Pre-Christmas diets: why they don’t work

Christmas ball with measuring tape isolated on white

As we approach the festive season my inbox and social media timelines are full of this year’s ‘Christmas is coming so you’d better start dieting now if you want to look good in your little black dress’ story.

Christmas ball with measuring tape isolated on whiteIt’s the same piece of ‘news’ that gets trotted out every year, by every magazine and website across the planet. Yawn.

There’s something for everyone – from juicing fasts to magical ‘fat binding’ pills to good old ‘sensible’ healthy-eating plans. It seems that every company and lifestyle blogger out there wants to cash in on our insecurities in the lead up to the festivities.

But let’s unpick what happens when we put ourselves on a restricted eating regime before a big event (because we could easily replace Christmas with weddings, birthdays and other celebrations that punctuate our year) and see how this diet mentality can actually lead to weight gain.

If you’re good at dieting you might just be able to stick with whatever programme you’ve chosen and shed some pounds in the weeks before the big day. The thing is, though, that for most yo-yo dieters every period of restriction and deprivation is followed by an equally intense period of rebound overeating.

And what better time to let loose and dig in than Christmas? After all, ’tis the season to be merry and there’s so much food. Everywhere, all the time.

So any weight you lose goes straight back on as you enjoy all those festive goodies you’ve diligently managed to say no to over the last few weeks. By the time the next diet season comes round in January you’re back to square one and back on on the diet wagon again. Round and round in a depressing cycle of yo-yoing between Cadbury’s and calorie counting.

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More likely, you’re one of the 8 in 10 dieters who, despite their best intentions, just can’t stick to an eating plan for very long. You give it your best shot but it’s too hard to resist: the mince pies, the chocolates, the sausage rolls and drinks parties. Everywhere you look there are your favourite Christmas goodies just begging to be enjoyed.

By the time Christmas lunch comes round you’ve been overeating for weeks and have thrown all caution to the wind. Because, after all, January is just round the corner and you’ll definitely go back on the straight and narrow then.

If you are constantly telling yourself that this is your last chance to enjoy delicious food because from 1st January you’ll be on a diet again then it’s going to be much harder to resist eating more than you need or want as you’ll be reacting to future deprivation.

Five great tips for feeling great

So here are five things you can do instead of dieting or trying to diet – in the lead up to Christmas to make sure you ‘look good and feel great this party season’:

1. Get yourself a little – or medium, or large – black (or red, or purple) dress that fits you perfectly NOW

There’s nothing worse than trying to ‘slim into’ a piece of clothing. Whether it’s a £3 find from the charity shop, a £30 wonder from the high street or an indulgent £300 designer job. We all deserve a party dress we like and feel comfortable in.

2. What’s your Christmas favourite? Mince pies? Quality Streets? Stilton?

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Go out and buy loads now, don’t wait for Christmas. Stock up. When you are hungry, put some on a plate, sit down and eat it mindfully. When you are satisfied and have had enough – STOP. You can have more next time you’re hungry.

When you give yourself permission to enjoy your favourite Christmas treats without guilt and whenever you are hungry for them, something magic will happen. By the time Christmas comes round you won’t feel the need to dive in and overeat them. Imagine walking past the Quality Streets and picking out your favourite one without having to finish off the box.

3. Have a beauty night

Shut yourself in the bathroom with some good music and get down to work: scrub, pluck, moisturise, exfoliate, paint. Or just take 15 minutes to soak in a hot bath with some bubbles and something that smells nice.

Looking after the body you have NOW is the best way to get the body you want. You can own your body whatever your size. A beauty night will guarantee to leave you looking good and feeling great.

4. Take a stand!

Don’t buy into the media hype and get sucked into water cooler conversations about pre-festive season dieting. Opt out and walk away or be brave and talk about what’s really behind the little black dress issue: the overeating, the desperation to be thin, the failed dieting attempts, the angst of the countdown.

You might be surprised – your honesty will make it possible for others to open up and be honest too.

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5. Ditch the diet mentality for good

And choose to work on your relationship with food and your body right now, even during the festive season. Without waiting for January. If there’s no diet to go ‘on’ then there’s no diet to ‘blow’ right now. You can eat as much as your body wants and needs rather than cramming as much in as possible before it all ends.

What do you think? Why not give it a try, and let us know how you get on?

About Audrey and Sophie Boss

We have been working in this field for over 15 years, supporting and guiding desperate dieters to ditch the diets, stop obsessing about food their weight, stop overeating and transform the way they eat and feel about their bodies. Sophie is a psychotherapist and Audrey is a Food & Eating Coach and together we have delivered countless workshop hours, intensive retreats and online courses as well as working individually with many clients. However we are clear that our own experience as yo-yo dieters and unhappy overeaters are our best credentials. We've been there ourselves and know that dieting doesn't work! We created Beyond Chocolate back in 2000 to provide an intelligent alternative to dieting and to support our members with a new approach to weight loss and body confidence.