How Do You Stick To Weight Loss Resolutions?

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In this article, we’ll cover how you stick to weight loss resolutions. Why weight loss resolutions/dieting fail and what is a realistic weight loss goal each month. For many, the start of a new year serves as a fresh start, an opportunity to finally reach those health and weight loss goals.

In a survey conducted in 2022, 37% of Americans indicated that they establish new resolutions, with a considerable number setting multiple goals to strive for.

However, the likelihood of these goals enduring is questionable. A survey by Forbes Health suggests that the majority of individuals tend to abandon their resolutions within two or three months, with only a small 6% managing to uphold them for the entire year.

The prevalent resolutions often revolve around physical health, weight loss and enhancing eating habits [1]. The positive aspect is that the methodology you adopt in establishing your goals is significant and can greatly influence your success in sustaining new habits over the long term. Before delving into these strategies, let’s first examine the reasons why many resolutions encounter initial failure.

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Why Do Weight Loss Resolutions Fail And So Many People Fail At Dieting?

Undoubtedly, weight loss stands out as one of the most frequently chosen resolutions as the New Year begins. While achievable, maintaining weight loss over an extended period proves challenging, with a significant number of individuals eventually regaining the lost weight.

An analysis that amalgamated data from 29 extended weight loss studies revealed that over half of the lost weight was regained within two years [2]. By the fifth year, more than 80% of the initially lost weight had been regained.

The reasons behind the high rate of failure are likely not singular but encompass multiple factors influencing successful weight loss. Sustaining weight loss proves challenging for several reasons.

Firstly, the environment we inhabit is saturated with elements that encourage increased food consumption and reduced physical activity – the prevalence of hyperpalatable processed foods and the sedentary nature of many jobs contribute to this phenomenon [2].

Secondly, our bodies actively resist weight loss. When we shed pounds, inherent mechanisms kick in to heighten hunger and decelerate metabolism as a countermeasure [2].

A prevailing misconception suggests that simply reducing food intake will result in sustained weight loss. However, this notion is inaccurate, considering our body’s inherent ability to adapt.

Frequently, at the commencement of weight loss programs, there is an initial rapid decline in weight. However, sustaining the same rate becomes more challenging after a few months due to the body’s response to weight loss, which involves heightened appetite and reduced metabolism. These physiological changes make it difficult to maintain progress over time. Unfortunately, despite these inherent adjustments, many individuals tend to attribute their challenges to a perceived lack of willpower or discipline.

Sustaining weight loss goes beyond rapidly shedding pounds or adhering to a particular diet, let’s explore a few key aspects:
Having unrealistic expectations [3]: overly ambitious goals or expecting rapid results can quickly lead to disappointment, discouragement, and frustration. For weight loss to be healthy, it must be a gradual process and expecting quick fixes can undermine your long-term success.
Extreme or unsustainable diets [4]: restrictive diets that are hard to maintain long-term can lead to burnout and relapse. This can be especially true with those that eliminate entire food groups, or severely restrict calories to unsustainable values.
Poor planning [3]: failing to create a concrete, achievable plan for reaching your goals can contribute to setbacks. Without having a clear roadmap, you might struggle to stay on track and make consistent progress.
Not enough support [5]: lack of social support from family, friends, or others can make it much more difficult to stay motivated and accountable.
Not taking health issues into account [4]: certain health conditions, like hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders, can hinder your weight loss efforts and may even make any weight you lose more difficult to maintain. Unrealistic body image expectations can also lead to unhealthy weight loss methods and impact success.
Skipping meals or severely restricting calories [6]: both can trigger your body’s starvation response, leading to slower metabolism and increasing the likelihood you will overeat later on. Severely restricting calories can also increase your risk for nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to health issues over time.
Not getting good sleep [7]: Not enough, or poor sleep quality can disrupt metabolism, increasing food cravings and undermining weight loss efforts.
Not including physical activity [4]: focusing only on what you are eating, and not physically moving can also set you up for failure. Exercise is important for maintaining muscle mass, which can have positive impacts on metabolism and help keep weight off long term.
Relying only on exercise: exercise is essential for any health goals, including weight loss. But in the long-term, studies show that exercise alone is ineffective for weight loss.
Not having post-diet plans and long-term plans: right after achieving goals, most people go right back to their old habits. This is a guaranteed way to lose your hard-earned progress with increased appetite and slower metabolism

These challenges are not your fault—many individuals lack awareness of realistic expectations, suitable diets, the pace of progress, or the right support. Collaborating with an expert coach or nutritionist to establish appropriate goals and provide ongoing guidance can considerably enhance your likelihood of success [8][9].

