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Reasons not to diet this January

  • Published in Trends
No Diet WEB
Illustration by Rob Jameson (see more from him here)

So it's the New Year and our media has once more become saturated with the usual messages about how now is the prime time to work on 'the new you'. In our weight-obsessed society, this usually translates into headlines promising to help you lose the added Christmas pounds if you spend your pounds to buy their magazine. Of course they're not playing on your insecurities to sell to you, they're honestly concerned with your health and making you a more rounded (but not literally) person, the type you've always been taught to aspire to be.

My main issue with the post-festive fast is the way it's enforced upon us. I have nothing against the idea of anyone adapting their eating habits if they're feeling unhealthy. What I don't agree with is being made to feel that unless I put my cake down at exactly 00:01am on January 1st then I'm a failure, and that my inability to stop eating will continue to haunt me for the next 365 days. Like a really twisted version of the old fairy tale, Cinderella, it seems like the sound of midnight now signifies the end of festivities, and the time to convert from indulgence to restriction. Yet in this story, the sad truth is that there is no wicked step mother imposing this starvation: rather, it is something we have learnt to inflict upon ourselves in order to appear in control of our lives - ironic?

So, in an act of diet defiance I've constructed a list of reasons not to this January:

  1. It's bloody freezing. No one is going to notice your hard work under all those layers anyway, so there is just no point. Not to mention the fact that the dark days are already a downer for our moods and that adding a major sugar crash into your life right now will not make you happy, or anyone you come into contact with.

  2. Fad diets, for example, the baby food diet (?!), are dangerous for your body and don't work in the long run. You will literally be left fighting your cravings, and there will be times when you lose and then end up feeling like shit. There is no outcome here where you win.

  3. Starting a diet just because it's a New Year is simply not a strong enough motivation to ensure your restraint when offered chocolate. If at some point something does trigger you to lose some pounds in order to get into shape, it's probably going to come from you, and it'll be this will power that will be necessary to ensure your bad habits actually change and are not just repressed.

  4. The idea of bettering yourself should not be something associated with becoming thinner. So if you really do like the idea of a New Year's resolution, you could always focus your motivation for self improvement on something that will add to your life. You could start by learning a new language, or even doing something as little as reading a new book. These things will strengthen your mind rather than weakening your body.

Finally, if I haven't managed to convince you that the January diet is so last year, or you've already ordered enough puréed carrot to feed an entire nursery, then I just ask you to remember one thing: giving in, or giving up, at any point does not make you a loser - it makes you human.