The countdown is on…both to Christmas and the ever popular New Year obsession with weight loss.  Through a series of quotes and proverbs, we’ll take a look at the wisdom of dieting, and build a case for a non-diet approach. 

December 1: There was only one occasion in my life when I put myself on a strict diet…and it was the most miserable afternoon I’ve ever spent (Denis Norden) 

What Denis lacks in perseverance, he makes up for in insight!

December 2: We learn from history that men never learn anything from history (Hegel)

How many times have you dieted, lost weight, regained it, but returned to that same diet even though it didn’t lead to lasting weight loss last time? Start learning from history!

December 3: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin)

Do you give up on food control in December and surrender to weight gain, telling yourself you’ll deal with it in January?  Well you could do that, or you could eat the foods you want to eat and use the principles of fullness and satisfaction to guide quantity.  Yes, this is initially difficult for those with an ‘on diet/off diet’ mentality, but try it.  What have you got to lose?!

December 4: Enough is as good as a feast (Joshua Sylvester)

Have you ever had an enormous plate of food in front of you and thought “I’m not going to let this beat me!”  The Christmas turkey is already dead.  You’ve already beaten it.  Leave the competitive eating to the Americans – no prizes for heartburn and indigestion.  

December 5: Only dead fish go with the flow (Andy Hunt) 

Do you sometimes eat mainly because that’s what others are doing? Thinking about the office biscuits, boxes of sweets, trays of crisps, buffet lunches…you’ll likely to be exposed to all of this and more in the coming weeks.  You could use the “They’re eating it, so I’ll have some too” justification.  Or you could make your own decisions to eat and stop eating.  Don’t let the actions and decisions of others influence yours. 

December 6: If you don’t control your mind, someone else will (John Allston)

Have you ever had a meal in the company of others and found yourself going against what you really wanted? For example, chose salad when you really wanted chips?  Deliberately ate a small portion? Said “No thanks” to dessert even though you would have loved one? If you change your eating habits or food choices in company, this suggests that you think there is something wrong with the way you eat.  There probably isn’t….but thinking this way might just create a problem.  

December 7: Nothing is so simple that it cannot be screwed up (Anon)

“Eat less, move more”.  Simple right?  So why is it so difficult?  Because life is complicated.  People are complex.  There are no simple solutions to complex problems.

December 8: Minds are like parachutes.  They only work when open (Thomas Dewer)

Blindly following diet rules (“eat this, don’t eat that”) can seem safe and secure…initially.  But sooner or later, you’ll want to eat what YOU want to eat, not what you’re told to eat.  So you rebel, and overeat all the foods you weren’t previously allowed.  The irony is that if you paid more attention to what you wanted in the first place, you would have avoided this scenario. Open your food mind. You might be (pleasantly) surprised by what happens.

December 9: Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers (Lord Alfred Tennyson)

Experienced dieters know a thing or two about calories and portion sizes. But food wisdom is about how food makes you feel, and how your food choices affect your food actions. For example, you want a chocolate bar (200 cals), but that’s too many calories.  So you eat an apple (80cals), then a diet yoghurt (80 cals), then a rice cake (20 cals)…  No, not satisfied.  So you end up eating the chocolate bar anyway. Your knowledge led to you eating 380 cals, whereas if you had used your wisdom, you would only have eaten 200cals.  Who’s smarter now?

December 10: Ability is what you are able to do.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude decides how well you do it (Anon)

You have the ABILITY to lose weight. You use your unhappiness about your weight to MOTIVATE you to diet. But it is your ATTITUDE that will dictate how successful you are.  Weight loss is less about food, and more about your attitude to food. Get the attitude right, and you may find you no longer need the diet.

December 11:  Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it (George Bernard Shaw)

While there can be a safety and certainty in following diet rules, they don’t last for most people.  Food compliance is often followed by food rebellion, or eating without boundaries. Non-diet approaches to weight loss emphasise freedom to choose with no foods banned, putting you firmly in charge of your food decisions, but guided by principles of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.  You will feel liberated from diet rules, but you will also become responsible for your food decisions.  Is it for you? If you have previously lost weight and regained it following multiple diets….then yes!

December 12: You can always tell luck from ability by its duration (E.C. McKenzie)

Anyone can lose weight.  Diets exist for no other reason.  Diets help you avoid food.  But losing weight, and more importantly keeping it off, requires the ability to live with food, not avoid it.

