As the New Year approaches, the siren song of the dieting and cosmetic fitness industries are at their loudest. People working to heal their relationship with food and body can feel tempted by all of these hope-filled commercials that say “it can be different this time.” So here are 10 reasons to choose NOT to focus on your weight in the New Year:
1. It likely won’t be different this time, and this is not your fault. Diets fail because they do not work sustainably over time. They, by design, give rise to perfectionism and promote superhuman expectations. They lead to distrust of our own strength and personal power when they fail. Dieting supports a cultural illusion that weight loss leads to happiness and health. Honestly, for most people, weight loss just tends to lead to m ore worry about weight re-gain. We love what Anne Lamott has to say about her experience with this:
“We have to talk. I know you are planning to start a diet next Thursday. I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, “Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”
2. When your diet fails and disappoints, you can end up in a cycle of self-blame, comparison and disconnection from yourself. The personal stress generated from a lack of self-love can seep into every part of your life and affect your overall sense of competence. It’s insidious. The dieting mind causes stress, cruel inner dialogue, and pain. Let’s vow to blame the diets this time, yes?
3. Your body is not a problem to be solved. Your body is your home and regarding it as separate, problematic or disgusting can result in a type of detachment that interferes with your ability to hear its valuable messages to you. You need your body. It does not lie. You are in it for this lifetime and trusting your body is your birthright.
4. The most consistent effect of weight loss at two years is weight gain (Mann et al, 2007). Really. Most dieters regain what they lose plus more. It’s not just you. And it might be helpful to know that weight cycling is more harmful to your health than weight stability, even if your stable weight is a higher body weight. (Tylka et al., Journal of Obesity, 2014)
5. The diet mentality involves disregarding our emotional well being in order to reach a goal of becoming smaller in size. We don’t often notice that when we believe “thinner is better”, we are disparaging the beauty, worth and inherent human value that comes in people of all sizes. Hating on our bodies and only conditionally loving ourselves inadvertently supports a limited set of acceptable ideals that have been established by industries that want to sell you stuff. Until we shift our focus, we will pass on the harm, disregard and limited living dieting promotes to those who come after us. We are the ones who can change this.
6. Dieting follows a predictable cycle of initial enthusiasm and excitement (the honeymoon phase), followed by hunger, worry and fear, falling off of it, getting mad at yourself and trying again. This cycle will not be broken or finished when weight loss is achieved. In fact, rarely does any amount of weight loss feel like “enough”. The only way out of the dieting cycle is to approach your self with the kindness and respect you would for anyone who has struggled and incurred harm as a result. It is from this place of acknowledgement that you can heal and move forward.
7. The weight-loss struggle is not a way to “take care of yourself”. Chronic stress influences your health. Feeling dissatisfied in your body supports a state of being that is not holistically health-promoting. The fat shaming that is rampant in our culture places blame on people and their health behaviors as the primary cause of having a larger body size, while leaving out all the other factors that influence weight and health. It seems likely that the internalization of negligent body shaming could play a role here too, don’t you think?
8. Watching your calories and restricting food is not equated with the pursuit of health either, but is commonly associated with disordered eating. (And this occurs in bodies of all sizes.) Our bodies are powerful regulators and clear communicators when we are accustomed to listening. We can learn to trust our true hunger and fullness as a guide and learn to get out of our own way. Reclaiming trust in our body returns us to sheer apprecia tion and respect for all the ways bodies show up for us every day, regardless of how we treat them. Can you allow yourself to take in the solemn and beautiful truth that your heart is beating just for you?
9. Many of the co-morbidities commonly associated with larger body sizes can be improved without a change in BMI, but with a focus on healthy eating, joyful movement and stress reduction. Makes sense, doesn’t it? A simple change in focus from dieting for weight loss to compassionate, weight neutral self-care is powerful.
10. Close to 40% of New Year’s resolutions pertain to weight loss, which means a whole lot of money (billions) is going to an industry that has no data to support it! They depend on repeat customers. And you know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results! So this year, we encourage you to try different instead of harder, because we’re pretty sure you’ve tried harder at this than almost anything in your life. There is a way out, and you won’t find it in the weight loss and cosmetic fitness industries. You’ll find it when you give up the scale and come home to yourself.
In 2015, consider taking care of your body from the inside out, instead of the outside in. You will feel better and your body will too. Put thoughts about your weight on the back burner and focus on good self-care and living the life you want to be living. It is radical to think you can move towards health by being weight-neutral and compassionate with your body, but doesn’t it make the most sense?
If you want to invest in yourself this year instead of the weight loss and cosmetic fitness industries, we can help. Register for our free New Year email course (registration closes 12/31) here. We also offer regular inspiration for connecting with the whole you on Facebook and Pinterest.
Wishing you a New Year filled with peace, kindness and self-compassion.