Ultimately, accomplishing and sustaining weight loss encompasses more than merely selecting a specific diet. Factors such as your genetics, personal habits, social support network, and living conditions also exert significant influence. Success is not solely dictated by what you eat but is intertwined with your lifestyle and the support you receive in your life.

Regarding the frequently observed high failure rate in individuals attempting to lose weight, numerous contributing factors come into play. In addition to the insights gained above, let’s explore some other common pitfalls:

Fad diets [4]: All diets work (by restricting calories), at least at first. But in the long term, these diets are often impractical, nutrient-deficient, and difficult to sustain. As a result, without a long-term strategy, it is more likely that you will abandon them, and the weight comes back on.
One-size-fits-all approaches [10]: every person is unique and generalized diets do not consider individual variations in metabolism, lifestyle, and other factors.
Overemphasis on restriction [4]: when diets focus on food restriction, labelling foods as bad, can create a feeling of deprivation. This can lead to cravings, binge-eating episodes, and negative relationships with food.
Your environment [5]: social events, peer pressure, and other factors can also make sticking to a diet more difficult. Social situations often involve food, and without proper planning, it can make it harder to adhere to diet changes.
Poor understanding [11]: many of us begin diets without a clear understanding of the basic nutrition principles, like balanced nutrition and portion control. Educating yourself in these areas can help keep you on track.
Being inconsistent and not changing behaviour [11]: irregular meal timing or occasional lapses can hinder change in overall behaviours. Failing to address behavioural patterns, like emotional triggers or unhealthy habits, can make success more difficult.

Why Is It So Hard To Stick To A Weight Loss Plan?

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While setting weight loss goals may seem relatively straightforward, the most demanding aspect is often adhering to them over the long term. Numerous challenges and pitfalls can impede progress, and here are some of the most prevalent ones:

Not setting SMART goals [12]: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. These principles are important for having a clear road map towards your weight loss goals. When goals are vague or lack direction, it can make it challenging to stay on track.
Failing to anticipate obstacles [13]: many potential challenges and obstacles can arise during your weight loss journey. This is why it is important to have strategies on how to problem-solve as they arise. Without a proactive approach, these unexpected difficulties can be discouraging, and throw you off track and deviate from your goals. Failing to be prepared for common issues – social events, stress, emotional triggers, hunger – can leave you vulnerable to setbacks.
Neglecting your emotional health [14][15]: losing weight is not just about changing physically, but also includes addressing emotional and psychological factors that may have impacted your weight in the first place. Emotional eating, stress and negative relationships with food can undermine your efforts if you don’t take them into account or address them in your weight loss plans.
Not establishing routines [13]: consistency is the major key to lasting results and forming good habits long-term. Routines provide structure and make it easier to stick to diet and exercise plans over time, ultimately setting you up for future success.
Unrealistic expectations [14]: while you may want to get weight off as quickly as possible, this is often not a healthy approach. When you set out to rapidly lose weight, and then fail, it increases the risk of you abandoning your weight loss plan altogether and becoming discouraged.
Inconsistency in your action plan [16]: Failing to consistently implement the weight loss plan, including irregular meal timing or sporadic exercise, can hinder progress. Consistency is crucial for the body to adapt to new habits and for individuals to see positive results. Having someone to be accountable to, like a healthcare provider, can help you be more consistent in working towards your goals.

Conquering these challenges can significantly impact the success of your weight loss journey. It’s evident that, for success, planning and goal-setting are crucial, and an approach that encompasses both physical and psychological aspects is essential for maintaining progress.

