Updated: Jan 16
Written by Zoe Panaretou
New Year’s Resolutions have become a tradition in the Western world, as another year naturally provides the opportunity for individuals to kick-start their weight loss journey (1). The new year represents wiping the slate clean after indulging during the festive period and reigniting society’s motivation to replace their unhealthy eating habits with ‘better’ alternatives. However, it is estimated that 77% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions, break them within a few weeks (2). Weight cycling and yo-yo dieting has become the new norm as we live in a society that promotes and applauds unsustainable means of dieting, that are destined to not succeed.
The concern over food habits is not a modern phenomenon as the hunt for effective weight loss diets have being going on for centuries. It all began with Hippocrates and his understanding that the underlying principles of health were food and exercise (6). In the 1860’s, William Banting introduced a low-carbohydrate diet and popularised carbohydrate restriction for weight control (7). Since then, it has been a cascading effect of various diets being promoted; ranging from the 5:2 diet to the cabbage soup diet or the Atkins diet to the blood type diet.
Decades of being bombarded with advertisements for a quick way to lose weight has conditioned society to feel as though they need to carry out extreme diets and restrictive behaviours to lose weight. Diets such as keto, low-carbohydrate, paleo, low-calorie and low-fat diet are examples that appeal to those trying to lose weight as they promise weight loss in a short period of time. Dieting results in short term weight loss that is easily achieved but maintenance of long-term weight loss is much more challenging and the majority of dieters regain the weight they initially lost (3,4). These diets are filled with unsustainable behaviours that cannot be carried out for a long period of time and result in most people reverting back to their old habits. The continuous cycle of losing and regaining weight is known as weight cycling as is reported to increase the risk of binge eating (5).
The popularity of diet culture continues to grow as its feeds on society’s weakness of craving the ‘perfect body’ and a quick-fix rather than a long-term lifestyle change. The motivation of how individuals are perceived on the outside is the main factor that drives their weight loss goal.
Making lifestyle changes is always the hardest part and not seeing results quickly can be demotivating. However, making habits that are easy and enjoyable is the best way to kick-start a weight loss journey and will increase the likelihood of continuing these healthier behaviours in the long run. Also, shifting the focus on health-related outcomes such as reducing the risk of diabetes or heart disease will help to create sustainable behaviours that will keep the weight off and help to create a healthier relationship with food.
Rössner, S.M., Hansen, J.V. and Rössner, S., 2011. New year’s resolutions to lose weight–dreams and reality. Obesity facts, 4(1), p.3.
Mandal S. How to make your new year’s resolutions work? Soc Behav Res Pract Open J. 2020; 4(2): 28-29. doi: 10.17140/SBRPOJ-4-119
Hall, K.D. and Kahan, S., 2018. Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. Medical Clinics, 102(1), pp.183-197.
Sumithran, P. and Proietto, J., 2013. The defence of body weight: a physiological basis for weight regain after weight loss. Clinical Science, 124(4), pp.231-241.
Brownell, K.D. and Rodin, J., 1994. Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling. Archives of internal medicine, 154(12), pp.1325-1330.
Foxcroft, L., 2012. Calories and Corsets: a history of dieting over two thousand years. Profile Books, pp.2-15.
Astrup, A., Larsen, T.M. and Harper, A., 2004. Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss?. The Lancet, 364(9437), pp.897-899.