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4 Evidence-Based Things We Can Do to Actually Lose Weight

Have you failed your New Year's resolution to lose weight? You are not alone.

Key points

  • New Year's resolutions to lose weight often fail because the plans are short-sighted.
  • There are evidence-based things that can be done to lose weight, but they are not well-known, they aren't marketed products.
  • Calorie restriction sets off survival-based resistances from the body, including hunger hormone spikes and metabolism slows.

If your resolution plan to lose weight in 2023 has failed by now, you are not alone. The great majority of New Year’s resolutions fail.1 And that’s all comers. Those related to losing weight are even less successful.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost half of Americans were on a diet at one time or another during the previous 12 months, and precious few are reaching their goals—with even fewer sustaining them.2 This translates to more than 150 million Americans with obesity, all of whom are at increased risk for severe COVID-19–related illness, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—not to mention biases, depression, and outright shaming.3

So, why is that? Why do so many people embark on mainstream weight loss plans and fail? And why is this disease so difficult to manage? How has the prevalence of obesity more than tripled during the last 30 years despite billions of dollars spent by consumers chasing the dream?4

These are thought-provoking questions, to be sure. The answers are out there, though. Obesity medicine physicians and researchers have studied the phenomenon of diet attrition and identified the ways through. So, now that your New Year’s resolution plan has failed, here are four things you can do in the remaining months to honestly reach your weight-loss goals.

1. Ditch the static schedule.

The majority of marketed “diets” or exercise programs are presented as a schedule with tasks on this day and that day, to be completed and checked off. What inevitably happens because our lives are fluid and individualized, though, is that we miss a day or get off track, which leads to quitting. When we miss our Wednesday workout, for example, because our child got sick or we worked late, we find ourselves backed up on Thursday. Then our tasks pile up while our life influences persist. Shortly thereafter, we chuck the whole plan—with well-intentioned plans to start another day.

Instead, consider a "No Restart" principle. Pick any diet and/or exercise program you want, but superimpose a No Restart principle. With this change, when you get off track, you don't quit; you simply come back when you are ready at exactly the point where you left off. Treat it like you are a collector of coins. If a few days went by during which you could not add to your coin collection, you wouldn’t throw everything you collected to that point away and start over. You would come back where you left off when life allowed. Same with weight-loss plans. Come back in where you left off so you have something at the end of a given time period versus nothing because you quit. You are much more likely to succeed when you progress from this new point versus the same starting point every few weeks.

2. Ditch the restriction.

Early calorie restriction sets off a variety of survival-based resistances from the body, including hunger hormone spikes, metabolism slows, inflammation, anxiety, food-seeking behaviors, and more. What's more, to change into one of these beautiful "in-shape" people you see on the Internet, your body has to change. To change your body, you must provide the right nutrients so it can build the right structure. Supplement early on and exercise. Don't restrict. Staying full leads to longer times on the program, a change in your exercise capacity, and more tools to succeed in the long run.

3. Focus on recovery.

Many of the would-be dieters that "start on Monday" and try to white knuckle through to the end find themselves failing. This approach is like planning to climb a mountain and sprinting the whole way. It won't work. In the mountain analogy, you will have to stop and acclimate to the altitude, stop and rest to eat and recharge, and so on—if you are to make it to the top of the mountain. Same here: If you are going to make it to the end and change, you will have to focus on the "in-between days" (in between diet and exercise instructions). Those are the days when your body is recharging and refueling and restructuring to stay the course. This is instead of a straight sprint until you run out of energy. Instead, double down on active and passive recovery strategies in between diet and exercise tasks, such as massage, meditation, and mindfulness.

4. Consider a procedure, surgery, or medical intervention.

In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a weight loss medication for appropriate patients. Minimally invasive procedures such as bariatric artery embolization, duodenal sleeves, or cryovagotomies have blossomed. Bariatric surgeries in selected populations have led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds and even the reversal of associated diseases like hypertension and diabetes. For the right people, there are effective available interventions.

Instead of thinking of your New Year’s resolution plan abandonment as a failure, consider it an opportunity. It may be the plan itself that is causing you to quit. It’s February now, and the pressure is off. Now is the time to employ evidence-based principles to your weight loss goal and get somewhere.






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