By Sonia BlodgettJanuary 23, 2014
If you made a New Year's Resolution to lose weight, you are not alone. Losing weight ranks Number One on New Year's Resolution lists.
Many individuals who make weight loss resolutions do not exercise, and some of these would-be dieters decide to join a gym. As soon as all the New Year's parties are over, gyms are packed with new members.
But after this initial burst of enthusiasm, by the time February rolls around, many of these well-intentioned individuals go to the gym less frequently, and pretty soon they join the millions of Americans who have a gym membership but do not go to the gym.
Why do many people give up on exercise so quickly? Part of the reason may be that some individuals set unrealistic goals for themselves. A busy, out-of-shape person might set a goal to exercise six days a week. However, when it becomes clear this exercise goal is not attainable due to exercise-related injuries or busy schedules that make it hard to exercise almost every day, most people frequently give up and stop exercising. Setting a realistic goal such as initially deciding to exercise at least three times a week decreases the risk of injuries and increases the likelihood an individual will stick to his or her exercise goal.
January is Healthy Weight Awareness Month. Maintaining a healthy weight decreases the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It is unrealistic to expect every overweight person can get down to their "ideal body weight" but anyone who is able to lose weight, even 10 to 20 pounds and keep it off, deceases his or her risk of developing obesity-related diseases.
When it comes to weight loss, it is also a good idea to start off with realistic goals. Losing one to two pounds a week is a safe and reasonable weight loss goal. Fad diets that promise rapid weight loss are not nutritionally balanced, often hard to follow, and after people go off these diets they can quickly gain the weight back.
When following a sensible diet plan, it is initially important to identify foods that contribute too many "empty calories" such as fast food and sugary beverages. After identifying any "empty calories" that can be limited, it is usually better for dieters to eat the foods they normally eat but cut back portions of fats, starches and meat as needed instead of trying a fad diet. This can make a diet plan easier to follow and increase the chance of losing weight.
Some people say they lose and gain the same 20 pounds year after year. Many people plateau after they lose about 10 percent of their body weight. Sometimes it is possible to lose additional weight by cutting back more calories or changing exercise routines but some people cannot get below a plateau without having weight loss surgery. When people's weight loss stops after they've worked so hard, it can cause frustration, a drop in motivation and then many individuals go back to old eating habits, usually gain the weight back, and sometimes, add even more.
Keeping the weight off is possible if former dieters continue to limit the foods and beverages that caused the weight gain to begin with. Exercise is also a major key in maintaining weight, and most people will regain at least some weight if they stop exercising. Only a small percentage of former dieters are able to keep weight off for more than two years.
Researchers have been studying men and women who are able to keep weight off. They do it by continuing the habits that helped them lose weight -- including eating breakfast every day, not cheating on their diet and continuing to exercise on a regular basis. These successful dieters have learned to make lifelong lifestyle changes and not go back to the habits that caused weight gain to begin with.
Healthy shopping is an important part of weight management. There are some processed foods that can help people count calories and stick to diets, such as snack foods that come in 100-calorie packs, but many processed foods have a lot of sodium, saturated fat and calories. Including more lean meats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains and cutting back on processed foods promotes healthy eating habits but some people can find it hard to go grocery shopping for the right foods.
Through the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, I offer a Shopping for Healthful Food Class twice a month to help individuals make better food choices at the grocery store. The class is held at the commissary from 8 -- 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday and fourth Thursday of every month. Anyone who has TRICARE is eligible to attend a class. I also offer individual nutrition education at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center. For more information or to register, call me at 533.9033.