These are the common reasons why January diets fail

Ditch the quick fix diets and look after yourself (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The New Year, new me mindset sends us sailing into 2021 expecting that we’ll be able to radically overhaul who we are.

We take on ridiculous resolutions with extreme demands, ignoring all the reasons that these aims just haven’t worked previously, from a lack of time to our restrictions just not being doable.

The top pledge we take on that nearly always fails? The extreme January diet.

A survey of 2,000 adults by Second Nature takes a closer look at why New Year’s resolutions around diets so often come crashing down.

They found that having unrealistic goals, losing motivation, and feeling tired and hungry top the list of reasons for people ditching their diets.

Other reasons listed include pressure from friends and partners to stop dieting, and the effect of the diet on our sex lives (we’re too tired due to lack of food to have sex, basically).

It doesn’t take long for these reasons to come into play – the survey found that January 12 is the day most people will give up their New Year diet.

Second Nature is encouraging people to ditch the crash diets entirely (because they just don’t work, along with making us miserable) and instead focus on making healthier choices.

More than 18% of those surveyed said they were planning a January diet because of overindulgence during Christmas, 19% said they wanted to lose the lockdown weight they had gained, while 10% said they ‘always’ diet in January.

When asked what had influenced them to go on a diet, health was the top response (33%), followed by ‘how I feel when I look in the mirror (31%), and not being able to fit into certain clothes (27%).

Top reasons diets fail:

  1. Feeling hungry
  2. Missing out on snacks
  3. Feeling irritable
  4. Losing motivation
  5. Missing foods
  6. Having unrealistic goals
  7. Receiving pressure from a partner or friends to stop dieting
  8. Impact on love life

Other answers included for a special occasion (15%), ‘to have a better sex life’ (11%), and comments from their partner or children (8%).

Asked what are the worst aspects of starting a new diet, the top answer at 55% was feeling hungry, followed by missing out on snacks at 35%, then feeling irritable at 34%.

Reasons for giving up on diets included losing motivation (34%), missing foods (33%), having unrealistic goals (18%), as well as receiving pressure from a partner (7%) or friends (5%), while 5% said their diet was affecting their love life.

When we take on a diet that’s doomed to fail, it only makes us feel rubbish.

The survey also found that having a new diet not work out leaves 40% of people feeling as though they have no willpower, 26% believing they will never feel good about their body, and 23% feeling like a failure.

The reality, of course, is that it’s the diet that’s the problem, not the person. It’s really not a sign of personal failure that a diet hasn’t worked, but perhaps that the restrictions imposed simply aren’t reasonable.

Second Nature recommends taking on the below healthy habits as a more achievable way to prioritise health:

  • Adding extra vegetables to every meal I have.
  • Having a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
  • Starting each morning with a 10 minute walk.
  • Plan meals ahead of time.
  • Avoiding screen time for one hour before bed * E.g. laptops, phones, TV.
  • Standing up from my desk every hour to do 1 minute of activity * E.g. squats, star jumps, stretching, or running on the spot.
  • Allowing myself to eat a certain food when I really feel like it (e.g. chocolate), but eating it slowly and distraction-free.
  • Taking at least 15 minutes to eat my meals.
  • Limiting takeaways to once every two weeks.

Tamara Willner, nutritionist from Second Nature, said: ‘The fact that more than half of us think that fad diets aren’t a long-term solution but will continue to try them anyway shows the magnitude of the problem.

‘Constant pressure can leave us feeling like we aren’t good enough, prompting us to search for a quick fix to the problem which is unsustainable and can lead to the yo-yo dieting cycle.

‘It’s also incredibly tempting to give in to the all-or-nothing mindset and think that we can heavily restrict ourselves and have the willpower to stick it out.

‘But when we inevitably slip up because our standards were unrealistic to begin with, we feel defeated and give up.

‘Instead, it’s much more effective to commit to small, realistic changes to our lifestyle that we can sustain in the long term, and then build on these. To lose weight and keep it off, we need to focus on all aspects of our health, including movement, sleep, and stress, rather than diet alone.’

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