It’s early January … do you know where your New Year’s resolutions are?
For many with lofty goals for the New Year, resolutions are discarded as quickly as the confetti and noisemakers on New Year’s Eve. And the No. 1 resolution left by the wayside is often the goal of losing weight.
Researchers with Boston Medical Center say nearly half the adult population in the United States goes on a diet each year, specifically to lose weight. However, only about one in six people will find long-term success, which is defined as keeping the weight off for more than a year.
The irony is Americans spend about $66 billion a year on weight loss programs and products, which apparently have made little progress in battling the bulge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight, of which a whopping 40 percent are considered obese.
Medical experts put much of the failure on diet plans that promise quick weight loss through effective marketing and gimmicks that appeal mainly to the emotions.
“It is human nature for those with weight-loss goals to want instantaneous results,” said Atlanta-based dietitian Ilana Katz (www.onforlife.com). “[But] evidence proves that people who accomplish a gradual and steady weight loss — no more than one to two pounds per week — are more successful at long-term maintenance.”
An effective diet plan should also be tailored specifically to the individual for optimal results.
Wendy Hood, a certified nutritionist specialist from Cumming, said dieters often follow the crowd, instead of sticking to the basics of what may be best for them.
She advises clients to start with a resolution that works for them — and is attainable.
“Failure comes in when individuals decide to become trendy and jump in with the latest fads,” said Hood, a health and fitness coach (facebook.com/myhealthkick). “One person’s successful diet plan may be another person’s ‘poison plan.’”
Katz, who specializes in sports nutrition and body composition, said putting the focus on overall health, and not the numbers on the scale, would go far in limiting extreme diets that are likely doomed to failure.
“Focusing on health as a primary goal would reduce these highly restrictive eating plans, which are ultimately impossible to maintain, with the increased risk of gaining back any weight loss — plus [more],” said Katz, who is also an endurance athlete.
She said most diets fail because they do not become part of the person’s lifestyle. They are simply something someone does for a time period to get results.
"If [you] do not see [yourself] doing the same diet in two or three months, or even six months to a year, I would recommend not even starting it,” said Katz. She said “yo-yo” weight loss and weight gain can outweigh any short-term health benefits.
Research conducted by the National Institute for Health found about 35 percent of weight lost from dieting is regained within one year. Long-term weight loss is possible, scientists determined, but finding the right plan is the key.
There are dozens of diet plans ranging from restricting nearly everything to eating anything, from high-fat to no-fat and cave man to Mediterranean. Understanding your goals, whether it’s weight loss only or to address a medical concern like diabetes, is the key to a successful start.
“The first step in making the right choice for any eating plan is to understand what our individual body needs,” said Hood, who recommends a complete medical physical before embarking on a new eating plan. “Your body is communicating with you on a daily basis. Slow down and listen.”
Women also need to understand that overall health and fitness is the goal, not thinness. Every eating plan should also include a plan for physical activity as well.
“There are many unhealthy thin people,” said Hood. “Your body will respond naturally to a healthy lifestyle and will shed unhealthy weight as you balance healthy eating, exercise, reduction in stress and enjoying relationships.”
It is human nature for those faced with weight loss goals to want instant results. Evidence, however, proves that people who have a gradual and steady weight loss (no more than one to two pounds per week) are more successful at long-term maintenance.
Shayna Komar, an oncology dietitian with the Cancer Wellness Center of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, said success comes with setting attainable goals.
“If the goals are too lofty and full of fluff, you will never get there,” said Komar. “For example, instead of saying ‘I want to lose 100 pounds,’ [say] ‘I’m going to exercise three days per week with my friend for 30 minutes and make sure I drink eight cups of water each day.’ That is very specific!”
Age does play a role in the success of diet plans, and women have to work harder to keep the pounds from creeping on as they get older.
“There is no age when weight gain becomes inevitable,” said Komar. “Yes, it gets harder after 40 with women to lose weight, but not impossible. Hormones play a huge part in weight loss, and people sometimes don’t know that.”
As we age, our metabolism slows down, and combined with muscle loss, Hood said that plays a role in weight gain.
“The answer is to keep moving, period,” said Hood. “It’s not necessary to be a CrossFit champion. If you are, then great. But if you are an average woman, pick up some dumbbells, [do] push-ups, lunges, squats and sit ups. As you age, your body will remember these incredible exercises.”
And for women concerned with post-holiday weight gain, Katz said the average person gains two to three pounds in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year. Not outrageous, but she advises women to tackle these extra pounds quickly, and not allow them to compound each year.
“It is important to live life, celebrate and enjoy the good times,” said Katz. “Food often plays a role in this, but my favorite motivational phrase for the holiday season is, ‘It is a holi-day, not a holi-month!’”