This is not the usual New’s Resolution drivel that inundates you each Christmas. Every year you’re treated to a barrage of articles reminding you of your holiday overindulgence and recycled tips to get you to lose weight. These tips focus on short term, quick fixes and only encourage the destructive dieting mindset.
Does anyone really find those generic recommendations helpful? Lose 1-2 pounds a week, join a gym, exercise, carry around a food journal and other familiar “expert” tips, each of which predictably serve up failure every time.
It’s been estimated that nearly half our population will resolve to change something heading into 2013. About 50% of those will pledge to lose weight and become fitter. Predictably, sales of diet programs, self-help books and gym memberships skyrocket in January. As history shows, by January 7th, nearly a third will have broken their resolution, and by Valentine’s Day, nearly half have begun to lapse back into their old behaviors. By the summertime, 60% of these resolutions will be abandoned and put on the shelf for the next year.
Why is this you ask?
For one, dieting isn’t natural, healthy or sustainable. What’s worse is that most dieters adopt the “all or none” approach to change, which predictably results in deprivation, binging, perceived failure and self rejection. This initiates the yo-yo diet cycle that not only carries a hefty emotional toll, but also increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. In the end, you just end up even heavier.
Here are 10 good reasons to stop dieting today
- Diets don’t work long term
- Diets are expensive
- Diets are boring
- Diets can cause health problems
- Diets can lead to permanent obesity
- Diets can rob you of energy
- Diets can turn into eating disorders
- Diets can make you afraid of wholesome, nourishing food.
- Dieting causes emotional rebellion
- Dieting creates stress in the family and relationships
Ok, you get it, dieting sucks. Is there a better approach to fulfilling your resolution of shedding a few pounds and enjoying a healthier lifestyle in 2013?
You say you want a resolution . . .
The first step in successful change is to establish why you want to change in the first place. I believe there are two major reasons why most people decide to lose weight and get fit: to get healthy or to improve body image. I think the obsession many of us have with body image is also a major reason why most resolutions fall far short of the target. Studies have shown a rise in body image problems among men and women in recent years. Mainstream media perpetuate role models with extraordinary physicality which has distorted our standards of beauty to a point where our expectations for ourselves have become totally unrealistic.
Many people believe that their body size and shape are completely under their control. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. The mostly impossible attempt to reconcile your distorted expectations with reality can result in a high physical and physiological cost. This is why it’s important to have your resolutions routed in the desire to be healthy and more fit. You have far more control over this outcome and will likely sustain your motivation much longer. This isn’t to say that you can’t change your body – of course you can – but using the mirror and scale as a means for tracking your success can lead to perfectionist tendencies that often results in a loss of control.
The second step is to decide what approach you’re going to use. If you intend to use a plan you pulled of the internet, clipped from your favorite fitness magazine or read in the latest diet book, you might want to reconsider. Most weight loss programs measure success in terms of pounds lost. They seldom take into account the quality of the process or the sustainability of the results. Success at weight management is difficult, especially in the long term. If the process is unbearable, how long can you expect to keep it up for?
The same is true for for exercise. You cannot bombard your body with multiple weekly sessions at an intensity and duration that you’re not ready for. Once your willpower breaks from the strain and you quit, what will you have to show for your 4 weeks of hard work? Most likely you’ll acquire an even greater distaste for exercise ensuring another long year of inactivity. If you’ve also bought into the dieting mentality, this negative experience from exercise will likely be enough to sink your ship completely – and long before your journey has really begun.
A New Approach
Conventional weight loss programs that promote calorie restriction without maintenance should be replaced by health-oriented, lifestyle change programs. One that shifts attention toward attainable goals such as healthier eating, enjoyable physical activity and positive self-image. Many will still experience the physical changes they desire, but they must remain secondary to these primary objectives.
Instead of checking the scale for affirmation of your hard work, success can be measured with short term behavioral goals. Small changes that accumulate over time to eventually realize the long term goal of reducing health risks and improving your quality of life. Some examples of short term behavioral goals to consider are:
- reducing fat intake
- increasing activity levels with enjoyable activity
- eating breakfast
- drinking more water
- improving waist-to-hip ratio
- normalized eating
- decreasing reliance on medications
Whatever behavior goal you choose, don’t try to change too much at once. Your willpower isn’t that strong, trust me. Once the new behavior has been successfully implemented for a period of time, then introduce another. I’m sure you can see that over the course of several months you’ll be a much different person.
Physical activity should be introduced slowly. If you missed my post on exercise for beginners, check it out here for a detailed prescription. Even if you’re not a beginner, and have just been inactive for a while, take time to build your exercise tolerance back up to what it once was. Destroying your body with inappropriate exercise is not only unhealthy, it’s counter productive to your goals. If it hurts, don’t do it. If you get too sore, it’s too much. Manage your fitness well and you’ll have those unscrupulous gym owners scratching there heads wondering why you’re still there in February.
Hopefully you can now see that the process of weight change need not be an all or nothing ordeal. Obesity is the result of a complex interaction of medical, psychological, behavioral, social and cultural factors that varies greatly among individuals. Most weight management programs focus on weight, which makes these problems worse. They focus on the symptoms rather than the cause, creating more problems than it solves.
This year will be different for you.
That is if you take the time to set up a proper weight management program. One that reinforces lifestyle and education to promote self-reliance and where self-acceptance and the ability to nourish one’s self for health and energy, rather than weight loss, are the new goals. This is best way to be successful with your heath and fitness resolutions in 2013 and beyond. Happy New Year!
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