Here’s an easy question for most readers: What’s the most popular New Year’s resolution? The answer, of course, is losing weight.
Another question, this one a bit harder: What percentage of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions? According to www.statisticbrain.com, only 8 percent. Yikes!
The failure to lose weight and keep it off isn’t due to a lack of information. There are volumes of plans, programs, apps and even one-on-one resources out there, all dispensing helpful and supportive information. All that information generally makes it easy to lose weight; what’s hard is keeping it off. The problem is our willpower only lasts so long; too soon the old habits return and the weight comes back.
The focus needs to change. Instead of focusing on the pounds, focus on the unhealthy habits – change those, and let the weight loss take care of itself.
Here’s a list of stressors and unhealthy habits that can lead to excess weight:
- Not exercising consistently, at least three hours of vigorous exercise each week.
- Not planning meals, not making a shopping list, and not taking the time to prepare food in advance.
- Not eating enough vegetables and/or plant foods.
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Lacking self-compassion, being hard on ourselves.
- Having an “all or nothing” mentality about weight loss, and beating ourselves up about setbacks and backsliding.
- Not drinking enough water, and drinking too many sugary drinks.
Let’s look at an example. “Mary” has tried Weight Watchers, juice fasts and strict low-carb diets. She has lost and re-gained about 30 pounds on several occasions. She feels sluggish, craves sweets, and her doctor recently told her that she is pre-diabetic.
This time, Mary is determined to shed the excess weight and keep it off. She works with a nutritionist, who helps her create a plan. The challenge for Mary is a plan isn’t enough. Unfortunately, Mary’s lifestyle is stacked against her success. She currently exercises sporadically, eats out most of the time and doesn’t spend any time planning meals or preparing food in advance.
We’ve now identified Mary’s true demon. It’s not the pounds, it’s her unhealthy lifestyle habits. Focus on those bad habits instead of the pounds, and Mary has a much better chance at long-term success.
One Step at a Time
The best way to tackle lifestyle habits is to take them one at a time. If you currently have more than one of the lifestyle habits bulleted above, pick one and focus on improving it for at least two weeks. When progress is made on that habit, tackle the next one; don’t move to the next bad habit until you’re comfortable that you can continue the improvements you’ve made in other areas. Take the time you need – it’s a slow and steady marathon, not a sprint.
Slowly work on those negative habits to eliminate the things that support your current weight. From her past experience, Mary knows how to lose weight; she just doesn’t know how to keep it off. If she can improve her unhealthy habits and lose only three pounds a month, that’s 36 pounds at the end of a year. With lifestyle improvements, she can keep that weight off.
Sarah Treat is a board-certified clinical nutritionist who owns Local Health Market in San Antonio. In her early 20s, Treat was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid condition, and this spurred her interest in natural health and wellness. Local Health Market is located at 16535 Huebner Rd., Suite 112. For more information, visit www.localhealthmarket.com.