Weight Loss and New Year’s Resolutions: Harmful?

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The beginning of a new year brings discussions and statements of weigh loss resolutions—firm, determined statements of how we can be “better” in the upcoming 365 days.  Eat more vegetables, less sugar, go to the gym every single day of every single week… These goals have good intentions, of course.  Processed sweets may not be ideal choices and more nutrients are always a good idea, but resolutions can also bring the idea that one must be perfect in sticking to them.  Eating one doughnut can derail the purest of intentions in an instant, those little evil voices overpowering every bit of rationality and reason.  You already ruined everything anyway. Might as well eat a dozen doughnuts.  And a whole pizza.  And five thousand pieces of chocolate.  New Year’s resolutions can be a downfall for perfectionists, so sometimes it’s better to be a bit more relaxed when setting goals.

Don’t get me wrong—many people do well with a nice list of new practices to stick to in the new year.  For many people, dieting and strict exercise routines can have negative results.  Food rules can put many innocent people into a restrictive box that feels like a prison.  It transforms carefree lives into war zones where carbs and fat are the enemies. It’s wonderful to have goals to become a healthier person, but making those goals be primarily about weight loss can be damaging.  The mind needs to be healthy as well, and a healthy relationship with food includes the ability to eat without guilt or a great focus on numbers.  Kale is wonderful, oatmeal is incredible… but chocolate’s pretty wonderful, too.  When given the permission to eat the less nutritious but really enjoyable food in life, it becomes so much easier to eat healthier most of the time.

What does this mean for those with a goal of weight loss?  It’s often thought to be too difficult to lose weight without strict caloric guidelines, but they can often lead to binge eating and unhappiness.  What’s one to do in the midst of a society so set on juice fasting and calorie counting beginning January 1st?

Weight loss is greatly psychological, so it can be useful to focus on adding certain foods into your diet such as green, leafy vegetables, healthy fats such as avocados, and other more nutritious foods. Focusing only on eliminating certain foods and what you “shouldn’t” eat only makes weight loss harder to achieve and maintain.  It isn’t necessary to eliminate any particular food, but focusing on what you are able to eat a lot of reduces the chances of abandoning the idea of living a healthier lifestyle altogether.  Sure, the weight loss may be slightly slower than one would prefer, but it will last much longer than any weight lost due to a strict diet would.

New Year’s resolutions that are primarily about weight-loss can create a restrictive mindset.  This can often lead to self-sabotage, which leaves you in worse shape than before. You can adopt a healthier way of life without losing your mind and having a negative relationship with food.  Allowing yourself to have more freedom around what you eat while still making sure to focus more heavily on nutrient dense foods can lead to the same results as being extremely strict with your diet.  While it may take slightly longer to achieve, it will be much more enjoyable and long-lasting.