If you ask people for a New Year's resolution, chances are a lot of people will tell you they resolve to lose weight in the coming year. Chances are also good they will fail.
Despite the numerous diet programs and products available to consumers, losing weight and maintaining that new weight is not easy to do. Where most people run into trouble, says Shaynee Roper, clinical nutrition manager for the Harris Health System, is how they view the challenge.
Losing weight is not a change in diet, she says, but a change in lifestyle.
“A lot of people set goals and are really gung-ho in January and February, but then their energy fades because they’re not making a lifestyle change,” said Roper. “Most want a quick fix, but if you have more than 8-10 pounds to lose, it isn’t going to be a quick fix. You have to stay on task and stick with it for 6-12 months to see results.”
How do you make losing weight part of your lifestyle? It starts with setting small goals. You might set a weekly goal of losing a pound or even five pounds over a month. Or better yet, don’t establish weight goals. Just try to reduce or eliminate bad foods like fried food or sweets.
Keeping track of what you eat and drink is also important. In the beginning it helps to write it down. If you know how many calories -- or approximately how many calories a food item has -- write that down too. Knowing how many calories you're taking in and how many you are burning is a good way to stay on track.
If you notice that there are certain foods you tend to over-consume, try to cut back. Eliminate them altogether if they aren't healthy. Replace them with fruits and vegetables.
Food is not a reward
Roper says it's fine to reward yourself for hitting certain goals, just don't reward yourself with food. Buy yourself something special or treat yourself to an event like a concert or movie.
The important thing to remember is the change can be gradual.
“When eliminating or reducing certain foods from your diet, pick one or two to start," Roper said. "Work on these for two weeks before adding more.”
Exercise is also part of a lifestyle change and 30 minutes a day will provide results. But again, don't feel like you have to do it all at once. Roper suggests breaking up the 30 minutes of recommended activity into small 5-10 minute segments throughout the day. The idea is to get your metabolism revved up and into gear.
Mayo Clinic advice
While hundreds of fad diets, weight-loss programs and outright scams promise quick and easy weight loss, the Mayo Clinic also stresses a healthy lifestyle as the foundation for a successful weight-loss program. And these changes must be permanent.
"It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change your habits," the clinic staff says in a website posting. "So as you're planning new weight-loss-related lifestyle changes, make a plan to address other stresses in your life first, such as financial problems or relationship conflicts. While these stresses may never go away completely, managing them better should improve your ability to focus on achieving a healthier lifestyle."