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Why weight loss resolutions aren’t helpful

Losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions – and marketers know it! You’ll see ads for weight loss diets, books and programmes as soon as you turn the calendar over to 2019. It’s well documented in the research that diets do not work and often have negative consequences. In fact, dieting can reduce metabolic rate, increase binge eating, preoccupation with food and lead to disordered eating.

So, what is a diet? It’s not what you may suspect. Sure, it’s your usual suspects, such as meal replacements and calorie counting, but it’s also anything that involves restricting, deprivation and using rules in place of your body cues for the purposes of weight loss. This can include:
• cutting out foods or food groups
• tracking macros, etc
• ignoring hunger cues and eating to set times
• exercising solely to ‘burn off’ food.

If you’ve been on diets before, it’s useful to reflect on how that went for you.
• Did you find it harder to stick to over time?
• How did you feel when you ate something that wasn’t on your plan?
• Did you stress about food?
• How much did food and exercise occupy your thoughts?
• Did you regain weight?

Most people reflect that dieting gets harder over time, causes stress and takes up a lot of mental energy. Most people also regain the weight they have lost and blame themselves.
The science is very clear on this. While weight loss can be achieved in the short term, within two years, most weight is regained and by five years, the majority of people are back at their starting weight. This isn’t a personal flaw or lack of will power, it’s biological. Weight loss can reduce metabolic rate and drives weight regain. This is known as metabolic adaption.

There is a better path to creating goals for 2019. Instead of a weight loss resolution, think about what you really want to achieve. Better health? A better relationship with food? Better body image? Set your new goals around this.

Make 2019 the year to break up with dieting. Instead, learn to listen to your body cues to guide your eating. Learn about mindful eating. Instead of worrying about food rules, think about your hunger and fullness cues and what foods are satisfying and sustaining. Include a wide variety of foods and learn to eat in a way that makes you feel good both physically and mentally.
It takes some time and re-learning to get out of a diet mindset and into a more intuitive way of eating, but it’s well worth the benefits.

Nicola Jackson is a NZ-registered nutritionist with a passion for helping people to develop a healthier relationship with food. Nicola’s blog Eat Well NZ tells you why you don’t need to quit foods, follow rules, or go to the extreme to be healthy. Her blog showcases a balanced approach to eating well, with plenty of healthy recipes and other tips on nutrition, fitness and wellness. You can also find Nicola on Facebook and Instagram.

First published: January 2019
Last updated: February 26 2019
Last science review: January 17 2019



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