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Losing weight and getting in shape are among the most common New Year’s resolutions, but out of 50 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only about 8 percent achieve their goal. Don't let the previous statistic dissuade you from making that New Year's resolution, however! Behavioral Health and Cognitive Therapist, Lisa Lyons, LPC, is a member of Summit Medical Group’s Weight Management team and is well-versed in both the physical and mental barriers that stand in the way of people achieving their weight loss goals. She says, “Most resolutions fail because the goals are too vague or rigid.” She adds, “Plenty of research highlights the importance of goal-setting in losing weight.”
Below, Lisa provides some goal-crafting tips that will help you be part of the successful 8 percent!
1. Be realistic and specific
Losing weight and being healthy are great goals, but they need to be realistic and more specific for them to be achievable. Weight loss specialists agree that slow and steady weight loss of about 2-4 pounds per month is the best way to keep the pounds off for good. Rather than focusing on significant weight loss, focus on losing the first five pounds. After you lose your first five pounds, set a new goal to lose five more and so on. Focus on the smaller goals – the stepping stones to your end goal. For example, instead of saying, "I want to lose 50 pounds", try one of these smaller, more specific goals for better health and weight loss- they will assist in getting you to your end goal:
2. Be aware of all or nothing thinking
Taking an all or nothing approach is a common mistake people make when trying to reach their health goals. One common all or nothing thinking trap is labeling foods as either good or bad. For example, "Bread is bad; I can never eat it again." When you restrict or tell yourself you can't have a specific food or food type, it can increase your desire for that food, causing you to crave it more often. This can lead to feelings of deprivation, falling off track, eating large quantities of the food you were restricting, and that never-ending cycle of yo-yo dieting.
Some more examples of all or nothing thinking are:
This type of thinking is unrealistic and doesn't allow for balance and flexibility, which are necessary for long-term success. Instead, replace your thoughts with something more balanced, such as, "Having one piece of chocolate does not ruin my day. I can get back on track with my very next meal." Or, "Making one mistake doesn't mean I've totally failed."
3. Make movement a priority
Increase in physical activity is a great way to encourage and maintain weight loss, and it has many benefits beyond just burning calories. Exercise boosts the production of the chemical serotonin, which is known for regulating your mood. Increased levels of serotonin are associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, and when we're happier and less stressed, it's much easier to focus on our health goals! Aim for 150 minutes per week of exercise, but, again, be mindful of all or nothing thinking. You don't need to live at the gym or join a high intensity boot camp class to meet your exercise goals. Do something you already enjoy, such as dancing, playing tennis, or try an exercise DVD. You can achieve your exercise goal by taking a brisk 30-minute walk each day.
4. Track your progress
Several studies show that people who keep food journals are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Tracking helps build awareness, which can cut down on mindless eating or consumption of larger than necessary portions and serves as a daily reminder to stay focused on your weight loss goal. For some people, the fact that they must record every bite helps them to make healthier decisions. Exercise can be tracked as well. Wear a pedometer or fit bit and challenge yourself to continually add more steps per day.
By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year. Here's to a healthier and happier you in the year 2020!
Lisa Lyons, LPC is a member of Summit Medical Group's Behavioral Health and Cognitive Therapy Center and Weight Management teams. Ms. Lyons offers brief consultations to help patients make behavioral and lifestyle changes that assist with weight management.