A new year, a new resolution to lose weight and look great

Five steps to weight loss in the new year

Posted Dec 17, 2009

People also look for the magic formula to be able to accomplish their weight loss goals and are vulnerable to unproven and often both wacky and costly approaches. We all know that there is no simple and easy answer to weight loss that will work long term. Research clearly informs us that most efforts do indeed fail.  In fact, one University of Pennsylvania study conducted a few years ago found that 97% of all those who lose weight regain their weight loss within 5 years. Pretty discouraging indeed!

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to offer just a few principles that you might consider this time around. I’ve worked with patients trying to lose weight for several decades and a few principles in my view seem to be especially helpful.

1. Get a pedometer and don’t be afraid to use it!  Don’t go to bed unless you have 10,000 steps for the day.

Too often people start an exercise program that just isn’t sustainable. Getting up early to go to the gym across town or perhaps trying to make time after work just isn’t realistic for most people.  I have had success asking people to use a pedometer and not go to bed each day until they have 10,000 steps. A pedometer gives you feedback and you can monitor your activity throughout the day. You might decide to take a walk in the middle of the day, take the stairs rather than the elevator, park your car a bit further away from your destination, and so forth to get your steps that you can monitor anytime you wish to do so. I personally have been doing this for years and use a Digiwalker.  My wife and son have gotten into it as well and it has become a fun family affair. Unless I'm in the shower or in bed, I always wear it.

2. Exercise every day, 7 days a week. Think of exercise like you might think of brushing your teeth or taking a daily shower.

You’ve heard recommendations to exercise 3 to 5 times a week from many reputable sources. The problem with this advice is that we need to make exercise just like brushing teeth or taking a shower. We do it every day so that it becomes a habit that we don’t even think about. We just do it!  Exercise needs to become the same kind of habit as teeth brusing and showering. If we have some days that we exercise and some days that we don’t, we are all too likely to skip it and it won't become a mindless habit.  Of course there are some days that you are sick, injured, or have other special circumstances that prevent you from exercise. That’s ok but they should be rare exceptions. You might go a day without taking a shower or brushing your teeth as well…these should be rare events too.  For me, I run every day for 30 minutes and have done so since about 1977. Of course, there are days when I’m sick or injured or doing something that prevents me from running. However, non running days are very rare for me. Sometines I can go a whole year without missing a day.

3. Don't eat at fast food places such as McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, and the like. Just don’t go there! 

I know this is easier said than done for many but eating at these places tend to encourage us to have foods that are just too high in calories and fat.  The last time I’ve eaten at one of these places was also around 1977. My 13 year old son has never eaten at these places either (with the exception of In and Out Burger during a boy scout trip). While you're at it, get used to drinking water (rather than soda and please, whatever you do, don't drink regular non-diet soda!).

4. Don't sweat the mistakes.

People inevitably fall off the wagon. It often leads to discouragement and throwing in the towel. I'd like to suggest to not sweat it. It happens. Get over it and move on. We all do things we regret even with the best of intentions. Any movement in the right direction is better than no movement and so when you fail to reach your goals and expectations, try to be forgiving of yourself and try again. If you can't do your full exercise routine, do part of it. Anything is better than nothing.

5. Get ready for unintended counsequences.

People are often surprised at the unintended consequences of  health promotion, weight loss, improved fitness, and so forth. Sometimes friends and relatives become jealous and try to discourage you. Sometimes those who you wouldn't expect to do so start to flirt with you.  People might act out or try to derail you from your goals. If you expect this to occur it won't throw you for a loop as much.

The Bottom Line ...

The bottom line is that your lifestyle likely needs to be tweaked in a way where exercise and healthy eating is just part of your routine (without you really even thinking about it) and your mind is prepared for any downside that emerges from your efforts.  These certainly aren't magic principles but just a few that I have found helpful working with clients trying to lose weight over the years. One of my patients has mainatined a 30 pound weight loss after years of unsuccessful efforts simply by using the first principle above (10,000 steps per day measured by the pedometer). 

Try these principles this time around and see if they can help you in ways that might make you more successful than your efforts in the past.

Good luck and Happy New Year!  

PS: By the way, you may wish to run any exercise and diet plan by your health care provider just to be sure you are doing the right thing for you given your particular medical condition, history, and risk factors. 

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