What Is A Realistic Weight Loss Goal Each Month?

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The recommended guidelines for healthy weight loss typically range from 1-2 pounds per week [17], equating to approximately 4-8 pounds per month.

Although it might appear modest, this rate has demonstrated the highest success rates for maintaining long-term weight loss. It’s important to consider that your starting weight, body composition, metabolism, and overall health can influence the pace at which you can lose weight [18]. Recognize that gradual weight loss is frequently the key to enduring results and is a considerably safer approach compared to quick fixes.

Losing weight too quickly can heighten the risk of not only shedding fat but also a significant amount of muscle mass [19]. Muscle is vital for a healthy metabolism and maintaining strength. Drastically limiting calories can also elevate the risk of nutritional deficiencies, with potential consequences in the long run [20].

Approaching your weight goals should prioritize overall health rather than fixating solely on the number on the scale. Incorporating a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sustainable lifestyle changes is crucial for attaining and sustaining your ideal weight. Gaining knowledge about these fundamental principles and personalized diet strategies can be beneficial, and we cover all you need to know and more in The Ultimate Nutrition Bible.

How Do I Stick To My Routine To Lose Weight?

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To start, it’s essential to formulate a concrete plan. This not only reinforces your intentions in memory but also adds a layer of difficulty to procrastinating positive behaviours. What serves as your motivation for wanting to alter your weight?

A study on weight loss success revealed that various forms of motivation, both internal and external, play significant roles [13]. Let’s delve into some of these motivations:

Internal motivators for weight loss External motivators
To improve health or the risk for chronic conditions. Following a structured plan.
Desire to live longer. Having specific targets.
Engage in meaningful relationships. Regular weigh-ins or supervision in the program.
Set positive examples for loved ones. Support from family and friends.

Internal and external motivators are crucial for maintaining your trajectory. Before embarking on a plan, taking a moment to reflect on why you want to establish these goals and considering strategies for holding yourself accountable can be beneficial. This is where the implementation of SMART goals becomes particularly relevant.

After devising your plan, consider placing something valuable at stake. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, individuals who had the option to commit money that could be forfeited if they failed to achieve weight loss lost 14 pounds more than those in a control group [1]. Establishing exercise appointments with a friend can also prove effective since you are less likely to cancel on a friend than on yourself.

Integrating temptations with health goals can serve as motivation for your progress. For instance, if going to the gym is challenging but you enjoy binge-watching reality TV, restrict your viewing to when you are on the treadmill. Studies indicate that combining something enjoyable with something less favoured leads to a 56 percent increase in exercise frequency [21].

We provide a detailed guide on crafting your weight loss plan for enduring results in The Ultimate Nutrition Bible. However, here are some general steps to follow when initiating the process:

Diet & Nutrition

1. Figure out how many calories you should be eating
2. Create a calorie deficit: a calorie deficit is when you are eating fewer calories than you burn. This is the most important aspect in losing weight. Initially, you can aim for a 1,000-calorie deficit per day by reducing 500 calories from your diet and burning an extra 500 calories with exercise. This can set you up for a weight loss rate of 2 pounds per week.
3. Gradual calorie reduction: over time, you can continue to decrease your calorie intake by 100 calories per week as you lose weight. If you hit a plateau (i.e., you stop losing weight) for more than two weeks, consider further reducing calories by 300, or increasing your physical activity.
4. Take a break: incorporate some refeed days (not all-you-can-eat, but days with more relaxed goals) two days a week initially. This can help keep you on track and prevent unhealthy food binges and burnout which can derail your progress.
5. Once you achieve your goal, reverse diet: your metabolism is slower than before, you’ll be hungrier, and your fat cells will be empty and primed for refilling. Now is not the time to go back to your old habits. Reverse dieting gently and gradually raises your calorie expenditure without the fat gain, especially if you move on to other goals like muscle gain or strength, which require caloric surpluses.

