It’s “New Year, New You” time again — which means that millions and millions of American women, as well as their compatriots in many developed nations, are momentarily resolved to lose weight and start diets. But they will ultimately fail.
According to a recent USA Today survey, 87% of respondents have or will make a resolution as 2011 begins, and 73% cite weight loss as their number one resolution. Here’s my prediction, which is based on the belief that past performance is a good predictor of future performance: These women are going to lose some weight in January and perhaps February—say 5 or 10, perhaps even 12 pounds—but next December they are going to be back to within 5 pounds (plus or minus) of their current weight. Tis the season of yo-yo diets.
It’s also the season when I like to use such words as equilibrium, seasonality, pleasure, moderation, quality and sensitivity. When combined, those words represent the philosophy of a healthy life, full of pleasure and contentment. Eating well, with cultivated respect for flavor, freshness and variety, attuned to the rhythms of the year, as well as understanding the value of quality over quantity, is crucial in achieving one’s personal equilibrium, physically and mentally. Throw in a little movement, like taking the stairs, and you have a sustainable lifestyle that sheds pounds then fixes a constant weight. It is a non-diet and a reset healthy lifestyle.
As I and others see it, women in America (as well as those in many other developed countries in today’s global economy) increasingly face career pressures, personal stress, and often just have too much to do in too little time. Food is often perceived as a quick fix that helps deal with daily problems — or rather, allows forgetting them for a while. The culture of excess and instant gratification, constantly fueled by relentless stream of often deceptive ads, makes it easier than ever to reach for industrially produced, cheap food that is available in mega-portions, and is reliant on high content of fat, sugar, and salt for taste.
All this creates an environment conductive to habitually extreme behaviors, such as overeating followed by bouts of guilt and, finally, remorse in the form of some sort of “miracle” diet which usually promises a lot, delivers very little or fails completely in the long run. Yet, in the vein of “no pain, no gain,” a false sense of achievement through hard work and deprivation reinforces the cycle. Thus, a vicious circle is born, and staying slim becomes a constant battle, impossible to win.
The French women who don’t get fat know the secret of pleasure. Pleasure has proved to be the most powerful and lasting motivation, and if we can harness it, we can stay slim or lose weight and never feel deprived. All we need is to learn a sense of proportion, an appreciation of taste, and moderation. Practicing moderation, pacing oneself by not overdoing one’s food, drink, work or exercise, and cultivating a positive outlook, ongoing exploration, and self-discovery, are all important elements of the art of joyful living. And if you over-indulge on a special occasion, so what? Balance your intake over a few days.
Learn to view eating as one of life’s pleasures that is meant to be relished, not overindulged in. I am pointing to a state of mind and lifestyle that can be developed and practiced almost anywhere, by anyone! And who doesn’t like a diet that includes wine and chocolate? Bonne Année.