £2 billion in the UK alone), it has now come to be associated with a variety of weird and wonderful eating regimes that supposedly result in trimmer bodies.

I dislike ‘diets’ for two reasons. Firstly, they don’t work!! 95% of diets fail with most people putting back on more weight than they’ve lost. Secondly, they help to maintain a cycle of poor body image that goes something like this:

- You decide to lose weight to improve your appearance. This subconsciously sends the message that you are unacceptable as you are, creating or reinforcing poor body image.

- You embark on a diet that is based on some form of denial (such as cutting out whole food groups or even food altogether).

- The diet is miserable, so it’s hardly surprising when you give it up. Or, if you stay the course, when you return to your normal eating habits, you regain the weight you’ve lost.

- The diet fails and you feel worse about your body and yourself, and your body image takes another hit.

- So the cycle continues as you go from diet to diet in an attempt to slim down and look a certain way.

Sound familiar?

This may come as a surprise, but it’s a myth that weight loss is the only way to improve body image if you think you’re overweight.

Research by The University of Vermont found that:

(clinically obese) individuals who underwent a programme of body image therapy improved their body image without losing weight.

The positive relationship that they developed with their bodies helped improve their ability to lose weight.

The fundamental difference with this approach is that it begins with acceptance of where you are. Even if you need to lose weight to be healthier, you have to start by accepting your body as it is.


Ditch the diet

When you approach a lifestyle change from a place of self acceptance you’re more likely to treat yourself well – feeding your body healthy foods and exercising. Compare this with the traditional ‘diet approach’ which starts with a lack of acceptance – actively disliking something about your body and then depriving it.

You may have noticed that I referred to the need to lose weight to be healthier, not to look a certain way. When it comes to your body, make health, not appearance your goal. Find out what is healthy for your body and don’t just think about weight or shape. For example, what about your blood pressure, heart rate, strength, flexibility, mind-set?

Health is holistic. To have good health requires that you keep your body and mind in good working order so that you can experience life to the fullest. Your health ultimately determines longevity. If you choose to treat your body as an object that needs to conform to size and weight standards through diets, you are making short term, quick fix choices that aren’t necessarily good for a long and healthy life. ‘Diets’ generally aren’t good for overall health as they often involve cutting out foods that your body needs.

Ultimately, when you aim for a healthier body, your weight will settle at the right level for you (not what is prescribed by societal ideals!). Making health your goal isn’t an easy option – it requires lifestyle changes that take time and effort (e.g. preparing nutritious foods and exercising). Such changes have long term benefits that are worth it: greater energy, flexibility, better body image, more positive mind-set to name just a few. Isn’t that worth the effort? The results are far better than any diet. Besides, if diets really worked, why do we have a global diet industry that is estimated to reach $600 billion in 2014?

So ditch the traditional ‘diet’ this January. Instead create resolutions based on loving and accepting your body and keeping it healthy. You’re worth it!

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