December 13: If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst (Thomas Hardy)

Think about the way you eat when you are on a diet. Think about the way you eat when you are NOT on a diet. A non-diet approach to weight loss may not make sense to you IF you wrongly assume it resembles NOT being on a diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Your problems with food and the reasons you eat as you do are most evident when you are not on a diet – so this is where we start looking for solutions. The non-diet approach does not ignore your food problems. It deals with them.

December 14: When all think alike, no-one is thinking (Walter Lippman)

You like being part of a group.  The moral support, the incentive to attend, the craic..

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people means our thoughts and behaviours will be considered normal.  But what if these thoughts and behaviours are not helpful to you in achieving your goals?  Weight loss groups probably ‘work’ for some (although the evidence is mounting for their ineffectiveness for the majority).  Obsessing over weekly weights, weighing food, counting calories/points/syns, starving yourself in the days before your weigh-in, over-eating immediately after your weigh in – just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. Choose your herd wisely.

December 15: “Arrival fallacy” –the false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness (Tal Ben-Sahar)

You tell yourself you will be really happy and life will be so much better when you are lighter, thinner, smaller…While a diet can change your body weight,  it won’t address the eating complexities that contributed to your weight in the first place. You lose weight, but you don’t lose the problems, so your control over your weight is fragile and liable to break at any given time. This is not going to make you happy. Focus on sorting out your food problems, and the weight loss will come.

December 16: Labels are for bottles (Smirnoff)

You eat.  Is it a snack?  Is it a meal?  Does it matter? Apparently yes.  A study gave two groups of people the same food (a pasta dish).  One group was told it was a meal.  The other group was told it was a snack.  Both groups ate exactly the same amount.  Both groups were then given bowls of sweets and savoury foods, and the amount they ate was measured.  The group who were told the pasta dish was a snack ate more sweets and savoury foods afterwards. Other common food labels are “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, “unhealthy” – the problem is that, as the study above demonstrates, labelling food affects our eating decisions, and most often in a negative way. Food is food.  Ditch the labels.

December 17: A lot of our problems are created by our solutions (Paul Watzlawick)

You start off a little overweight.  You go on a diet.  You lose weight, but regain more.  This cycle repeats a few times – and you end up heavier than you were before you started. Your solution (dieting) contributed to a bigger problem. If you look back now and wish you were the weight you were when you first thought you were overweight, the weight you were before your first diet, then the need for a better solution is clear.

December 18: You’ll know when a relationship is right for you.  It will enhance your life, not complicate your life (Brigitte Nicole)

When on a diet, do you become preoccupied with, maybe even obsessive about, food or constantly have food on your mind? When the diet stops, do you deliberately overeat while mentally beating yourself up? Does this sound like a good food relationship to you? Make food work for you, not against you. Food can, and should, be a pleasure, not a problem.

December 19: Insanity…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result (Albert Einstein)

Or doing the same DIET over and over again and expecting a different result.

December 20: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it (W.C. Fields)

How many times have you done the same thing to lose weight, but ultimately regained it?  Hard to say it worked.  Half a solution that doesn’t last is no better than no solution.  Quit what doesn’t work.  Try something else.

December 21: Strategy is better than strength (Nigeria)

You may frequently have summoned the strength to start a diet.  You have probably displayed enormous willpower in avoiding foods you would have loved to eat.  Your strength is not in question.  But add in life’s pressures and strains and even the strongest can fall.  You need strategies to manage food, not just strength to avoid food

December 22: The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it (George Orwell)

I shouldn’t eat it.  But I want to.  I’m not allowed it.  But it’s my favourite thing.  It’s so unhealthy.  But it’s delicious.  It’s so high calorie.  I DON’T CARE…gobble gobble.  Game over.  Diet over. Enter a war with food, and eventually you lose. Anyone for a peace treaty?

December 23: He who breaks a resolution is a weakling.  He who makes one is a fool (FM Knowles)

Start your diet on 1st January….how long does it usually last?
Play it smarter this year.  Ditch the diet resolution.  Sort out your food problems once and for all.

December 24: Many your troubles in the coming year be as short-lived as your resolutions (E. C. McKenzie)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.