Many will embark on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Making such a vow might actually help, according to one study. But it also helps to be reasonable and approach it the right way, a dietitian said.
Making a New Year’s resolution doesn’t work for everyone but a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that it is better than not making one. The researchers followed about 150 people who made a New Year’s resolution and a similar number who wanted to make changes but were not making a resolution. The two groups were focusing on similar problems and the most common were losing weight, getting more exercise and quitting smoking, according to the study. After six months, 46 percent of the resolution group were still making progress compared to only 4 percent of the other group, according to the study.
Making a resolution about weight loss with clear and specific goals can help, said Johanna Whisenhunt, a registered and licensed dietitian and clinical nutrition manager at Doctors Hospital.
“As long as it is small enough to be reasonable,” she cautioned. It should be “substantial enough to encourage them to continue with further efforts but also small and gradual enough that they can actually live with that goal and achieve it.”
What is a reasonable rate for weight loss depends on the overall weight but “a half pound to two pounds a week is a healthy rate to lose,” Whisenhunt said.
In fact, focusing less on weight and more on overall health can be a better indicator of progress, particularly if there is a gym or other service that can monitor body composition, she said.
“Trending your percentage of body fat can be more helpful than just overall pounds,” Whisenhunt said.
Exercise can be a key component not just in losing weight but then maintaining it, she said.
“If you maintain some form of exercise, then it helps you maintain that weight loss, which is important for health,” Whisenhunt said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise for adults and some guidelines call for 60 minutes a day, which can be difficult to fit in.
Bit it helps “if you break it up throughout the day,” Whisenhunt said. “Maybe taking the stairs, maybe parking further away from the stores. I think that helps keep you in the mindset if you do add some sort of organized exercise. I think it keeps you in the mindset of eating healthier.”
It might also help to have a weight loss or exercise “buddy” that can help keep you motivated and allow you to encourage each other, she said. That can be helpful when the inevitable slip occurs.
“You do have to allow yourself to be human,” Whisenhunt said. “Every once in a while, you are going to need a break or make a mistake. You just need to jump back on. Maybe another person can help you jump back on the wagon.”
Take advantage of technology to help keep you on track and track your progress. There are many apps for smart phones now for nutrition or exercise or both. Whisenhunt said she has heard a lot of good things about the MyFitnessPal app.
Most chain restaurants with 20 or more locations will be required to post calorie counts and other nutrition information on menus under provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulations on how that will be implemented. At Doctors, the cafeteria features a Fit Plate of healthy food that hospital workers can choose each day, Whisenhunt said.
“We try to pick out something that tastes good but is lower in calories so hopefully take a little of the thinking out of it for people,” she said. “They are busy during the workday and so a lot of times having something picked out for you can help.”