Seeing that it is the start of a new year–as an eating disorders therapist–I feel that it is my duty to remind you not to go on a diet; no matter how strong the temptation. The fact is that we tend to forgo self-care over the holiday season and come January 1, this becomes all-too-apparent when we find ourselves standing naked in front of a full-length mirror disgusted at the reflection staring back at us. The majority of us tend to overdo the festivities over the holidays and loosen our reign on eating healthful foods in reasonable portions, and often let exercise go out the window as well.
Many of my clients’ stories post-holidays, having endured less-than-enjoyable family get-togethers and endless obligatory holiday parties are truly grim. Many tell me that the only way they found to get through one dutiful holiday obligation after the next was to stuff their faces full of Christmas baking and booze. No judgement here- I can totally relate and understand deeply that oftentimes, screaming obscenities at your creepy uncle across the dinner table or telling your obnoxious coworker what you really think of him/her at the office Christmas party is generally frowned upon and can have major ramifications later on.
However, when you find you have the proverbial ‘muffin top’ around your middle and you are certain it’s not a child’s swimming toy, and is in fact, made up of pure 100% fat, the answer is not to go on the latest fad diet to get rid of it. If you’re still not convinced, read the rest of this article and then make up your mind.
Here’s the first fact I want you to roll around in your head:
Fact #1: Dieting makes you gain weight in the end: 95% of dieters regain all the weight lost plus add a few extra pounds each time they diet.
I recently found an excellent article on this topic, which also outlines specific health risks of chronic dieting.
Fact #2: Dieting Leads to Eating Disorders
Dieting can become habit-forming and if you think that sounds like hyperbole, consider some the stats that I outline in my book, It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide to Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies:
- At least 50% of young girls in Canada begin dieting before the age of nine: 81% of 10-year olds diet and at least 46% of 9-year-olds restrict eating.
- The fear of fat is so overwhelming that young girls have indicated in surveys that they are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents.
- Eating disorders are now the third most common chronic illness in adolescent girls and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Esther’s Top Five Reasons for Giving Up Dieting (any time of the year!):
#1: Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of well-being that will last a lifetime.
#2: Diets are expensive. If you didn’t buy special diet products, you could save enough to get new clothes, which would improve your outlook right now.
#3: Diets are not sexy and they don’t make you beautiful. If you want to be more attractive, take care of your body and your appearance. Feeling healthy makes you look your best. Remember this: 98% of women are not built like fashion models and come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the majority of these women are not thin.
#4: Diets are boring. People on diets talk and think about food and practically nothing else. There’s a lot more to life than food.
#5: Diets can turn into life-threatening eating disorders. The obsession to be thin can lead to anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, and compulsive exercising.