Doctor reveals why 80% of New Year diet resolutions fail

Have you vowed to improve your diet and eat healthier in 2022?

Well, we don’t want to be negative, but the sad news is that most people who make this pledge don’t even last two months, let alone the year.

According to US News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be around 80%, and most lose their resolve by mid-February. 

So why don’t our best intentions for the new year end up sticking? Is it a wider issue with the fleeting nature of a new-year-new-me mentality, and a lack of sustainability? And why are diet changes in particular so tricky to keep going?

‘Even with the best intentions, New Year’s diet resolutions have an unreliable track record,’ says Lifesum’s Dr Alona Pulde. ‘By understanding why diet resolutions fail, we can resist the temptation to succumb to the pressure and, instead, build sustainable eating habits in 2022 that actually work.

Dr Pulde has shared her reasons why 80% of New Year’s diet resolutions fail by February – and how you can avoid the same traps:

We ignore biological drives

During the festive season, it’s normal and fine to indulge with our food, and often we rely on New Year’s resolutions to reset our eating habits.

‘But we are programmed to seek calorie density, often with ultra-processed foods, which keep the calories high, but eliminate the fibre and water needed to help our satiation system shut off,’ says Dr Pulde.

‘As a result, we over-eat high calorie, high fat foods, which raises the threshold of what we find satisfying. Come New Year’s Day we feel restricted, deprived and anxious.’

We focus on external factors

‘Common New Year’s resolutions, such as weight loss or wanting more money, are limited because they neglect our internal needs,’ she adds.

‘Weight loss is one way to meet our need for health, but not if it is done in unhealthy ways, e.g. deprivation and restriction.

‘Defining what we really need, how to meet those needs, and which are most sustainable, is key.’

We do it alone

Change is tough, even more so when we try it alone.

‘Taking the journey together with a family member or friend increases the success of making sustainable changes because you can regularly monitor and report on progress to someone other than yourself,’ says Dr Pulde.

‘Using a food tracking app can also be beneficial.’

Dr Pulde says building sustainable eating habits in 2022 is a lifestyle you can enjoy and maintain, but you have to approach it in the right way.

‘Rather than a quick fix in January, make healthy eating habits a year-long theme,’ she says.

Dr Pulde has shared her top hacks to help you build and maintain sustainable eating habits in 2022:

Find your ‘why

‘Typically, we focus on what, not why, we want to change something,’ she explains.

‘The “what” is self-limited and challenged in times of stress and illness. Knowing and connecting with our “why”, and establishing the strategies that best help to meet those needs, increases our ability to succeed long-term.’

Pace it

It’s tempting to dive straight in as soon as the new year begins, but Dr Pulde says it’s actually more useful to make gradual changes.

‘Don’t aim for 100% on Januar 1st,’ she says.

‘Incremental changes over three months to a year is the best way to maintain healthy eating habits. Losing 10 pound in 10 days only to gain 20 back is not sustainable. Instead, what if we lost 1 pound every 10 days in a way that we could enjoy and sustain?’

For example, Dr Pulde says that if you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based meals to aid your weight loss goals, change breakfast to be plant-based, have meatless Mondays, or choose local and seasonal fruit and vegetables for the next three months.

‘Create small changes you can incorporate into your life, rather than changing everything at once.’

Commit with the community

‘Before making a change, get a friend or family member to travel the journey with you,’ says Dr Pulde.

‘Make it fun, find ways to hold each other accountable, and include friendly competition if that’s your thing.’

Define specific goals

Dr Pulde says that the more specific you are in defining why and what you want to change, the greater the success rate will be.

‘Provide as many details as you can and include preparation in your planning,’ she suggests.

‘What are the things you need to set in place before attempting your goals? Creating meal plans and shopping lists help with changing eating habits, and creating a budget helps to manage your finances.’

Plan to get back on the wagon

Dr Pulde says: ‘Distractions, disappointments and failures are part of life. We should expect to “fall off the wagon” at some point or several points throughout the year.

‘Success lies not in avoiding these situations, but in planning for them.

‘So, as you plan your what and why, include how. How will you get back on track? What are some of the steps you will take to bring yourself back to your goals?’

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