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Why I'm Not Starting a New Diet this January

body image Dec 06, 2021
woman saying goobye to dieting

It’s that time of year again. With every scroll through our Facebook and Instagram feeds we get hit by resolutions and advice on all the ways we should do better, be better, and look better next year.

And just a few years ago, I would have been right there with them.

January provided me with an opportunity to reinvent myself. But not because I loved to challenge myself to continuously grow and become better, no — a blank slate offered me a chance to forget about all my past failures and completely start over.

You see, for the past 20 years, I used to start each year exactly the same way. Eat loads and party hard during the festive season, then launch myself right into a brand spanking new diet on the first day of the new year.

I loved starting new diets, as with every new diet came the hope that this one would be the one that finally would get me my dream body. A body I could finally feel confident in. A body so beautiful that once I had it, I would finally be able to start living my life exactly the way I wanted it to. Once I reached this ideal body, all my dreams would finally come true: I’d be successful, other people would compliment me, but more importantly… I’d finally be able to love and accept myself.

Come January 1st, I’d rid my cupboards of all the foods that weren’t “allowed” on my new food plan. I’d spend hours in the supermarket browsing for the perfect ingredients for my new lifestyle, and I’d be the first to sign up for my local gym’s “new year, new body” challenge. I was determined to make this year the year where I’d finally succeed.

Those first few days were usually pretty great: I’d work out, cook all my meals, and I’d start to feel pretty good about myself. However, the second week, as I returned to work, things would get a little bumpier.

Suddenly I had to figure out how to pre-cook all my meals at home or find take-out places around the office that would accommodate my new food requirements. But I’d persevere and make it work. I’d get up at 5.30 am​ to hit the gym before work, and would push through late into the night to get my meals prepped for the next day.

But then, we’d hit the third week.

Everything always fell apart​ in​ the third week.

A friend would invite me to a party. I’d have a stressful day at work. I’d sleep through my alarm. There was always something, a little curveball, to throw me off my game.

And before I knew it, I’d find myself in bed, surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers, trying to drown out my self-loathing voice by binge-watching​ the latest series of Grey’s Anatomy.

The next day, no matter how hard I tried to get back into my new diet routine, I just could never find that same level of motivation or willpower inside myself again.

And so, there we were. Yet again, I had failed my new year’s resolutions.

A few years ago, something shifted. After 20 years of getting off and on the diet bandwagon, alternating between super strict diets and 3-day I’ll-eat-everything-in-sight binges, it suddenly hit me:

“Maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe there’s more to this issue with food and weight than just the inability of sticking to a diet.”

That’s what kickstarted my journey of healing my relationship with food, my body, and myself.

The further I got into my recovery journey, the more I realised​ that starting every new year with impossible-to-follow resolutions and restrictions because of how much I hated my body, really only ever set me up for failure. And the only consistent result that dieting gave me, was weight gain.

So if you’re heading into 2022 thinking that you want next year to be different, then instead of doing the same thing you always do, it’s time to actually try something different!

Here are 3 tips to help you feel good about yourself next year:

1. Say goodbye to dieting

If you’ve spent your whole life yo-yo dieting, it’s easy to think that you just don’t have enough willpower or self-control to ever be successful. But what you may not realise, is that diets just don’t work (it’s not your fault, it’s them).

There are biological changes that occur in the body whenever we’re dieting that make it impossible for us to keep the weight off.

Long term, our metabolism slows down, causing us to hang onto fat for fuel (kind of the opposite of what we want to achieve, no?). We also become hungrier and more motivated to find food — which is why we get hit by those impossible-to-resist food cravings.

95% of people who lose weight on a diet will inevitably put it back on, and more. Which begs the question: if dieting really worked, why do we keep having to start over every year?

So next year, rather than getting on the diet bandwagon, shift your focus away from eating to look good towards eating in a way that makes you feel good. When we start to make food choices with our body rather than with our mind, healthy eating becomes much more sustainable long-term.

2. Embrace your body

I spent most of my life insulting my body on a daily basis, and it turns out I’m not alone. A 2014 survey by Glamour Magazine shows that 8 in 10 women feel bad about themselves each time they look in the mirror.

A huge turning point on my journey came when I decided to stop hating my body and learned to accept myself exactly as I am, flaws and all.

And against all expectations, accepting myself didn’t mean that I suddenly started to let myself go (which is something I had believed and feared for such a long time). Instead, the opposite happened — I actually started to look after myself more.

I started to eat better, dress better, I respected myself more, I had more appetite for life and as I started doing these things, I naturally started to feel more confident. Turns out, the only thing I ever needed to change to get my dream body and my dream life was to decide to embrace the body I already had — and you can do this too.

Instead of zeroing in on the parts of your body you don’t like, shift your focus towards the bits you do like. Write a list of all the things your body allows you to do. And ask yourself: “If I loved my body, how would I treat myself today?”

Before you know it, you’ll start to see yourself in a whole new light.

3. Become your own best friend again

When we don’t feel good in our own skin, it’s easy to beat ourselves up whenever we don’t get the results we want or eat something we didn’t plan to eat. We often say things to ourselves we wouldn’t ever dream to say to our worst enemy.

But imagine your best friend messaged you to say she totally lost control and had a massive chocolate binge last night. Would you tell her that she’s a “failure “ or a “disgusting, fat cow”?

No, right? You’d comfort her and try whatever you can to make her feel better about herself.

So then why don’t we do this for ourselves?

Ironically, those harsh, judgmental words we say to ourselves are often what spirals us into another bout of comfort eating, as we need to comfort ourselves from our own critical self-talk.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my healing journey, it’s that every negative behaviour has a positive intent. There is always a good reason why we reach for food — whether it’s to comfort ourselves because we lack the tools to cope with our emotions in a healthy way, or whether it’s to drown out the negative voice in our head so we can feel better about ourselves, even just for a few moments.

Perhaps in 2022, rather than beating yourselves up over each and every thing you think you shouldn’t be doing, why not be a bit more compassionate towards yourself and become curious about why you’re doing it.

By letting go of the quick fixes and healing the root cause instead, this really could be the year that you put an end to your lifelong struggle with food and weight once and for all!