When New Year’s resolution time rolls around, weight loss is the first thing on many people’s lists. Unfortunately, resolutions often are forgotten by March, and people slip back into unhealthy cycles. While resolutions for the new year are admirable, accomplishing those goals via fad diets and extreme exercise routines is not sustainable.
With more than 78.6 million obese adults in the United States, weight loss needs to be approached through a series of lifestyle changes, not a cycle of failed diets and unused gym memberships.
“My advice for anyone trying to lose weight in the New Year is to start now,” said Dr. Allan MacIntyre, director of bariatric surgery at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. Rather than wait for a 2016 diet with an impending sense of doom, consider implementing a series of better habits that are conducive to a lifetime of better health.
Every body is different
Weight loss is personal, and there’s no magical key for success. Certain diets or workout regimes may work wonderfully for some people and not as well for others. However, there are certain tenets of healthy living that are a great place for people to start. Everyone should dedicate 30 minutes a day to exercise and eat a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods.
Beyond the basics, here are tips to help you succeed with weight loss during the new year:
• Hire a trainer: If you’ve having a hard time getting started exercising or you need an extra boost, using a trainer can yield good results. “I recommend finding a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainer. They’ll train you using the Optimum Performance Training model, which is very safe and effective,” MacIntyre said. The Optimum Training model follows a five-phase system to allow people to acclimate at their own pace.
• Don’t obsess over the scale: Unless you’ve been told by a medical professional that you need to lose a certain amount of weight, don’t focus too much on a number. Instead, evaluate your success based on of how you feel, the fitness goals you’re accomplishing and your prolonged commitment to being healthy.
• Be specific about your fitness goals: Instead of simply deciding that you’ll go to the gym more, set a realistic and tangible goal, such as to run 5 miles every week or to go to yoga class every Thursday. Individual, achievable goals are much more manageable than vague, wide-sweeping ones.
Make smart nutrition choices: Don’t diet. Diets can feel restrictive, which can lead to binging and giving up before you meet your goals. Instead, think of eating healthy as a new way of life you’re adopting. Stock your kitchen with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean proteins. Learn to enjoy how eating well can make you feel.
Practice portion control: “For most people who are trying to lose weight, it’s good to eat three modest-sized meals a day and then healthy snacks when you need them,” MacIntyre said.
Why do some people have such a hard time losing weight?
There could be many reasons. Genetics, hormones and certain diseases can make weight loss extremely difficult for some, but even people who don’t have a medical explanation can struggle to shed pounds.
MacIntyre attributes this to the set-point theory, the idea that everyone’s body has a set-point weight range that it attempts to maintain. There likely is a 10- to 20-pound range you’ll be able to fluctuate comfortably within, but beyond those 20 pounds, you’re likely to struggle.
What that means is, even when you do everything right, exercising and eating well, your body will resist going below its comfortable weight.
“Sensors in the body send signals to the brain telling you to eat when you start losing weight, because the body always wants to have enough fuel in case of emergencies, like when food is scarce,” MacIntyre said.
Surgical weight loss
For people who are morbidly obese, defined as having a body mass index of 40 or higher, or for patients who have a BMI of at least 35 and other weight-related complications such as diabetes or sleep apnea, bariatric weight-loss surgery can be a great option. In some cases, it even can be a medical necessity.
There are a few types of bariatric surgery, but they all work by limiting the amount of food the body is able to consume and digest.
Although bariatric surgery is considered safe and routine, it’s not a quick fix for people who simply don’t want to eat well and exercise. In addition to the surgery, patients must commit to ongoing healthy eating and other lifestyle changes conducive to maintaining a healthy weight.