Along with saving money, quitting smoking and behaving in a more saintly fashion, Americans’ favorite New Year’s resolution is, of course, losing weight; a disproportionately large number of us make a resolution to lose weight for the new year.
New research shows you’re 10 times more likely to reach your goal if you make a pact with yourself to change, rather than simply have a desire to do so. People who make resolutions and succeed in reaching their goals have the same number of slip-ups as those who resolve and fail.
One of the reasons many of us fail is that we try to use a short-term approach to solve a long-term problem. We secretly believe we can begin a diet, lose weight and then resume all our old bad habits. We fail to realize that weight management is a lifestyle challenge that can’t be achieved without permanent changes.
There’s no magic cure. Losing weight and keeping it off requires a major commitment of time and energy. As they say, sometimes the truth hurts, and we have to gear up for the contest if we’re going to stay on the winning track.
Second, we may have the best of intentions, do all the right things and then we crash into a faulty diet mentality thinking, “I’m not losing weight fast enough!” We get impatient. Why? Well, what do all the ads say? “Drop 10 pounds in a week!” Having been brainwashed to expect rapid results, we get demoralized when we don’t see the weight drop off quickly. We need to adjust our expectations about successful weight goals. Gradual loss (1 or 2 pounds a week at the most) is more likely to be permanent.
Another reason we fail is that we don’t exercise. We give in to all the excuses such as, “I don’t have the time” or “I get enough exercise during the day.”
Research studies have shown repeatedly that exercise is the key to weight management success. Exercise is, without question, the best thing we can do for ourselves, both physically and mentally. It’s the modern panacea. Yet almost two-thirds of Americans don’t get enough exercise. Without regular exercise, our weight-loss attempts will fail.
So, how can you maximize your chance for success and make this the last year you need to make the resolution to lose weight?
1. Make a commitment: Achieving and maintaining your healthy weight requires a lifelong commitment. It requires concentration, time and effort. Make sure that you’re ready to make the necessary permanent changes and that you do so for the right reasons. No one else can make you lose weight. In fact, external pressure — often from people closest to you — may actually make matters worse.
You must want to make diet and exercise changes to please yourself. As you’re planning to launch new weight-related lifestyle changes, try to resolve any other problems that may be in your life. It takes considerable mental and physical energy to change your habits. So, make sure you aren’t distracted by other major issues in your life, such as marital or financial problems.
Timing is key to success. You need to be at a point in your life where you’re ready to take on the challenges of serious weight loss. Keep in mind that no matter how prepared you may be, you’ll occasionally overeat or eat foods that you should avoid. Rather than let a setback derail your efforts, accept that it happened and get back on track. Don’t expect to be perfect — and never give up.
Motivate yourself by focusing on all of the benefits of losing weight, such as having more energy and improving your health. Then look at the negatives, such as finding the time to exercise, and come up with creative solutions.
2. Draw on support from others: Ultimately, only you can help yourself lose weight, so you have to take responsibility for your own behavior. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything alone. Seek support from your spouse, family and friends.
An ideal support person might be someone who also is participating in a weight-loss program, such as another eDiets member. Some people fare better with professional support, such as from a dietitian or personal trainer. eDiets offers support and access to professionals to help you accomplish your goals.
3. Set Realistic Goals: Focus on health instead of weight as your primary measure of success. When you’re thinking about what you expect from your new eating and exercise plan, be realistic. Set weekly or monthly goals and track your progress. Remember that you’re in this for the long haul. Anything you undertake too intensely or too vigorously quickly becomes too onerous, so you’re more likely to give up.
In addition, make your goals “process goals,” such as eating judiciously and exercising regularly, rather than “outcome goals,” such as losing 50 pounds. Changing your process — your habits — is the key to weight loss. Make sure that your process goals are realistic, specific and measurable — you’ll walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
4. Learn to enjoy healthier foods: Liquid meals, diet pills and unusual combinations of foods aren’t the key to long-term weight control and better health. Instead, learn how to eat a variety of healthy foods. Adopting a new eating style that promotes a healthy weight for you must include lowering your total calorie intake. But decreasing calories need not mean decreasing taste, satisfaction or even ease of meal preparation.
5. Change your lifestyle: It’s not enough to eat healthy foods and exercise for only a few weeks or even several months. You have to incorporate these behaviors into your life. To do that, you have to change the behaviors that helped make you overweight in the first place.
Lifestyle changes start with taking an honest look at your eating habits and daily routine. To assess your eating behaviors, ask yourself if you tend to eat when you’re bored, angry, tired, anxious, depressed or socially pressured. Look at your eating style and shopping and cooking techniques. Were you taught to clean your plate? Do you eat too fast? Do you eat while watching TV? See if any patterns emerge to identify possible triggers for overeating.
After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, try working out a strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts. Simply admitting your own challenges won’t get you past them entirely. But it helps in planning how you’ll deal with them and whether you’re going to succeed in losing weight once and for all.
6. Celebrate your victories: Set small reachable goals and reward yourself when you get there. Maybe buy a new CD you’ve been wanting or a massage. Or buy a new best-seller novel and curl up with it.
So, get going! No more excuses, fad diets or junk food.
Dr. Nancy Tice is a psychiatrist with extensive experience furnishing medical information and writing articles for online services. She did her medical training at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.