New Year’s Resolutions give us goals to work toward during the year, whether they are related to personal growth, work aspirations, or – more commonly – health & weight loss ideals.
We find ourselves starting each year hoping we can finally attain our “best” weight, size, fitness level, etc.
But, of course, you know at least one-third of us abandon our health-related New Year resolutions by the end of January. And for good reason – diets and rigid exercise regimens are simply not sustainable for many of us.
This year, we urge you to break the pattern and resist the urge to start another diet. Overcome the temptation, caused by countless messages everywhere we turn that encourage us to diet if we feel our weight is a problem.
Awarded for the last 27 years, the “Slim Chance Awards” are intended to increase awareness that weight loss diets and schemes usually result in weight gain and, often, poorer health.
According to an independent panel of experts, here are the types of approaches that you really want to watch out for.
The Worst Weight Loss Schemes of 2015
Restrictive Eating Regimens
Remember, if a plan or program advises what to eat to lose weight, it’s a diet, no matter what they say. And diets don’t work.
“While most restrictive eating regimens will result in short-term weight loss, in the long run, most people experience deprivation, cravings, guilt, and weight-cycling (a process I call ‘the eat-repent-repeat cycle’).
If you can’t imagine following the regimen for the rest of your life, don’t bother doing it for even a day!” explains panel member Michelle May, MD, CSP & founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training.
“Many people today say they don’t diet, but they do (try to) follow rules about what’s good to eat and what’s not, how much you ‘should’ eat at any one time, and when to eat,” explains Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD & co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s retreat for healthy weight & well-being in Ludlow, VT. “That’s dieting, too, and regardless what you call it, the thinking sets you up for weight gain.”
There’s research to back this up, too. Hudnall writes, “Using national survey data of almost 9,000 people, researchers found that the odds for becoming obese* increased according to the number of times you diet.”
Included in this category are eating regimens that encourage you to fast (even “intermittently”). Fasting includes everything from going without food completely to juice fasts that supply very few calories on a daily basis.
“[Fasting] for weight loss is an unsustainable approach that leads to alternating days of undereating and overeating.” May continues, “Your energy and attention are better invested in finding balance every day.”
When a celebrity publicly endorses a product, a way of eating, or an exercise regimen in exchange for some kind of pay-off, can we really trust them?
“Public figures… have such a tremendous influence on people of all ages,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, who runs a weight neutral nutrition counseling practice in Washington, DC.
Hudnall adds, “Before you believe endorsements made by anyone, look at their credentials. Do they have the professional expertise to make the recommendations they do, or is their recommendation based on their personal success at losing weight?
Remember, most weight loss plans do work temporarily. But long term, people usually end up gaining weight instead.”
Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that dietary supplements caused over 20,000 emergency room visits this year, primarily by young adults taking supplements for weight loss and an energy boost. These include pills and powders that contain various herbal ingredients as well as substances like caffeine.
Panel member Katja Rowell, MD, childhood feeding specialist, sums up the weight loss supplement industry clearly and concisely: “Charlatans making money and putting people at risk.”
Hudnall agreed, saying that “weight loss supplements seem to offer an easy way out for people who struggle with weight. But as this study shows, they may really be offering health problems, not solutions.”
Compulsive Tracking Apps & Devices
These systems track the foods users eat and exercise – including “steps” – they do in a day.
“While awareness is helpful, the countless devices, apps, and other tools on the market for consumers to track their food, nutrition, calories, and activity tend to keep people obsessed with what they eat and how much they exercise,” says May.
She continues, “[When] these diet and activity trackers are misused, they contribute to guilt, disordered eating, orthorexia, compulsive exercising… For some people, there’s no harm in it but an important question to ask yourself: ‘Is tracking all of these numbers making my life bigger or smaller?’”
“Can’t we just enjoy our exercise and daily activities without having to micromanage and examine every aspect about them under a microscope?” adds Scritchfield.
School-Based Obesity Prevention Curricula
This year marks a new focus for the Slim Chance Awards by taking a close look at the types of plans and programs targeting children, the most vulnerable people in our society.
The judges pinpoint the growing prevalence of school curricula designed to “prevent obesity” by teaching concepts such as good and bad foods, regular weigh-ins and the like.
Hudnall says, “These programs are more likely to cause eating problems than help children stay healthy. They also often target larger bodied children, which not only singles them out in a harmful way, but also ignores the need for all children, regardless of size, to learn how to eat in a way that supports their health and well-being.”
Rowell says, “It’s scare-mongering to young children and setting them up for a relationship with food defined by fear and avoidance”.
Scritchfield continues, “As a mother of two daughters I strive to raise my girls to know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. My hope is for them to grow up in a society that embraces health at every size, where there are no forbidden foods and they are able to love their bodies for what they do, not the number on the scale.”
The Slim Chance Awards are part of Healthy Weight Week, scheduled for January 18-22 this year.
Stay tuned for a list of activities to be announced next week and join us to for a look at how you can put weight loss schemes behind you and set the fundamental elements of healthy living in place in your life for the long term.
Join us for a healthy new view free of food fears, punishing exercise and negative thoughts about your body!