Most of us are tempted to go all out in January. December adds up; the wine, the beers, the heavy dinners, the mince pies, the stuffing. And the health and fitness industry knows this! January is the time when all the plans, the deals, the promises all get rolled out. And there is often a common thread running through it all: go hard or go home.
But maybe this year you should consider a different approach with your diet. Why? Because research consistently shows that the ‘black-or-white’, ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to nutrition constantly backfires on people, with the result that when we eat something that isn’t ‘on our diet’ or ‘on our plan’, we often just go to town on the box of cookies.
This is known as disinhibited eating, and it is a predictable response to an approach to diet known as restrained eating. In plain terms, disinhibited eating is where we have set up a diet with rules and restrictions, and when we deviate outside those rules we think ‘oh well, I’ve ruined my whole day now so I’ll start again tomorrow…but before tomorrow I’m gonna eat eeeeeeverything’.
This mindset has consistently been shown in research to lead people to regain weight after a diet, and to fall into cycles of bingeing. Unfortunately, what tends to happen following a bingeing episode is that we try to restrict calories even more the next day, but this can become a vicious cycle.
Interestingly, there is another type of dieter in research. This one understands that there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food, and that food doesn’t have a moral value. They might have a cheesecake while they’re out for coffee, and maybe won’t be as hungry at dinner after it so will have a lighter dinner. They pay attention to being full, and make checks and balances here and there based on what they’ve eaten. And research also shows these types of people have better long-term weight management, and a better relationship with food.
So, maybe 2019 is the year you buck the trend and reject the black-or-white approach to your diet. It doesn’t work, for anyone. And over the long-term, our relationship with food is so important – and undervalued. Move away from the all-or-nothing approach, and realise that no food is inherently bad, and no food inherently good: it’s your total diet that matters, and it’s the average over time that counts. Although it is a cliché, your health and fitness is literally what you do 80-90% of the time that counts.
This should be a guiding principle as it relates to food and nutrition: rules don’t bend, they break. Ironically to what you may have heard before, the less rules you have the better. A healthy relationship with food is also a healthy relationship with your self, and your body. Makes them the priority in 2019.