September is synonymous with WHSmith’s pencil cases and WHSmith’s. These trips were a favorite of mine with my Mum. These days, I secretly plan a trip with my Mum to look at the stationery. It’s great to feel new beginnings and the freshness that they bring. Like the ebb & flow of the school year, dieting can also be a seasonal phenomenon. Do you notice that there are times in the year when you are more likely to die? Are you a seasonal eater?
Sometimes, getting ‘beach body ready” is a trigger. It may be followed by a slight relief that autumn calls to add layers. Around Christmas, there is often a revival. Our seasonal dieter mode switches on and we are urged to feel great in our party clothes.
January is, of course, the mother of all beginnings. We may feel a little more energetic around springtime when we have warmer temperatures and longer nights. Then it’s back to summer.
Researchers in behavioral psychology have discovered that using markers like Mondays or New Year allows us to draw a line and let go of regret. To help us move on, we can think of regret as mental accounting.
I find it sad that dieting is often associated with regret as we abandon yet another diet plan. It’s not easy to end a diet. You could also explore what it might look like to stop feeling stuck in the same cycle. It could be possible to design your own wagon that will keep you safe and healthy for the rest of your life, rather than feeling trapped and stuck in a cycle.
These are the steps that will get you started.
Step 1: Give yourself permission not to start a new project
Use September to take a deep breath.
However, don’t have to start a new project. Instead, use this opportunity to see what’s important. Many diets encourage you to put off the difficult stuff and promise that they will do all the work. They haven’t. They will keep all the important stuff. Sometimes, you have to accept the discomfort in order to move forward.
Step 2: Stop being mean to yourself
It is funny how children learn to use kind words. When they are harsh on themselves, we rush to show compassion. We reprimand ourselves in order to encourage ourselves to adopt new habits. Negative self-talk can be so subtle that we don’t even realize we are doing it. Listen. What are you saying every day to yourself? Research has shown that self-compassion is a key ingredient in achieving health-promoting behaviors.
Step 3: Keep your focus on your body weight
Weight loss is a key focus of dieting. You are required to weigh yourself every day. I’ve seen thousands of women whose bodies were smaller due to a strict diet and chronic under-fuelling. This has led to poor mental health and poor quality of life, and it was not sustainable. You are allowed to alter your body shape or size, but it is counterproductive to put this goal at the center of everything.
Studies have shown that repeated dieting can lead to a lower quality of life. Obsession with tracking things leads to anxiety, lethargy, and irritability. It doesn’t make us better off just because we have the ability to keep track of everything. Apps have provided answers to questions that weren’t being asked. It is interesting to see WW’s new branding emphasize the tracking of other wellbeing parameters in order to focus on weight. However, extensive tracking of any parameter is exhausting and not empowering. My Fitness Pal is a popular tool for individuals who have disordered eating or are in relationships with people who eat poorly.
Step 4 – Plan when you can
Instead of trying to sweep all daily problems under the rug and hoping you can get through the day without any trouble, consider the pressure points throughout the week. What happens when it all turns to custard. You can win by planning ahead. If I am feeling hungry after work, I will make sure to eat something that I can take with me the next day. This will reduce the amount of food I have to eat when I get home from work or finish off leftovers for the kids. It’s a great way of forming new habits by focusing on specific portions of the week. We can have it all, and it will arrive tomorrow at 10 p.m. according to the ‘buy now’ button culture.
The neural pathways of our brains don’t work in the same way when it comes to behavior modification. You can accept the harsh truth of this and build your own wagon. If you design it, it will be yours forever.
Finally, if you have reached the point that you aren’t getting results from your diet and want to stop following seasonal dieter patterns, but lack the confidence or clarity to know what to do instead, then you can join my Break Up with Dieting Course which starts in September. You might be the one to get it.