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Why Resolutions To Diet Or Lose Weight Don’t Work

Rockefellar Center, NYC

Every year, many of us, very many of us, resolve to shed pounds by dieting or exercising most days per week. We resolve to be rigid and strict with ourselves. We resolve to rein ourselves in.

Maybe we say we’re not eating any chocolate ever again. Or we’ll just have one dessert a week. And we’ll only skip a workout if we’re super sick.

Maybe we pick exercise that we don’t like very  much but know that it’s “guaranteed” to burn calories. Maybe we wake up before the sun comes up because an hour of exercise is supposedly superior to 30 minutes.

Resolutions get a bad rap. And I think it’s because for so many people, resolutions look like the above.

They’re filled with shoulds. And who looks forward to making resolutions that we don’t want to do in the first place? Or ones that we want to accomplish but don’t respect our bodies? Or ones that don’t dig deeper to discover what we truly want?

Recently, I wrote a piece for Psych Central about setting authentic resolutions. I had the pleasure of interviewing two amazing coaches: Rachel Cole and Joy Tanksley.

Today, I’d like to share their wise words with you, because they’re especially powerful.

According to Rachel, diet and weight-loss resolutions don’t work because:

: We can be healthy at a wide range of sizes and although, because of cultural messages we receive, we may want to be thinner our body may not agree. Despite popular belief, we can’t always force our body to lose weight and rarely can we do this long-term.

: We focus on the outcome rather than the path. If our goal is to lose weight, rather than move our body in ways that feel good, we can end up losing weight just by starving ourselves. We can end up ‘achieving’ our goal, but we may not end up at a sustainable healthy weight or feeling great.

: We attempt to find peace with our body and food by looking outside ourselves. No plan, prescription, regime, or set of rules can match the wisdom our body already has. Our body knows what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, when to stop eating, when to move, and when to rest. So many of us have lost touch with this innate wisdom so we grasp outside our self for the next great ‘promise’ of weight loss or a flat stomach. These don’t work because they override the truth of what is really needed moment to moment. And no matter how disconnected we have been from this knowing, every one of us can attune back to it for all the guidance we need.

: We ignore our true hungers. When we hunger for approval we hit the gym. When we hunger for love we give up carbs. When we hunger for more certainty in an uncertain world we sign up for weight watchers and get passes for Bikram Yoga classes. We must stop and look at what we’re really hungry for, whether it can be satisfied outside ourselves, and whether our resolutions can really satiate us in the ways that we desire.

According to Joy:

Resolutions that focus on rigid behavior changes (like diets) or very specific outcomes (like weight loss) are likely not coming from that core place within. The energy around these types of resolutions is almost always the energy of control and non-acceptance. Our hope is that we can use force, willpower, restraint, accountability, external motivation, etc. to create lasting change in our lives. And this just doesn’t work.

Lasting change comes from the opposite energy – the energy of letting go, accepting, opening, allowing, discovering. It comes from honoring our intuition, connecting to our essential selves, and ditching the whole idea of fixing ourselves.

Starting the year with a focus that is authentic and juicy and exciting can absolutely create magic in your life, but there’s really no magic to be found in setting a resolution because you feel like you “should.”

What resolutions are you making for 2012?

By the way, Rachel is hosting a tour of small workshops she’s calling “The Well-Fed Woman Mini-Retreatshop Tour,” which will “explore how you, as women, can feed your truest hungers and in turn live your fullest life.” She’d like readers to know that each Retreatshop will be intimate, powerful, and that there are only 15 spots per city, so get your tickets now!

Update: Here’s the article on the resolutions: creating authentic resolutions. Hope you like it!

Why Resolutions To Diet Or Lose Weight Don’t Work

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). Why Resolutions To Diet Or Lose Weight Don’t Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Apr 2016
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