UPDATE: If you already know all about Project Not This Year and want to find out how to take part, or just check out the end product, visit this link.
I was having a bit of a clear out a few weeks back and I got to thinking. I still have some of my old diet books hidden away, gathering dust on a shelf. A couple of shelves actually. I’ll never use them again, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t want to wish them on anyone, so I couldn’t sell them or give them to a charity shop. But just throwing them in the bin didn’t seem quite right either. And thus Project Not This Year was born. I’ll tell you a bit more about the project in a minute, and how you can get involved, but first, let’s have a look at some of the numbers.
The UK diet industry is worth an estimated £2 billion per year. In the US it’s thought to be around $60 billion. These are BILLIONS. Nine zeros. Selling a product that doesn’t work, causes harm, and isn’t even necessary. And then blame the consumer when it all goes wrong. It’s your fault. You obviously weren’t trying hard enough. Here, try another diet.
And every January 1st, hundreds of thousands of people welcome in the new year with a promise to themselves that this is going to be the year that they finally lose weight and get (back) into a size whatever. In fact, weight loss is the number 1 new year’s resolution (quitting smoking is number 2). Not entirely surprisingly, around a quarter of new year dieters don’t make it to the end of week 2 before throwing in the towel. Half don’t make it past three months. And even if you do stick to it for longer, the odds of you making lasting changes to your body weight are not good. Between 95 and 98% of people will have gained all the weight back after 2 years – the majority well before that time. Significant numbers will gain back more than they lost in the first place. Me personally, I dieted myself up from a UK size 12 to a size 20. And what’s sad, is that we’re so desperate, that we believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that this time, unlike all the other times, we are going to be in that 2% that makes it stick.
What we don’t know, what they’re not telling us, is that dieting is not very good for us really. And yo-yo dieting is really really not good for us. If you’re fat, you’re better off staying fat, from a health point of view, than losing weight and gaining it back over and over. The whole ‘keep trying’ thing is doing us more harm than good. Yo-yo dieting is associated with significantly increased risk of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality, even compared with being fat.
But wait, you say, Aunty Jo lost 2 stone and her blood pressure improved and her diabetes went away. Well, first of all, good for Aunty Jo. I’m glad she’s doing well. Presuming of course that she kept the weight off. If it’s been over 5 years, chances are good it’s going to stick. Otherwise… But more importantly, what did Aunty Jo do to lose that weight? Did she improve her diet and exercise more? Of course, you say. Well, odds are, that those healthy changes are what made the difference, not the weight loss itself. Studies of people who have had liposuction show that having your fat sucked out of you does not make you healthier. It’s not the weight loss that made Auntie Jo more healthy – it’s the healthy habits.
Where most people go wrong, is they think that if you eat well and exercise, you’ll automatically lose weight. And this is not necessarily true for a significant proportion of the population. If you’re just not built that way, living a healthy lifestyle won’t make you thinner. It will make you healthier. Healthier than your thin, couch potato, drinking, smoking, fast-food eating counterparts. It’s not the weight that matters. If you adopt healthier habits, like Auntie Jo, your blood pressure will improve, insulin sensitivity increase, your cholesterol (the bad kind) go down. Even without a pound of weight loss. And when Auntie Jo gains back all the weight, and stops engaging in all her healthy habits because they aren’t ‘working’ anymore, all those health benefits will be lost. Whereas you can just keep on being healthy right as you are now.
Plus, hating yourself and feeling like a complete failure is also not very good for your health. Nor is being told by other people that you are not acceptable as a human being because of the way you look (or for any other reason for that matter). Besides making you miserable, it stresses your system – your cortisol levels go up, you undergo a series of biochemical changes that, oddly enough, have been consistently associated with increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and so on and so on. In fact, research has shown that feeling fat is more damaging to your health than actually being fat.
So this year, instead of embarking on yet another round of self-loathing and all-but-guaranteed failure, let’s try something different. Let’s make this a year of self-acceptance and self-care. And why not spread the love while we’re at it. Let’s accept and care for others too. And this brings me back to Project Not This Year.
Here’s what I have in mind. Instead of making new year’s resolutions about how we’re going to finally go on a diet and get thin and be happy (yeah, right!), how about making Jan 1st 2013 the opportunity to finally clear all that junk off our shelves? But let’s really make a noise about it – this won’t be a quiet revolution. On December 26th, I’ll be setting up a YouTube channel for anyone who wants to add some film of themselves doing the deed. You can rip, shred, cut, or anything else you like to dispose of all your old diet books. You could even do something a little more creative with them if you’re the arty type. As well as video, if you want to sent me still photos, audio, or even something you’ve written, I can make them into a little montage and I’ll post those too. You can put your name to it, or you can be anonymous. In fact, whatever you want to do, just drop me a line and we can work it out. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact page on this website.
I’ll be posting regular updates on facebook, twitter, and in the Never Diet Again newsletter (sign up on the right – you’ll also get a copy of my free report ‘The Super Easy Way To Start Loving Your Body Without Even Trying‘). To find out how you can be part of Project Not This Year, just click here.
And whether you want to take part yourself or not, please start spreading the word. Share this blog with your friends, post on twitter (#notthisyear2013, @NevrDietAgnUK), or just talk to people about it. Let them know that there is an alternative.