Physical Activity

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Contrary to common belief, exercise alone does not result in a substantial calorie burn. It is not a dependable method for weight loss without incorporating other strategies to establish caloric deficits. Nevertheless, exercise remains crucial as a stimulus for bodily changes, such as enhancing insulin sensitivity and preserving or building muscle mass. Additionally, its significance extends to both mental and physical health.

Engaging in physical activity throughout the day has a more significant impact on both weight loss and overall health compared to working out intensively for 1-2 hours[22]. However, any form of movement you can incorporate is preferable to none, so it’s essential to identify what is practical and enjoyable for you. Here are the key aspects to prioritize:

#1: Move more throughout the day and sit less in any possible way: For example, take walks on your lunch break, pace while talking on the phone, use a standing or treadmill desk, do jumping jacks between meetings, and commuting by bike.
#2: Weight training: The actual exercises don’t burn as many calories as when your body uses energy to build muscles. In a caloric deficit, your body may be more inclined to just keep the muscles you’re using while losing the fat. You won’t get significantly bigger, but you will maintain precious muscle mass that will help maintain your metabolism.
#3: High-intensity interval training: may be more effective in burning extra calories than slow cardio [23]. They can also be very time effective, as you can achieve progress in as little as 5 – 10 minutes as a beginner. However, they can be stressful to the body and significantly increase hunger, so you’ll need to pay attention not to out-eat your exercise.
#4: Progressive cardio: on days you are not weightlifting, include cardiovascular exercises like walking, swimming, or jogging. Start with 20 minutes and slowly increase. Changing the type of cardio you perform every few weeks can also help prevent adaptation and plateaus.

What If I Am Not Making Progress With My Weight Loss Resolution?

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If, despite following these suggestions, you still fall short of your goals, it doesn’t indicate failure. Here are some alternative approaches to consider:

1. Use The Right Weight Loss Progress Measurements

Body weight is often a poor measurement of fat loss progress, so you should rely on more accurate tools.

2. Track Your Food As Accurately As Possible

Monitor your food intake meticulously for a week, accounting for every morsel and gram. Is there a possibility of an extra scoop of sauce, rice, or dressing that might disrupt your weekly calorie deficit?

3. Try A Nutritional Strategy To Stimulate The System

For example:
Further cutting 300 – 500 calories daily
• 1 – 2 days of maintenance calories or refeeding before returning to your original plan
Adding cold exposure or other ways to improve your metabolism
• Adjusting your macros such as carb cycling or reducing carbs

Determining a universal recommendation among these options can be challenging, which is why we advocate collaborating with a qualified nutrition coach. Upon implementing any of these changes, maintain consistency and allow 2-4 weeks to assess its suitability for you.

4. Check For And Address Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies, such as low levels of magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3, and B vitamins, may impact your metabolism [24][25][27]. Introducing a supplement and waiting a few weeks can often help determine if these deficiencies are the culprits, although some individuals may opt for blood tests for confirmation.

5. Address Chronic Inflammation, Traumas And Other Health Issues

Factors like food sensitivities, imbalances in gut microbes, exposure to toxins, and past traumas can pose challenges to weight loss. Seeking guidance from a naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner for testing and addressing these issues is advisable.

Conclusion

Successfully achieving and maintaining your weight loss resolutions necessitates a thoughtful and sustainable approach that transcends quick fixes, “detoxes,” and extreme diets. Common pitfalls, such as unrealistic expectations, unsustainable diets and a lack of social support, contribute to high failure rates. Additionally, physiological changes, environmental factors and social influences can further complicate the journey.

Overcoming these challenges requires setting realistic goals, addressing not only physical health but also emotional and psychological barriers, and establishing consistent routines. Recognizing the significance of both internal and external motivators, having a well-structured plan, and accountability can significantly enhance your chances of success. The most sustainable approach is often the most successful, involving aspects such as losing 1-2 pounds per week, engaging in regular exercise, and focusing on foundational nutrition as key cornerstones.

Recognizing that setbacks can be integral to your journey is crucial – use them as learning opportunities! Let’s strive to make 2024 the year when your resolutions truly endure. If you feel the need for additional support or assistance in crafting your weight loss plan, we provide a step-by-step guide in The Ultimate Nutrition Bible. This comprehensive resource offers a sustainable, healthy approach without resorting to fad diets, ensuring you achieve your desired physique and maintain it for life.

