January 1st provides a lot of opportunities for goal setting and a refreshed outlook on life.
We look forward to a new year of endless possibilities, both personal and professional. We may set New Year’s resolutions or choose a word we hope to align our lives with for the year.
While we always have the best intentions when setting these resolutions or choosing these words, sometimes we don’t even make it to the end of the month before we have abandoned them. Weight loss New Year’s resolutions fall perfectly into this category of abandoned or forgotten resolutions, which is why I’m encouraging us to ditch the New Year’s resolutions that are set every year to lose “x” number of pounds.
You may be surprised to hear this coming from a public health dietitian, but we need to stop making resolutions to lose weight. Although well-intentioned, these resolutions are usually based on diets. Unfortunately, research has shown us that diets do not work long term.
You may be thinking, “Well, I’m not going on a certain diet like keto or paleo, but I am going to restrict certain food items or nutrients.” This strategy is the same as dieting, and it is also unsustainable in the long term.
A study that looked at the effects of calorie-restricting diets found that one to two-thirds of dieters regained more weight than they lost on their diets. The researchers concluded that there was little support for the hypothesis that diets lead to health benefits or weight loss that can be maintained.
Another study compared low-fat diets and low-carbohydrate diets to determine which would be best in terms of weight loss. The researchers followed the participants over a year, and you may be surprised to learn that neither diet contributed significantly to weight loss. Some participants in both groups ended up gaining weight.
If you are reading this and you have never dieted or restricted food to lose weight, you are in the minority. It is estimated that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year and we also spend $33 billion a year on weight loss products. That’s billion with a “b”.
There’s a reason why the wellness industry is estimated to be worth over $4.2 trillion, with almost a third of that industry being split between nutrition, weight loss and fitness or exercise. It’s because Americans are desperate to lose weight and will do — and spend — just about anything to achieve that goal.
Failed diets and weight gain when you are aiming to lose weight does not mean all hope is lost. This struggle just means we have to take a different, more effective and sustainable approach to our health and weight. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to make healthier choices that may lead to weight loss.
That is why I encourage us to focus on behavior changes as resolutions that can lead to improvements to our health, instead of a number on a scale. You may choose to focus on one, two or even a couple of these behavior changes that can ultimately improve your health.
Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Instead of restricting certain foods, you can always make a New Year’s Resolution to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. This mission will allow you to focus on what healthy foods you can add, as well as the vitamins and nutrients they provide.
The goal does not have to be limited to fresh fruits or vegetables. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can have comparable nutrient content.
Focusing on Water
Cutting out sugar-sweetened beverages or other drinks may be more challenging than making a resolution to simply drink more water. If you give yourself a goal to consume a certain number of ounces of water a day, you’ll likely find that you are reaching for more water and reducing sugar sweetened beverage consumption to meet this goal. Adding in more water can improve your hydration status, aid in digestion, normalize blood pressure and have other positive impacts on your health.
Being More Physically Active
Increasing physical activity can lead to a variety of positive health benefits that are unrelated to weight loss. You may want to set a resolution associated with being physically active to improve your mood, boost your energy or get better sleep.
Keep in mind that you want to set realistic goals when it comes to physical activity. If you are currently not physically active at all, it probably does not make sense to set a goal to go to the gym seven days a week. Be mindful of where you are versus where you want to be.
Mindfulness is something that we can practice in a variety of settings in our life, including eating. One of the best ways to do this is to remove or reduce distractions while eating, such as watching television, scrolling through social media or checking email.
Allow yourself at least 15-20 minutes to eat a meal and check in with your hunger/fullness throughout the meal. These mindfulness strategies can help improve our eating habits overall.
It’s About You, Not a Scale
All these resolutions can help you achieve your health goals, and they aren’t directly related to a number on a scale or weight loss. Aim to make these goals specific and realistic, keeping in mind what you are currently doing and what your short- and long-term goals are with each of these behaviors.
Give yourself grace when adopting these practices and get support from friends, family and even co-workers. Remember that the “wellness” industry is worth over $4 trillion for a reason. Diets and weight loss resolutions do not work, and they are not sustainable.
Because of this pitfall, I encourage us to focus on the bigger picture of how we can improve our health when setting our New Year’s Resolutions this year, as well as every year after.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.