Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights

Why you need to give up dieting

Why you need to give up dieting

I hope you have enjoyed the insights so far. If you missed them, the first mindset shift focused on How to Lose Weight without Dieting and the second asked Are you trying too hard?

In my final insight in this series, I will share what is often the most difficult mindset shift to adopt (given that many of us have spent years doing it!). However, letting go of it can have a profound effect in helping you to build healthier weight loss habits – not just for a couple of months but for life.

It may seem completely strange for someone who runs a weight loss programme to say this but I suggest you…

Give up dieting

Why? Because it’s bad for your long term success.

Researchers have found that merely telling people they are going on a diet the following week caused them to overcompensate and eat significantly more than others who were not told that they were going on a diet (Urbszat, Herman, & Polivy, 2002).

Simply using the word diet conjures up all sorts of feelings of deprivation – images of surviving on lettuce leaves in addition to grueling daily workouts. Since dieting (and some diet products for that matter) has been linked to over consumption and ultimately weight gain over time, it’s time to ditch the word diet, give up dieting altogether and take a more healthy, long term mindset instead.

Some of my own research, examined a vital question that helped us understand more about how to get this long term mindset, we asked;

What made some people successful at long-term weight maintenance?

We found that successful individuals (i.e. those who had lost and maintained a significant amount of weight) tended to focus on weight loss as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. They viewed dieting as something that was temporary, whereas what they were doing was different. It was focused on making consistent, daily changes, in their words ‘simply leading a healthy lifestyle’ (McKee, Ntoumanis & Smith, 2013).

Interestingly, the evidence has shown that often those who are successful in weight maintenance experience a shift in their identity – rather than feeling restricted or deprived by their weight control practices (i.e. through dieting), they feel more liberated, both in their lifestyle and also in how they think and feel about themselves (i.e. through focusing on developing healthier habits) (Epiphaniou & Ogden, 2010).

The key factor that these successful weight maintainers from our study had in common was their focus on the process (the daily changes they needed to make consistently for success to occur) rather than the outcome (kg/lbs lost on the scales).

These findings teach us that success should not be about going to the gym 7 times a week for a month and then never returning again. The truth is, weight loss needs be gradual in order for it to be maintainable, it needs to be achieved through positive, daily, sustainable changes in your lifestyle.

Key action: Give up dieting! Focus on health gain rather than weight loss.

How do you do this?

You can start by making small but consistent healthy changes to your lifestyle. On my programme my clients set themselves one small change that they intend to make each week with regards to their weight loss. This is intentionally tiny so it doesn’t feel too punishing or restrictive.

For example, things you could do to get started with could be;

  • Putting half a spoon full of sugar less in your daily tea or coffee
  • Making sure all coffees you get are a size smaller
  • Walking 50 more steps on your fitness tracker a day.

These may seem like insignificantly small changes but cumulatively they can have a BIG impact on your long term success. They are also less daunting, making it more likely that you will want to engage with them on a consistent basis.

For example; if your goal is to have a smaller size latte per day, this can result in… 50,000 less calories consumed per year.

Once you become comfortable that you can maintain this small change you can start to look at introducing other small changes that either relate to the original goal e.g. only having small lattes every other day or a new goal e.g. taking the stairs before 12pm everyday at work.

So why not set yourself a small goal for this week? Think about what you could do that could have a positive impact on your health, yet doesn’t feel too restrictive or draining?

Write this goal somewhere now, share it with someone (if you wish you can share it with me by emailing info@weightlossiq.co.uk) and look to build on it slowly over the coming weeks.

This method is effective as it helps reinforce the importance of focusing on the process of health gain, slowly growing the combined effect that small changes can have, ultimately helping you build healthy habits that last.

To finish this blog series I am going to leave you with a quote.

This is a living, breathing example of the mindset for success in action;

For so long I thought it was what’s on the scale that matters, but it’s more about doing activities and eating things that make me happy and give me energy. I could see this radiate from the outside in and accept how I look much more by appreciating small physical changes e.g. more toned arms from yoga, rather than punishing myself for being 0.5kg heavier this week than last.’

If you have enjoyed this series and would like to learn more about the programmes I run you can find out more on my programmes page or email info@weightlossiq.co.uk to arrange a free 20 minute consultation to help you understand more about what is holding you back from developing healthy habits that last.

Published on 31st Jul 2017 at 10:10 by Dr. Heather McKee

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What people are saying about The Habit Changer programme:

"You were put in my path for a reason. Over the course of our sessions a light bulb went off with me!!! That’s when it all changed for the better."
- Orla

"This programme is different from everything else you’ve ever done. It wasn’t just loads of advice. I liked learning and thinking about my goals – it wasn’t about someone else, it was about me specifically. We all know what we need to do, we need to exercise more and eat better but this was a different approach, it was empowering. Doing the programme was a light bulb moment for me, it became 100% obvious to me where I had failed in the past and what. I should do in the future. I feel so much more in control of my weight now but not only that I feel stronger, more relaxed and happier."
- Cathy

"It’s a different way of thinking a different perspective. All diets fail this isn’t a diet it’s different. It’s a lifestyle change it helps look at the behaviours behind why you eat rather than just solving the symptoms. It shows you if you take small but deliberate actions what the cumulative changes would be . I certainly feel positive I’m heading in the right direction. This isn’t a quick fix its looking at your motivation – changing your mindset and that helps change your behaviours."
- Colm


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This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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