Resolution Solutions!

By Mary Lizabeth Aquavia, Medical Director, Women’s Health Program

Like many people, you may have chosen exercising regularly – with the goal of losing weight – as your New Year’s resolution.

And even though it’s still very early in January, you may already be finding that keeping your resolution is a lot harder than making it.

According to some reports I’ve read, as many as 20% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first week of January – and 80% are broken by the end of the year. It’s not difficult to figure out why. Changing deep-rooted patterns of behavior is always going to be a challenge, especially if you do not have a strong and realistic action plan to guide you. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge!

Here are some tips to help you stick to your resolution so you can achieve your New Year’s weight loss goal!

Set Achievable Goals

The trick is to set goals for yourself that you can actually achieve. One mistake people often make when committing to a new exercise routine is putting too much pressure on themselves at the outset. For example, if you’ve led a more sedentary life than usual throughout 2021 – and many of us have because of the pandemic – don’t expect that you’re going to be able to run the Boston Marathon in April 2022!

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity per day. That includes anything – like walking – that gets your heart rate up. Rather than trying to run a mile at the outset, try walking it. As you get more comfortable exercising, pick up the pace a bit. Walk faster. Then, try running maybe half of the distance and walking the rest. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself able to run that mile. Next goal: two miles!

To help measure your progress, try timing yourself each time you run or walk. That will give you a realistic goal that you can try to either meet or beat the next time you exercise. And don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s OK to fall short occasionally. The important thing is to get into the routine of exercising on a regular basis and making it a part of your daily life.

Weight Loss = Exercise + Diet

If you stick to a plan, it will pay off over time.  Another reason people lose motivation is when they don’t see quick results. This may be the result of focusing too much on just one aspect of their new routine.

For example, while regular exercise is very important for your overall health, it’s not a magic bullet when it comes to effective weight loss. Eating fewer calories and keeping to a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise, are key to losing weight – and keeping it off. Remember: As has been stated elsewhere, “you cannot outrun a bad diet.”

To avoid the disappointment of falling short in your weight loss goals, try switching to a healthy Mediterranean or DASH diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as moderate amounts of lean meats (such as chicken and turkey) and fish. Stay away from sugar, cookies, white carbs, including pasta and white bread, and processed foods. Also, avoid fast food, which is laden with lard, salt and preservatives, and give up sugary sodas and beverages. Alcohol also should be avoided as, in addition to consisting of empty calories, it can actually stimulate your appetite and make you eat more.

Knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) is also crucial. This is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. Once you know your BMI, you can set yourself an achievable target healthy weight. A BMI score over 30 puts you at higher risk for such diseases as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, sleep apnea, and some cancers. Here’s a link to a BMI calculator offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Hold Yourself Accountable

Starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly, can be challenging but is well worth the effort. It’s easy to get discouraged – for example, if you miss a day or two in the gym or your workout space at home. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s important to remember that you’re in this for the long haul, so any missteps can be quickly overcome.

Holding yourself accountable is key to sticking to your resolution. Some people are able to do this on their own. Others want the accountability of losing weight as part of a group. The pandemic has made it harder to get the kind of in-person support we used to get from yoga or workout classes. Zoom classes are an excellent alternative option. Helpful apps like MyFitnessPal and Mindbody enable you to track your activity and book online classes. Weight Watchers can provide you with an online support community through its WW app.

I hope these tips will assist you in keeping your New Year’s weight loss resolution! Creating a new, healthier you is a wonderful goal to have at this time of year and can lead to long-lasting positive changes that will benefit you for the rest of your life – if you stick to it!