According to the British Dietetic Association, the average Brit will have eaten 6,000 calories on Christmas Day and will gain 5 lbs (2 kg) by New Year's Day. This leaves us all perfectly plumped and primed, ready to be sucked into the diet adverts belching out of our TV screens throughout January (look into my eyes, not around my eyes, into my eyes).
Jenny Craig, Slimming World, Weight Watchers et al will have us hypnotised by promises of toned abs in summer swimsuits and firm buttocks outlined by clinging red frocks. Weight Watchers' epic offering this year will be a music video that lasts three full minutes.
Our annual dieting amnesia (we promised ourselves we'd lose weight last year and now we're even heavier than we were then), is what the diet industry relies on at this time of year to haul in the biggest portion of their £400 billion in annual profit. But the promises made by the New Year diet adverts will be broken. The excitement we'll feel watching the epic WeightWatchers ad on New Year's Day will fade by the end of January and we'll be off diet by 31 Jan. We don't remember that this year we're fatter than last year and we don't believe that next year we'll be fatter than this year. "This time I'm going to do it," we'll be lured into thinking.
But all of this is only true if you're a dieter. People who have never dieted might eat more than usual at Christmas but they won't have eaten nearly as much as a habitual dieter who will have tried to make the most of their 'free' time off diet. The worst a non-dieter will get is a feeling of slight discomfort from a tight belt while settling to watch Downton Abbey. And they won't have to work to shift any gained weight - they won't even weigh themselves. Most won't really register that they have put on weight and even if they do feel a bit bloated from too many turkey sandwiches, they'll be back to their pre-Christmas weight in a few weeks of normal eating and getting on with their lives. They won't give it a second thought.
Dieters, on the other hand, typically overeat throughout Christmas, regularly eating to the point of painful fullness, weighing ourselves obsessively after the festive season is over, feeling miserable and guilty about our weight gain. We start New Year diets with a sense of determination and excitement which wears off within a fortnight and we then struggle through January and February feeling deprived, hating ourselves for our lack of control and despising every lump and bump on our bodies. Food planning and food restriction will dominate our thoughts, we will suffer more stress and more depression than non-dieters and most will have broken our diet before January is up. And even if we do get back to our pre-Christmas weight, less than 10 per cent of us will keep it off. By the end of 2012, most of us will be heavier than we are now.
Do yourself a favour and make your New Year resolution to finally ditch dieting for good. Stop giving your trust and your money to an industry that is destroying lives. Make New Year a time to speak out against the diet companies that make a profit from your misery.
The Endangered Bodies (EB) team led by Susie Orbach, launched its #DitchingDieting campaign at UK Feminista's national conference last November where they invited attendees to "speak out against the misery caused by the diet industry."Sharon Haywood from adiosbarbie.com says:
"Anyone, anywhere can hold a SpeakOut in the name of #DitchingDieting. You can organise friends around your kitchen table or you might fill an auditorium. The point is to create a safe space where the suffering caused by dieting can be expressed and validated. A SpeakOut and the subsequent support group that can emerge from it offers similar support that diet clubs such as Weight Watchers provide; however, instead of focusing on working against your body's natural impulses, a SpeakOut club facilitates strong bonds as you explore collaboratively with other members how to truly take care of yourself."
Consider hosting your own SpeakOut. For more information visit www.ditchingdieting.org and write to firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a SpeakOut package.
A Body Image Inquiry is underway looking into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety. If you're based in London, take the day off work on16 January 2012 and join the UK EB team in speaking out against the diet industry at Parliament. Full event details here.