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This January it’s time to finally recognise that the diet is dead: Four things you must do instead to achieve your goal in 2017. Successful weight loss is not about what you eat, but why and how you eat.   

Studies show that up to 80% of women are on a diet or think they should be: This represents chronic dissatisfaction. Alarmingly, recent research from UCLA looked at a number of dietary interventions and discovered that most dieters gain back almost all their weight and potentially more! So the most likely outcome from being on a diet is to put on more weight than when you started. In fact, recent neuroscientific research has established that our bodies actually resist weight loss. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense as there were often long periods when food was scarce. So our ancestors survival depended on conserving energy and regaining weight when food was available to protect them against food shortages in the future.

So jumping on the January diet bandwagon is actually counter-productive!

This year, instead of trying the latest fad diet, do yourself a favour and try something more enjoyable and sustainable.

#1. Enjoy your food:

70% of all diseases can be prevented with healthy eating. Our modern diet is comprised mostly of highly processed food which our body can’t digest properly. The key to a happy, healthy body inside and out is to eat good quality food and avoid processed foods stuffed with chemicals. Your skin, nails, and hair will glow; you will lose weight and your doctor will thank you! We now know that fat free and low in fat only means high in additives, sugar and flavourings. Stop buying anything that has ingredients you don’t recognise or can’t pronounce. As you start to eat good quality food that tastes amazing you will find that you need less of it to feel fuller for longer. So eat what you want and enjoy it.

#2 Eat intuitively:

By that I mean, eat what you want, but you must feel hungry when you decide to eat.

Food is delicious fuel, so wait until you start to actually feel hungry before you eat. Use the hunger scale as a guide, you should aim to eat when you feel hungry or slightly hungry and stop when you feel pleasantly satisfied. Sit down at the table, be present in the moment, and focus on the food you are eating. Take the time to smell it, anticipate it, savour it, chew each mouthful. We are so used to gobbling down food that we don’t give our bodies time to recognise we are full.

#3. Rethink portion size:

There is no need to eat everything on your plate! Especially when eating store-bought portions or eating out. We tend to ingest far more food than we need to based on commercial portion sizes. I encourage you to shrink the size of your plate; use a side plate, a small cup, glass, and bowl. Remember you can always go back for more. Eat what you want, but listen to your body and when you have had enough, stop eating! This is a muscle that we need to exercise to develop, as we have long lost the art of eating until we are full and instead eat until there is nothing left.

#4. Change your story

People who view themselves as overweight are more likely to act in line with that image and make unhelpful decisions around food. We need to start ‘thinking thin.’ In doing so, our behaviours will align with our thoughts. For too long we have focused on the physiological when it comes to weight loss and neglected the psychological. Many people struggle to lose weight because of their own personal story and the limiting beliefs that they carry with them. Once you begin to approach weight loss in this new, more enjoyable way, you will shift the weight and maintain a healthy body size.

I encourage you to acknowledge that the diet is dead. Start to challenge the limiting beliefs that weight loss is difficult. Start to enjoy food and flavours. So many of us spend far too long feeling unhappy with our bodies. It’s time to start taking action now and recognise that weight loss is not about what you eat but why and how you eat, so that you can enjoy a healthy body inside and out.

Karina Melvin BSc. Psych., MSc. Clinical Psych., is a psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist based in Sandymount Psychotherapy, Dublin. She runs an online course Artful Eating: the psychology of lasting weight loss, which helps people achieve a balanced relationship with food and their body. Weight loss is a joyous consequence!