The pitfalls of the January diet

21 Dec 2023 15:48PM by Hannah Whiteley - Nutritionist

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As we head into January we’re hit with a wave of new resolutions and intentions to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Some of us might start on the ‘new diet’ journey fuelled by the desire to lose weight - and fast. However, as a nutritionist who sees this mindset year after year, it’s time to shift the perspective to one that promotes more sustainable and positive changes rather than a restrictive, all-or-nothing mindset.

I’m here to talk to you about the pitfalls of the January diet.  

January and fad diets

The traditional ‘January diet’ falls under the category of ‘fad diets’. It is often restrictive and unsustainable with highly unrealistic expectations. As a result, these types of diets are often short-lived, leading to a cycle of initial enthusiasm followed by frustration and eventual abandonment.

January is often used as a way of ‘getting back on track’. However, the problem is not that you fell ‘off track’, it’s the all-or-nothing mindset you set for yourself. Many people believe they must completely overhaul their diets and lifestyles overnight to achieve meaningful results. However, this mentality can be unsustainable. A mindset like this is more likely to lead to Yo-Yo dieting, much like a pendulum swinging from restriction and overeating and never landing in the middle.

Instead of aiming for perfection, it is important to embrace progress, gradual change and life-long sustainability.

Try this instead…

Adding, not subtracting 

Rather than fixating on what to eliminate from our diets, let’s shift our focus to what we can add. Opting for nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and lean proteins, can be powerful ways to enhance nutritional intake without feeling deprived. Experiment with colourful salads, try new recipes that incorporate colour, and discover the joy of nourishing your body with wholesome foods.

Mindful Eating

There is one aspect of nutrition that people forget about. While eating healthily is greatly important, we forget about the importance of a healthy relationship with food. We should all be able to eat foods considered ‘unhealthy’ without guilt or shame.

Aim to think of foods deemed ‘unhealthy’ or ‘treat foods’ as a normal part of the diet, that we eat less often than nourishing foods, yet are able to do so without guilt or a lack of control. It might sound scary but it’s important for creating mindful eating habits.

To eat intuitively, pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, savouring each bite, and avoiding distractions during meals. This can foster a healthier relationship with food.

Set realistic goals

Rather than feeling the pressure of rapid results, try setting realistic and achievable goals.

Sustainable change takes time and gradual progress is more likely to lead to long-term success. Celebrate small victories and view setbacks as opportunities to learn and adjust your approach.

Think of it like this: it’s much easier to climb a ladder that has lots of small steps placed at a reachable distance, than to climb a ladder where the steps are spread out and it requires a lot of effort to get between each one.

Small steps lead to greater change compared to starting too high and not being able to reach the first step.


To recap, January doesn’t have to be a daunting challenge. It can be an opportunity for individuals to make lasting changes by embracing a mindset of balance, moderation and gradual improvement. By adding nourishing foods, cultivating mindful eating habits, and incorporating regular physical activity, you can get started on a journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. It’ll be one that extends far beyond the confines of a traditional New Year’s resolution. At Virgin Active we offer nutrition coaching to guide you through your nutrition. similar to how Personal Training supports your fitness, our qualified nutrition coaches can support your nutrition. 


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