A new year brings the hope of new beginnings

For many of us, the New Year also means the promise we make to ourselves to lose weight and get fit. My top bit of advice is to make good health a priority all year long, not just the few days or weeks after January 1. Many of us give in or give up as soon as the holidays begin and count on getting into shape in the New Year. But the time is now. It is easier to make gradual positive changes along the way than to try to lose weight overnight and make it last.

Temporary changes do not lead to permanent weight loss success

Recent research on dieting published in Evolution, Medicine and Public Health supports the evidence that yo-yo dieting leads to weight gain. The study recommends that the best way to lose weight is slow and steady. Eat less than you think you should and be physically active all the time, not just for a crash course in weight loss. Incorporate whole grains into your diet and leave them there permanently. People who try low-calorie and extreme diets tend to overeat when they are not dieting and end up gaining back weight. The study showed that those who never diet weighed less because they always eat until just full (or satisfied) and do not tend to overeat.

So here are a few tips and strategies

To keep myself and my clients on track, I recommend planning ahead for meals and building strategies for various social events to prevent impulse buys, overeating, and poor food choices. Identify behaviors in order to deal with triggers and obstacles that derail you and come up with alternative approaches to handle them.

Along those lines, monitor your portions. Adopt strategies to track what you eat and how much. Portion sizes are key to weight loss. I think we underestimate what how much we really eat and it could hinder weight loss. There are many apps out there to assist you, but if you are old school like me, pen and paper work perfectly. The idea is build accountability and awareness of what we are putting into our bodies.

Ditch the quick fixes and fad diets and instead, focus on a balanced life and balanced nutrition that includes lean proteins, plant proteins, whole grains with fiber, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats.  The more whole, real foods you eat, the easier it is to keep weight off naturally. These foods are nutrient dense and as you would expect not calorie dense. Make a conscious effort to avoid highly processed foods that have unhealthy fats and salt, not to mention ingredients too hard to pronounce. Wheat is easy to say and good for you.

Keep in mind that weight management is not just about food

  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Studies show that people who do not get enough hours of sleep (six or less) take in several hundred calories more the next day. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in food intake (especially fatty foods) and disrupts hormone levels, causing an increase in appetite. The latest study revealed an average consumption of 385 additional calories after a night of insufficient sleep.

  • Keep your stress levels in check. This also can mess with hormone levels causing an increase in food intake. Identify stress-causing triggers that may cause you to overeat and work on healthy distractions to lessen the stress.
  • Stay hydrated, especially with water. Avoid sugary drinks. Liquid calories do not provide satiety and you end up eating food on top of consuming the sugary beverages.
  • Most importantly be active. Diet and exercise go hand in hand for successful lasting weight management. As busy as life gets, make yourself a priority and find time to be active. It doesn’t matter if it is a ten minute walk during a lunch break or some stretching when you get out of bed. Find something you like and do it. Build the intensity and duration as time goes on. The recommendations for physical activity, just for maintenance and not necessarily weight loss is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. However, keep in mind it’s more than just about the number on the scale. Being physically active is important in overall health, including the prevention or treatment of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among many other conditions. One important note to make here, exercising is not a green light to eat more. Exercise alone does not promote weight loss.

Fast and furious weight loss sets you up for failure, deprivation, and fatigue—not to mention messing up with your metabolism by slowing it down and making weight maintenance harder long-term. Think long and steady when it comes to weight loss.

You want healthy living to be a lifestyle, not a passing fad

What you eat should be a lifestyle, not a diet you follow for a few days and give up in frustration. You deserve more. I dislike the word “diet” because it is misused to represent a quick fix. Let me tell you there is no magic trick here. Anything worth having takes time, effort, and perseverance. Eating well and physical activity is what gets you to your goals along with behavior modification and overall life balance.  

To learn more about lasting habits of real people keeping the weight off for good, go to National Weight Control Registry. 


Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information

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