New Year’s Revolutions

I was at the movies just before Christmas, getting ready to watch the previews. I love previews! Now that they show commercials at the movies, I have to sit through those first. A familiar song started to play, “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands,” a childhood oldie-but-goodie. Except in this version of the song, the words were changed to, “If you’re happy and you know it have a snack,” which I actually thought was a pretty good idea. Why not have a snack when you’re happy? Of course it ended up being a commercial for a very well-known diet company (who I will not mention here lest I give it more traffic) and the song devolved into a food-shaming ditty that left me gritting my teeth in my seat.

I expect to hear a lot of diet commercials come January 1st, but this was really getting the jump on the season. I do not approve. Especially before the previews.

This did remind me of New Year’s Resolutions, though. It’s the same story for many: with the holiday season over, we feel we’ve indulged in far too many rich foods, and the new year is a new start, a time to make everything right again. Now is the time to make the resolution to start that diet! Now is the time to shed that 20 (or 30, or 40) pounds for good!

Or not. The reality is, almost everyone who loses weight puts it back on in a disconcertingly short period of time – anywhere from two to five years. Sometimes those regained pounds even bring friends that you didn’t have before. This has been well-documented in the scientific literature. As I’ve often said, no one who wanted to lose weight ever wanted to only lose it for 2 years. I’m guessing that most people who want to lose weight are looking for permanent weight loss they can live with.

Read the last part of that sentence again – that they can live with. I feel this is an important idea to explore, because for a very small minority of people, maintaining weight loss happens. I’d like to ask these people how they are living. Are they enjoying life? Are they relaxed about food? Do they forget about their weight for long stretches of time? Or is weight maintenance the product of constant diet vigilance? Are they spending the majority of their lives planning each meal and dreading each potential indulgence? Tell me this: Is the resolution you want to make the one that puts you in fear of living?

I speak from experience. I maintained a weight loss for many years with this kind of watchfulness. Over time, though, it was never enough. I was always in pursuit of that last 10 lbs. My “healthy lifestyle” turned into a manic diet that consumed my thoughts for most of the day and parts of the night (dreams about pizza are supposed to be fun!). In the end, I knew that this was not living. This was not what life was supposed to be. I wanted to live life for real, which is why I eventually gave up the dieting and the fear.

So sure, you can make a New Year’s resolution to start another diet and contribute to the $60 billion diet industry juggernaut, endure aching hunger, and probably end up no thinner over the long term than you started. Or you can do some things that will actually make you healthy, think of fun ways to move your body, and start a New Year’s Revolution.

The most excellent Ragen Chastain of Dances with Fat has some great suggestions on some more New Year’s Revolutions you can make.