Why ‘Lose Weight Starting in January’ Doesn’t Work
‘Lose weight starting in January‘ might be the most common new year’s resolution. But if it’s as easy as diet companies make it out to be, then why do we begin every new year believing a new fad diet will be the fastest way to weight loss? Instead of a new lifestyle program, what if you instead prioritize your health and how you want to feel this year? Keep reading to learn how.
‘Lose Weight Starting in January’ is Diet Culture
I love the start of a new year. It feels fresh. Like I can shed the past and begin anew. This concept works beautifully for self-reflection of feelings, routines, and intentions. I love to mindfully look at the past year and consider what worked and what didn’t in a non-judgmental way. The problem is that diet culture—as it seems to do with all healthy things—figured out how to take the beautiful concept of self-growth and better health, and twist it into a scam for shaming people into spending money on fat loss programming. It’s why this $72-billion-dollar industry makes the majority of its profit this time of year.
Here’s the great news though. You can make more positive, sustainable improvements to your health without spending a second (or a dollar) on a diet plan!
Make a Better New Year’s Resolution
I completely understand how easy it is to get caught up in the trap of feeling blah, stepping on the bathroom scale, and then shaming yourself to lose weight starting in January. But that approach doesn’t get to the root of why you feel blah, why you’re stepping on the scale, or why you think you need to lose weight.
When you pause for a moment and consider the why, you may start to uncover that it’s really not about the weight. It’s about wanting to feel better. Follow the next 3 steps to create a better new year’s resolution you can actually stick to!
First, ask yourself: What Worked This Year? What Didn’t?
Mindfulness is moment-by-moment self-awareness of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and surrounding environment with kindness, curiosity, and no judgment. Emphasis on no judgment! That means, diet culture and being shamed into losing weight in January have no business here. Instead, take a self-reflective moment to ask yourself what worked this past year? Maybe you started walking more or cutting back on caffeine Or maybe you started taking steps to ditch diet culture and become an intuitive eater. Definitely something you should feel proud of and hopefully want to keep doing!
Then take a moment to reflect on what didn’t work this past year. It’s okay if this causes feelings of disappointment, frustration, or shame to bubble up. Acknowledge those feelings, let them go, and consider how you can learn from them this new year.
Second, ask yourself: How Do I Want to Feel?
Too often we approach personal goals and new year’s resolutions as a shameful punishment to stop a “bad” behavior. We think we’re fat, so we need to lose weight. But when you come at it from a negative, self-shaming angle like that, it’s more difficult to stay motivated. If you instead reframe your thinking to take a more positive and mindful approach, you can set intentional goals that will actually be sustainable and improve your health.
Instead of defining what’s wrong with you and how you need to fix it. Ask yourself how you want to feel in the new year. What’s going to feel best in your body? You can use any adjective that fits your goal, but consider these possibilities:
How do you want to feel in the new year?
Finally, ask yourself: How Can I Achieve These Feelings?
This is where you can start to examine health behaviors that will help you work towards feeling that way more frequently. So for example, if you want to feel more energized in the new year, some health behaviors that may get you closer to feeling that way is to drink more water, get on a consistent bed time routine, take time to rest and practice self-care, or intuitively eat foods that help you feel better. Notice none of this has to do with losing weight in January?! You might even discover that following a diet plan goes against your desired feeling! This approach highlights how there are small steps we can take each day to feeling better and improving our health.
My 2022 New Year’s Resolution
Self-Reflection: This past year I liked that I started doing Apple Fitness workouts, deleted Instagram from my phone in October, learned how to practice mindfulness, and read 19 books. I don’t like that my emotions were up and down a lot (pandemic woes). Or that I’ve become too reliant on convenience foods that don’t feel good in my body, and I frequently don’t drink enough water.
How I Want to Feel: Therefore, in the upcoming year, I want to feel more energetic, stronger, and have more control over my emotions. I can achieve these feelings through eating foods that make me feel good and getting enough sleep (energetic); exercising regularly (stronger); and prioritize my mental health (have more control over my emotions.)
How I Can Achieve: Now, I can breakdown how I’m going to make changes to my behaviors to achieve this feeling.
- Eating foods that make me feel good and energetic.
- Having more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and lean meats.
- Reducing baked goods, salty snacks, and alcohol because they do not make me feel good.
- Increasing my water intake.
- Getting enough sleep to feel more energetic.
- Staying consistent with a bedtime routine of reading before bed.
- Turning the light off no later than 9:30 pm on weeknights.
- Exercising 4x/week to feel stronger.
- Setting my workout clothes the night before.
- Being flexible with at least 2-3 rest days per week.
- Having a plan for which Apple Fitness workout style I’ll do.
- Prioritizing my mental health to have more control over my emotions.
- Staying off social media—including keeping Instagram app off my phone.
- Practicing mindfulness through apps like Calm, Apple Fitness or eM Life.
- Taking time for myself without guilt as it makes me a better mom, wife, and employee.
No Rules—Just Sustainable Changes for Better Health
Now I have a set plan for the new year that will ensure I continue to make positive changes in my life that truly help me to feel better. There’s nothing listed here that I can’t do. And nothing that requires some precise all-or-nothing rule (like the diet mentality) that will lead me down a path of self-sabotage or failure if I struggle to be consistent. Whenever I feel I’ve lost my way over the next 12 months, I can simply remind myself that I want to feel energetic, stronger and calmer. And start taking steps to get myself working towards those feelings again.
So, how do YOU want to feel in 2022?! I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Wishing you love and light in the new year! xo Meridith