I can see why people find it really appealing to vow that they’ll lose weight in the new year. Of course there’s the eternal return of the FoBT — “this year is the year I get my new life underway.” But there’s also the fact that, man alive, is it ever easy to eat a lot over the holidays. Even those of us who are relatively secure with our bodies can end up feeling a little logy, bloated, and sugar-poisoned — I know I do. It’s tempting to think of a diet as the ticket to feeling cleansed.
Before you give in, though, check out this BBC News article on why now is actually the worst time to diet. You need your immune system during the winter months even more than usual, and surprise surprise — when you’re restricting calories, you can’t choose what gets shortchanged. At least in mice, dieting leads to reduced ability to fight off the flu.
The team at Michigan State University found even though the mice on the lower calorie diet received adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, their bodies were still not able to produce the amount of killer cells needed to fight an infection.
As well as being more likely to die from the virus, the mice – which were consuming around 40% of the calories given to their counterparts on a normal diet – took longer to recover, lost more weight and displayed other symptoms of poor health.
“Our research shows that having a body ready to fight a virus will lead to a faster recovery and less-severe effects than if it is calorically restricted,” said study author Professor Elizabeth Gardner.
Hilariously, even though a well-fed body is described as “a body ready to fight a virus,” the scientists warn that their results “should not be seen as a carte blanche to avoid dieting all year.” Flu season is apparently the only time when you need the ability to fight off infection more than you need to be a pretty pretty princess. Still — thanks, guys, for giving us leave to care more about our health than our weight for four months out of twelve! (It goes without saying, of course, that we here at SP give you carte blanche to avoid dieting all year. We tend to think it’s foolish to court a compromised immune system, even in the summer.)