More than half of Brits admit to starting a diet or fitness regime – fully expecting to fail

By Richard Jenkins
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 10:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 10:17 am

Research of 2,000 adults found 32 per cent feel they would ‘never’ be successful when it comes to trying to stick to an exercise plan, while 28 per cent feel the same about eating healthily or losing weight.

As a result, of those who have tried to change their eating habits, they lasted an average of just 11 days before giving it up.

While nearly one in 10 quit within the first 48 hours.

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This may be because one in six (16 per cent) go ‘cold turkey’ on their favourite foods, scrapping them completely when they make a bid for better health.

Others said being too stressed and not feeling supported were the top reasons for failing to see a diet through.

The study also found one in five feel they have to do something ‘drastic’ in order to shed a few pounds or improve their health, with 21 per cent admitting they often set themselves unrealistic goals or timeframes.

Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D., chief of psychology at Noom, the digital health platform focused on behaviour change which commissioned the research, said: “A lot of us have a tricky time establishing healthy lifestyle changes and our expectation that we will ‘fail’ before we’ve even begun often undermines our healthy intentions.

“This plays into the ‘Well-Being Gap,’ revealed in Noom’s inaugural State of Healthy Behaviours report, which found that Brits know what they need to do to be healthier, yet aren’t successfully meeting their health goals.

“Reframing our thoughts and changing our mindset can help us to achieve our goals.

“One of the main pitfalls when changing our behaviours is that people try to change everything all at once. But being overly strict with ourselves is not necessarily the way forward.

“When we try to cut something from our lives completely, this can in fact make us focus on the thing more, which can hinder our chances of success.”

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Sticking to a plan for the long term is difficult

The study also found that more than half (55 per cent) of adults find, when trying to cut out things like sugar completely, that they end up craving the ‘forbidden’ snacks even more.

Despite their intentions to stick with it for the long term, 49 per cent will give up on their health goals entirely after the first setback such as enjoying a sweet treat or a night out.

While another fifth (21 per cent) find their goals are derailed by comparing themselves to others who are seemingly doing better – which leads to demotivation.

And as many as two thirds of those polled via OnePoll confess to feeling disheartened and disappointed if their lifestyle changes don’t lead to results fast – or even overnight.

A ‘social media effect’ may also be at play with 47 per cent admitting they have unrealistic expectations of how quickly they’ll see results, thanks to social media and celebs.

Andreas Michaelides P.hD. of Noom added: “Small bite-size changes versus drastic overhauls are more likely to lead to sustainable healthy outcomes in the long-term.

“Many people give up at the first sign of a setback, but establishing a sustainable, healthy lifestyle does not happen overnight.

“At Noom we encourage a different mindset; set-backs are to be expected – they are a part of life - but they do not equate to failure.”

Following the findings, Noom has created a quiz to allow you to find out what kind of goal setter you are, to see whether you are a ‘go-getter’ or tempted to give up before you even begin.

Top 10 reasons Brits struggle to stick to healthy regimes

1.            You find it hard to fit into your day

2.            You find it hard to get going

3.            You find it too tiring /don’t have the energy

4.            It takes too long to see results

5.            You don’t enjoy the exercise / activity you're trying to do

6.            You don’t have enough willpower to go to the gym or exercise

7.            The weather puts you off exercise

8.            You find it hard to hold yourself accountable

9.            The goals you set are too ambitious and therefore more difficult to stick at

10.          You don’t know what you are doing

Goal setting tips, by Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D., chief of psychology at Noom

1.            Reflect on previous resolutions

If you are planning on setting New Year’s resolutions, think back to how you felt and what cycles you experienced the last time you were in a similar situation around New Years. Habits we have with New Years’ resolutions can often involve cyclical behaviour chains. By reflecting on these specific cycles and triggers, you can create an awareness around “why” some of these habits seem to be ingrained in your thoughts and behaviours.

2.            Identify one thing you can do differently

We all have individual journeys that we are on to help us become the best version of ourselves. Along the way, these journeys include big and small goals to help us continue to make progress and move forward. Many of us start off by wanting to tackle “all the things.” This mindset can backfire and cause anxiety and overwhelm, making the task at hand difficult. Try shifting your focus to change just one thing, or one portion of the bigger picture, which will help break this habit loop and allow you to make, and sustain, small changes.

3.            Talk it out

By verbalising a goal, you are taking these abstract ideas and turning them into concrete action plans. Also, by sharing your goals out loud with others, you are allowing them to hold you accountable to these goals. While this may be a bit scary, you are creating a support system that may be able to help you when obstacles arise on your way to success.

4.            Define your why

When approaching a new year, you want to clarify the “why” behind your decision to make a resolution. Assigning a bigger meaning to this decision can be the ultimate difference between getting lost in the moment and re-orienting yourself on your health journey.

5.            Setbacks do not equate to failure

It is inevitable: you will have setbacks and feel like a failure. The major difference between those who succeed and fail at changing a habit is pushing past these setbacks. Would you quit your job after experiencing one bad day? The same principle applies to your personal health journey and New Years’ resolutions. Keep pushing forward.