bathroom scale

Weight gain over the holiday season is all too common. So it should come as no surprise that by the time we ring in the New Year, many people choose weight loss as a good New Year’s resolution. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, weight loss was the most common resolution set by Americans in 2017.

Unfortunately, according to Business Insider, 80% of our resolutions fail. Why? Why do we set the goal of weight loss on January 1, but give up after the first month or two? Some might argue it is lack of discipline or setting unrealistic goals. I think the problem lies with the New Year’s resolution itself. By making weight loss our primary goal, we are focusing on just one thing: the number on the scale, which, in reality, is a pretty arbitrary number.

Don’t Focus on the Number on the Scale

Our scale weight tells us nothing about our body composition (how much lean muscle mass versus fat mass we have), it does not tell us how healthy our heart is, and it cannot take our blood pressure. Scale weight tells us very little about our overall physical health, and yet we become fixated on it and assume that if we can get to a certain weight, we will be healthier and happier. Yes, weight loss can most certainly improve your health if you are carrying around extra weight, but making a New Year’s resolution of weight loss may not be the best approach.

Ideas for monthly lifestyle changes:

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Eliminate/reduce sugar sweetened beverages
  • Get more/better sleep
  • Watch less TV
  • Take the stairs at the office X-number of days a week
  • Find new/better ways to manage stress
  • Sign up and train for a local 5k (or other physical activity-related goal)
  • Spend more time outside
  • Eat out less/make more meals at home

Break it Down into Smaller Goals

Instead of making weight loss your goal, choose lifestyle changes that would encourage and support weight loss. Break things down into attainable goals by focusing on one lifestyle change for each month of the year. For example, January’s goal could be to eliminate soda and other sweetened beverages. Start by figuring out how many sweetened beverages you have in a week, such as: one vanilla latte every morning, a soda at lunch, and an iced tea or Vitamin water in the afternoon. That’s about 21 sugar-sweetened beverages every week! Next, figure out how to reduce those so that by the end of the month you are no longer having sweetened beverages daily.

Be Specific in Your Action Plan

The first week you trade your soda at lunch for a sparkling water. The next week you change your morning latte to an Americano with a pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup and a splash of half-and-half or milk. The third week you replace the iced tea with an unsweetened iced tea or the Vitamin water with regular water flavored with a NUUN hydration tablet. By the end of the month, you are no longer drinking 100+ grams of sugar every day.

Yes, those three beverages daily equal over 100 grams of sugar:

  • a 16-ounce vanilla latte has 35 grams,
  • a 12-ounce can of soda has 45 grams, and
  • a 20-ounce bottle of Vitamin water has 32 grams.

You would be surprised what an impact that one change can make not only for your weight-loss efforts but also for your health in general.

In February, your goal could be to eat more vegetables. Again, set a baseline of where you are starting and determine how and when you could add in more vegetables to your diet. Maybe that means three times a week you replace your lunchtime sandwich with a salad or you replace your evening pasta with a vegetable noodle substitute like spaghetti squash or “zoodles” (noodles made from zucchini using a spiralizer).

By choosing one focus each month, you are less likely to become overwhelmed or frustrated. It is great to have big goals, but by only focusing on the “BIG goal” it is easy to feel like you are not making enough progress and want to give up. I like to point out to people that while one to two pounds of weight loss per week may seem minimal, at the end of a year that totals 50 to 100 pounds!

Embrace a Holistic Approach

So, if you were planning to, once again, make weight loss a New Year’s resolution, I encourage you to reconsider. How many times have you set weight loss as a resolution in the past? How many times have you succeeded? If it has not worked in the past, maybe it just means you need to set a different resolution. In preparing your New Year’s resolution, do not even write down “weight loss.” Instead, go to your calendar and choose one habit to change or add each month that would improve your health. What do you have to lose?

January 3, 2018 | by Jasmine Miller MS, CN