Don’t Start the New Year with a Diet

This will be a short and simple blog post, and the message is simply what is stated in the title. It’s the New Year, and you’ll of course see that people are going on diets; you’ll see weight loss heavily marketed as a goal you “should” have.

I’m here to tell you that it should not be your goal as you welcome 2017.

Having goals of becoming healthier by nourishing yourself well, becoming stronger or more energetic by incorporating enjoyable activity into your life are fine goals to work toward at any time of year. But please do not fall into the temptation to try to lose weight fast with a restrictive, calorie-deprivation diet.

Whether you are trying to recover from binge eating or you are newly recovered, going on a restrictive diet is a risk not worth taking. The body and brain have survival mechanisms that kick into gear when you deprive yourself of enough food, which will harm your chances of stopping binge eating for good, and prevent you from developing a healthy relationship with food.  A deprivation diet will make it extremely difficult to dismiss urges to binge and make it highly unlikely that those urges will go away.

Even if you haven’t binged in a very long time and you are confident in your recovery, quick weight loss through dieting should still not be your focus. Recovery opens up your time and energy, and you can use that time and energy to do so much good.  Why use it to focus on your weight and dieting?  There is simply no need to turn your attention there when there are so many important things you could focus on now that you have freedom from binge eating.

If you aren’t happy with your body, or you think weight loss would benefit your health, dieting is not a solution. I’ve talked in previous blog posts about healthy ways to think about weight and approach weight regulation (see Weight after Recovery, What if Stopping Binge Eating Means Possible Weight Gain, and So, How Do I Lose Weight?). To be effective, managing and maintaining a healthy weight for your unique body must be done in a natural, sustainable way.  Don’t be tempted to try to get results fast.

Even if you could somehow manage to get fast results, ask yourself: “…and then what?” No one can maintain restrictive diets for long, which is why dieting has a 95 percent failure rate. With those odds against you, attempting to start your New Year with a diet is extremely short-sighted, both for the rest of the year, and for your life as a whole. Even if you could lose weight temporarily, you’d have a slower metabolism and stronger hunger at the end of the process (two factors that make long-term healthy weight maintenance nearly impossible); and if you are a binge eater, a diet will only fuel your destructive habit.

Learning to stop binge eating, nourish your body, honor your hunger and fullness, and accept your natural weight is giving yourself a gift that will last a lifetime. Don’t fall for a ‘quick fix’ that may last for the first three weeks of the year and then cause much more harm than good. Dieting is not a solution, it’s a path to more problems.