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Don’t start a diet this Christmas—period. I genuinely feel quite strongly about this. It’s not a good idea.
The temperatures really pumped up this week and they’re here to stay. The temptation, as we bare our legs and arms, is to try the latest detox, cleanse, 12-week diet or clean eating plan to shed our excess kilos and become ‘bikini body’ ready.
Maybe you’ve been on and off the diet wagon all year and the pressure of less clothing or seeing family you haven’t caught up with in a while is making you feel antsy to rid yourself of the excess weight.
I know. I feel the exact same pressure.
Despite being a healthy weight, I still stood in front of the mirror last week, in my short shorts and singlet, and thought: “Could I be leaner? Are they little rolls of fat sticking out from under my bra? Maybe I should start running a little more and get a little stricter with my food.”
I then swapped my short shorts for jeans and chose a looser fitting top. I mean tight clothes are reserved for the aesthetically elite humans are they not? (Please note my sarcasm—wear whatever you want.)
Years ago, I used to use this emotional pressure to market to potential clients.
I’d use slogans like: “Time to work on your summer body!” or “You could lose six kilos by Christmas!”
That emotional sense of urgency is what marketers use to entice you to buy their products. It’s sales psychology and we’re bombarded with it every day.
Pictures of beautiful, flawless women in activewear, laughing while they eat salad, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lengths that marketers will go to get you to buy their superfood powder, juice, organic whole food or supplement.
There’s a problem with this marketing message of ‘prepping our bodies for summer’. Our southern hemisphere summer coincides with Christmas. Which isn’t just one day, it’s a four to six-week-long season.
The season of eating, drinking and generally being more merry (or stressed) than usual.
Let me be frank. It’s difficult to ‘shred fat’ and be merry. It just is.
You may take the greatest fat blasting supplement around but if you’re downing a couple of champers a few nights a week with canapes, BBQs and Aunty Jean’s leftover trifle for breakfast, you’re going to find it difficult to get the results you’re after.
What many people fail to realise when they embark on a diet to lose weight is that a strict dietary pattern is nearly always followed by a period of overeating.
Recent studies have actually indicated that weight regain is not just about a decrease in your metabolism due to weight loss (which does happen a little bit) but is more to do with your body’s appetite hormones not returning to normal levels. They stay high, driving you to eat more and put all your weight back on again. Dang it body! Why would you do that?!
Combine a high appetite with our sedentary lifestyles of sitting on our butts all day, the fact that high energy food is easy to access and the mindless eating that occurs as we go about our busy lives and it’s no wonder weight loss and specifically weight maintenance is so bloody hard.
If you want to diet this summer, don’t bother. Here are six reasons why:
You’ll get FOMO (fear of missing out)
You’ll cut out sugar, alcohol and some of you will cut out carbs. Then you’ll be sad and you’ll hate that you’re missing out on pavlova, eggnog and roast potatoes.
Then you’ll go crazy eating too much of those foods and feel sad that you feel so sick.
Be balanced. Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
Remember YOLO (you only live once)
At the risk of sounding clichéd, you only get this body once. You only live this life once.
So feed your body in a way that keeps it healthy and strong but don’t forget to enjoy the good things in life. It’s a balance.
A 10-day cleanse after Boxing Day will not be enjoyable and I’d argue whether it’s even healthy at all.
Fitspo (fitness inspiration) is empty motivation
The desire to diet is often fuelled by images with this hashtag.
Images of flawless women and men (in great lighting and shot by talented photographers) can make you feel inadequate.
This puts the pressure on to diet, but then the feeling of never being able to measure up can fuel self-sabotaging behaviour and leave you disheartened and frustrated.
No dieting. No fitspo. Just be you! Be the healthiest, most active version of yourself. No comparisons.
#cleaneating doesn’t mean anything
This phrase frustrates me because it’s so hard to figure out what makes a food clean and what makes it unclean.
The other day someone told me that broccoli (a very healthy food) could be unclean because it had too much pesticide (our food standards are very high and pesticide residues are very low). I don’t want to live in a world where broccoli is not a clean food.
I’m so confused. Who is the master of #cleaneating and makes these decisions? There’s so much contradictory information online and I’ve noticed that the more people read on the topic the more anxious and stressed they seem to become.
They cut out more and more foods, becoming more and more restrictive. If this is you, come Christmas Day, all you’ll be able to eat is the steamed green beans from the roast dinner and even then…
Are they organic? Where did they come from? Have they been cooked right? Do your best to make healthy choices but in the end, you have to let it go and just ENJOY YOUR LIFE!
You won’t laugh much
They say that food is thy medicine, which is true, but an old biblical proverb says that “laughter does good like a medicine.”
Dieting often makes people socially isolated. If they can’t control the food in social situations many people just avoid them altogether. All dieting and no wine makes Jackie a dull girl.
You’ve got to connect with your loved ones. Research into the healthiest people in the world shows that a key part of their life is meaningful and ongoing social connection. Find a way to engage, connect, laugh and manage your food.
You’ll get hangry
Ok, let’s say you’re dieting in December. Essentially, that means you’re hungry and there’s food everywhere. Then, let’s just say that your mum nominates your place for your weird Uncle Kevin to stay over the Christmas week.
Negative emotion + bountiful amounts of delicious foods + hunger = the recipe for an over-eating disaster.
Sweet, fatty, salty, delicious foods drive your body to overeat, especially when dieting, because from a survival perspective your body thinks it’s in a famine and that this may be its last meal for a while.
If you truly were in a famine and you weren’t going to get adequate food for a prolonged amount of time, then you eat that whole box of scorched almonds. Ok? Just get them on down there.
Instead of dieting this summer, go into the season with a long-term perspective.
Christmas is going to come every year for the rest of your life, why not learn to manage it as part of your life and the whole year-round, rather than trying to fight it so extremely, because you feel the pressure of summer and beach weather?
If you’re unhappy with your weight approach this season sensibly so you don’t swing between the two extremes of strict dieting and crazy overeating.
Balance and moderation are not eating whatever you want
It’s learning what’s appropriate to eat for you and your body.
Let’s say you have two Christmas parties in one week. You eat well at your other meals. Lots of vegetables. Snacking on fruit and other whole foods. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods.
Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and—most of all—enjoy time with the people you do life with! Laugh, dance, tell jokes, sit in a corner and have a D&M (that’s what I do at parties).
Health is the accumulation of the small habits you repeat daily.
Like eating lots of vegetables. Grabbing some fruit to snack on. Choosing some unprocessed meat, chicken or fish for protein (if you eat them) at your meals and aiming to build the majority of your diet out of whole foods.
And with everything you eat, whether healthy or not: enjoy every mouthful. Savour it and eat it slowly. Eat it with friends and laugh lots.
Don’t sweat the small stuff! Eat to live—don’t live to eat!