References
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  2. Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. Med Clin North Am. 2018;102(1):183-197. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
  3. Buchanan K, Sheffield J. Why do diets fail? An exploration of dieters’ experiences using thematic analysisJ Health Psychol. 2017;22(7):906-915. doi:10.1177/1359105315618000
  4. Tahreem A, Rakha A, Rabail R, et al. Fad diets: Facts and fiction. Front Nutr. 2022;9. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.960922
  5. Chen Y, Li Z, Yang Q, et al. The effect of peer support on individuals with overweight and obesity: A meta-analysisIran J Public Health. 2021;50(12):2439. doi:10.18502/ijph.v50i12.7926
  6. Seimon RV, Wild-Taylor AL, Keating SE, et al. Effect of weight loss via severe vs moderate energy restriction on lean mass and body composition among postmenopausal women with obesity: The TEMPO diet randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1913733. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13733
  7. Li A, Li X, Zhou T, et al. Sleep disturbance and changes in energy intake and body composition during weight loss in the POUNDS Lost trial. Diabetes. 2022;71(5):934-944. doi:10.2337/db21-0699
  8. Painter SL, Ahmed R, Kushner RF, et al. Expert coaching in weight loss: Retrospective analysis. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(3):e92. doi:10.2196/jmir.9738
  9. Dayan PH, Sforzo G, Boisseau N, Pereira-Lancha LO, Lancha AH Jr. A new clinical perspective: Treating obesity with nutritional coaching versus energy-restricted diets. Nutrition. 2019;60:147-151. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2018.09.027
  10. Bray GA, Ryan DH. Evidence based weight loss interventions: Individualized treatment options to maximize patient outcomesDiabetes Obes Metab. 2021;23(S1):50-62. doi:10.1111/dom.14200
  11. Paixão C, Dias CM, Jorge R, et al. Successful weight loss maintenance: A systematic review of weight control registries. Obes Rev. 2020;21(5):e13003. doi:10.1111/obr.13003
  12. Takahashi PY, Quigg SM, Croghan IT, Schroeder DR, Ebbert JO. SMART goals setting and biometric changes in obese adults with multimorbidity: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. SAGE Open Med. 2019;7:205031211985804. doi:10.1177/2050312119858042
  13. Tay A, Hoeksema H, Murphy R. Uncovering barriers and facilitators of weight loss and weight loss maintenance: Insights from qualitative research. Nutrients. 2023;15(5):1297. doi:10.3390/nu15051297
  14. Theodoulou A, Hartmann-Boyce J, Gorenberg J, et al. Weight regain and mental health outcomes following behavioural weight management programmes: A systematic review with meta-analysesClin Obes. 2023;13(3). doi:10.1111/cob.12575
  15. Bailey RR. Goal setting and action planning for health behavior change. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2019;13(6):615-618. doi:10.1177/1559827617729634
  16. CDC. Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published June 15, 2023. Accessed January 12, 2024.
  17. Dent R, McPherson R, Harper ME. Factors affecting weight loss variability in obesityMetabolism. 2020;113(154388):154388. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2020.154388
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  19. Cerqueira FM, Kowaltowski AJ. Commonly adopted caloric restriction protocols often involve malnutrition. Ageing Res Rev. 2010;9(4):424-430. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2010.05.002
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  23. Askari M, Mozaffari H, Jafari A, Ghanbari M, Darooghegi Mofrad M. The effects of magnesium supplementation on obesity measures in adults: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(17):2921-2937. doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1790498
  24. Delpino FM, Figueiredo LM, da Silva BGC. Effects of omega-3 supplementation on body weight and body fat mass: A systematic review. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021;44:122-129. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2021.04.023
  25. Fu Y, Zhu Z, Huang Z, et al. Association between vitamin B and obesity in middle-aged and older Chinese adults. Nutrients. 2023;15(3):483. doi:10.3390/nu15030483

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