The most popular New Year’s resolutions, year on year, are to lose weight, give up smoking and exercise more.
For those looking to bid farewell to some extra pounds this year, the following may come as sobering news. Diets don’t work. For the majority of people, fad diets aid in weight loss in the short term, but after time the weight creeps back on.
Don’t let this discourage you however. “Diets” may not work, but healthy lifestyle changes do. Here are a few points to remember if undertaking a weight-related New Year’s resolution.
Cut the fad
The British Dietetic Association advises people to avoid diets that promise rapid solutions of more than two pounds of body fat per week, or that encourage avoidance of whole food groups or promote mainly one type of food. Those recommending detoxing, or only eating certain combinations of food, are also warned against.
Instead of adopting a sudden diet which is too strict and unrealistic, change your habits slowly, setting realistic and specific goals and making the process a long one, achieving small steps at a time.
Choose SMART goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-limited. These methods should help reduce the chance of failure. Other things to remember when attempting to lose weight are:
Slow and steady
Healthy weight loss is one or two pounds per week. This rate of weight loss allows your body to adapt and keep the weight off, and allows eating and exercise habits to evolve into a more natural and sustainable routine.
Rapid weight loss can have negative effects. including stress on the heart and bones, muscle loss, lack of energy and low mood, and even a greater chance of gallstones if the weight loss is more than three pounds a week, according to The National Institutes of Health.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. Many may think they will lose weight by skipping meals, and they may in the short run, but inevitably hunger will win over and dieters may overeat. You may also be missing out on vital nutrients and energy by skipping meals. Fill up on vegetables, fruit and whole grains – this will decrease the amount of saturated fat and processed foods you eat and increase the antioxidants and fiber in your diet.
Combine two resolutions into one and get active. Moving more will help aid weight loss and also benefit your heart, bones and mood, among other things. Recommendations are to undertake moderate activity, such as brisk walking for 150 minutes a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities two days a week.
Cooking at home gives you control over the ingredients in your meals and will lead to a reduction in the amount of processed foods you eat. You can thus reduce the amount of sodium, fat and added sugar you ingest. Cooking at home also helps you control your portion sizes, which are generally extremely large in restaurants, leading to overconsumption. If you struggle with reducing portions, use a smaller plate, which tricks your brain into thinking you are consuming more.
If you are finding it difficult and don’t think you are losing weight, start keeping a diary to be more aware of your eating habits. Many of us subconsciously forget some things we eat or drink, such as sodas, mayonnaise, ketchup, as well as methods of cooking which may be more fattening, such as frying, which could be contributing to weight gain. As you gain more control over your eating habits and weight, and are more aware of what you ingest, you can stop recording.
Alcohol is a massive contributor to both health issues and weight gain. Pure alcohol provides seven kilocalories per gram, compared to nine kilocalories per gram from fat, so try to decrease your alcohol consumption. In addition to lowering your caloric intake in this way, you may find more energy to move more and to concentrate on other hobbies. Soft drinks and other high-sugar beverages should also be avoided.
These simple tips, accompanying general healthy eating advice, should help you on your way to a healthier life, and if you are overweight, may contribute to a healthier weight. Talking to your doctor or a professional at the gym will also provide you with more advice.