Nutritionist: Keep New Years weight loss resolutions in perspective
As 2022 is fast approaching, many people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. One of the most common on the list is weight loss.
Last year, according to discoverhappyhabits.com, 50% of Americans listed weight loss as one of their top New Year’s resolution goals.
Jennifer James, a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified dietitian and health and wellness coach at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said many of these weight loss attempts end up failing because people are impatient or make unrealistic goals.
“Losing weight is an investment in our health,” James said. “Just like building wealth, improving our health takes time. Expecting quick results with minimal effort is another approach that fails.”
According to scientists at UCLA, the majority of people who diet gradually regain any weight they lost. Researchers also found the more diet attempts a person makes, the more likely they are to gain weight in the future. They concluded there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.
James said the more moderate of an approach a person takes, the more likely they are to stick with it. If it excludes entire food groups; promises quick weight loss; makes it difficult to enjoy eating out or eating with others; is extreme with calorie restriction; is outrageously expensive; requires special supplements, products or shakes; gives certain foods magical properties; or requires food combinations, eating at a particular time of day or other extreme measures, it’s more likely to fail.
“The best way to lose weight is with a moderate, realistic approach that includes exercise, eating regular meals from all food groups, regular small amounts of favorite foods, a supportive person or group to interact with regularly, limited processed foods and very little or no sugary beverages,” James said. “Tracking one’s food intake is a very effective tool. I recommend several online food diaries such as cronometer.com to track overall calories and diet quality.”
James said in order to achieve successful weight loss, you should include your favorite foods in small amounts. Denying yourself can lead to binge eating later on. In addition, you should only aim for no more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week.
“If we lose at a faster rate, we are probably losing water weight from a low-carb diet initially,” she said. “We lose more muscle tissue if it comes off too quickly.”
But many people are anxious to get the weight off quickly, especially with the stress of being thin from society and the media that focuses a lot on appearance and weight.
“Only a small percentage of us are naturally a size 2,” James said. “When we become obsessed with our weight, that can be a problem, especially if we are already at a healthy weight and an eating disorder ensues. You don’t have to be skinny to be healthy, but extra weight does increase our risk of high cholesterol or blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, a fatty liver, joint pain and sleep apnea to name a few. We are also more likely to contract COVID and be hospitalized, especially if we have other health issues such as diabetes.”
James said from her experience, one diet does not fit all. She encourages a whole foods, plant-based diet, not vegetarian necessarily, made from meals cooked from scratch more often than not. Tracking what you eat with a food diary has also been proven successful, she said.
There are, however, some medical reasons people have a difficult time losing weight and one should consult their personal physician for help. According to the Mayo Clinic, Cushing syndrome, antidepressants, steroids, anti-seizure medications and thyroid imbalances can all lead to unintentional weight gain. Age, hormonal changes and sleep loss can also contribute to weight gain.
“Managing one’s stress level and getting adequate sleep can have a huge impact on ones ability to lose weight,” James said. “Managing our negative emotion skillfully is very important, as poorly managed emotions often drive overeating. Many people use food as a coping mechanism when stressed.”
James said meditation and exercise can be helpful for people suffering from anxiety. Above all, she said, maintaining a positive attitude and not having unrealistic expectations of how much weight you will lose every week will greatly help.
“One of the main errors people make is they overly restrict their food intake which lowers the body’s metabolic rate,” she said. “They are hungry, grumpy, too tired to exercise and they don’t lose much weight.”