How many times have you heard someone say or have said yourself: “I’m going to lose weight/solve my nutrition problem after the holidays?” I know I have heard it a lot and it usually leads to gorging on your favorite treats during the holidays, enduring a high level of stress and/or guilt, and then starting some restrictive diet as your new year’s resolution that usually doesn’t last. Does this sound familiar? Well if it does it is because this is an all too common occurrence and can actually have more detrimental effects on our health then we tend to realize. Throughout this post we will discuss some of these detriments including potential increase in heart disease and other comorbidities, mental health risks brought on by these types of disordered eating habits, and the high risk of returning to old habits; as well as some tips for getting stopping this vicious cycle of dieting that is putting you or your loved ones at risk of these detriments and starting your journey toward your nutrition and weight loss goals this year!
1. Heart Disease and Comorbodity Risks with Yo Yo Dieting- Yo yo dieting is a practice where individuals go on a quick loss diet lose the weight successfully and then gain it back many times throughout there lives. The biggest troubles usually come around the holidays and the switch that occurs with a New Year’s resolution. There current research, while having mixed results has shown in some studies that yo yo dieting may increase risk of heart disease and other comorbidities more so than maintaining a slightly higher body weight (note for individuals who already have heart disease this risk appears even greater). This being said, while weight loss for obese individuals is still recommended, it should be done in a healthful, maintainable manner through balanced nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and avoiding smoking.
2. Mental Health Risks and Disordered Eating Habits- Many people confuse disordered eating with eating disorders. While eating disorders tend to be thought of in a more extreme box, disordered eating on the other hand can be as simple as going through phases of fad dieting, spending too much time thinking or worrying about food and food choices, over eating followed by feelings of guilt, just to name a few. Yo yo dieting is also a disordered eating pattern, pushing yourself to participate in an extreme restrictive style diet that is not possibly maintainable long-term, then quitting and going back to old habits because of guilty feelings and feeling like you “just can’t follow the diet any longer.” Restricting ourselves of certain nutrients can deprive our body of the nutrition it needs to function and can therefore cause issues with hormone balance, bone health, energy levels, and general mood (with extra tendencies toward agitated and “hangry” tendencies). Overeating or giving up on the other hand many times can lead to feelings of guilt, depression, or can cause spikes and drops in blood sugary as well as many other disease states associated with obesity. These extreme behaviors and fluctuations in mood both from thoughts of body image and guilt around food habits to physiological mood changes and difficulties based on these habits are another potential detriment to continuing in this vicious cycle of extremes that can and should be stopped sooner rather than later.
3. The High Risk of Returning to Old Habits- Like I mentioned in the previous points, waiting until after the holidays and then using a crash/fad diet almost inevitably ends in returning to old habits. Restricting yourself from certain food groups or extreme caloric restriction can cause a temporary slowing of metabolism, lead to strong cravings, decreased energy levels, and risking not receiving nutrients your body needs for day to day function. In addition to all of these physiological challenges, by only following a diet and not making attainable behavior and lifestyle changes, as soon as things get boring, difficult, you mess up and feel guilty or the best result, you meet your goals, individuals tend to revert back to previous behaviors. These physiological and emotional components not only trigger reverting to old behaviors, but also gaining all the weight back plus more. By changing your lifestyle and behaviors in a maintainable way that can still accommodate for the holidays, you are much more likely to see long term success!
4. How to stop the cycle and get started with a maintainable healthy nutrition plan
- Developing a balanced, maintainable lifestyle change including food, exercise, and mindset/behaviors is the first step to succeeding with your nutrition or weight loss goals and stop the cycle of fad dieting and holiday over-indulging.
- Working with a Registered Dietitian is a great way to get this process started. There is so many conflicting sources of information out there that working with a Registered Dietitian can help you find the right plan and path for you as an individual (whether you are relatively healthy or if you have any medical conditions). Working with a Registered Dietitian will allow you to have an individual to be accountable to, ensure you have balanced and well portioned food choices, and can help you troubleshoot any problematic behavior habits that may present challenges to your success.
- Additionally, choosing a source of physical activity that you enjoy can make exercising much more enjoyable e.g. take a dance class, go for a walk, find a workout buddy, go swimming, or any other physical activity you may enjoy.
- Identify your biggest areas of challenges surrounding food, speak with your Registered Dietitian about finding tools to help you ease the difficulty of these senarios (eg family time, holiday meals, office candy, etc.)
- Ensure you have a balanced meal or snack every 3-4 hours, if you know you are going to experience a difficult meal to stay on track with, make sure you aren’t overly hungry going into that meal, you can combine your later snack with that meal, or feel good about taking a smaller serving of all your favorite choices rather than avoiding them to stay on track.
These potential risks of “just waiting until after the holidays” to start your nutrition or weight loss goals are crucial reasons to consider going into the holiday seasons this year. The tips listed for successfully starting your goals early are easily attainable and are just a few of many tips that can help you be successful long term!
Have you experienced any of the challenges or detriments that come with waiting until after the holidays to start working toward your nutrition or weight loss goal? Have you ever made the decision to start before the holidays and found greater success long term or through the holidays? I would love to hear your experiences!
If you are looking for extra help with your nutrition and health goals and need help making a healthy lifestyle as easy and enjoyable as possible, CONTACT US today and SCHEDULE your first appointment toward taking control of your health!
Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season,
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”