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January 2, 2012

Resolution Monday

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 50 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions every year. The most popular resolution is often to lose weight, followed closely by exercising more, eliminating debt and quitting smoking.

The first few weeks of implementing a weight loss resolution typically go very well, but by February this enthusiasm tends to fade. The January gym crowds slowly dwindle as the year goes on, and by May many people fall back into their old routines.

Losing weight is not always easy for many Americans, but as obesity rates rise across the country, it has become an increasingly important goal. According to the CDC, about 33.8 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of U.S. children are obese. Obesity-related health conditions include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep New Year’s resolutions and stick with important weight loss goals throughout the year and throughout your lifetime. The Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center suggests some things to keep in mind.

  1. Be specific. Clearly defined, action-oriented, and timed goals are generally the most effective. “I want to lose 30 pounds this year,” is better than simply stating, “I want to lose weight.” Also, remember to set goals that support the development of healthy habits and behaviors such as, “I will aim to walk 10,000 steps a day at least five days a week,” or “I will eat at least two servings of vegetables per day.”
  2. Understand that losing weight is a process. It’s important to set realistic, incremental expectations so that you can avoid becoming unnecessarily discouraged. Celebrate achieving each of these smaller goals along the way to your big goal.
  3. Remember it’s not just about diet. Successful long-term weight management is achieved through a combination of diet, exercise and behavior modification.
  4. Know that “lifestyle changes” (i.e., not fad diets) are the most effective way to lose weight and maintain weight loss. This involves developing a long-term personal plan that incorporates increased activity, dietary changes and behavioral strategies that work for you.
  5. Keep in mind that these changes don’t have to be painful. Take a healthy cooking class to learn how to prepare tasty foods with fewer calories. Start an active hobby, such as dancing, gardening, dog walking, hiking, biking, kayaking or skiing. Instead of meeting friends for dinner, suggest meeting for coffee and a walk.
  6. Maintain a positive attitude. Give yourself credit for all the changes you make and focus not only on how far you have to go but also on how far you have come. Remind yourself frequently of your reasons for wanting to lose weight-–these reasons will help you stay motivated.
  7. Don’t go it alone. Research shows that the most effective weight loss programs include individual counseling by professionals, regular support group attendance and follow-up. Furthermore, it’s usually helpful to let friends and family know your plans and what specifically they can do to support you along the way.

For more information about the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, please visit its website.

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.