We are past those first few days at the start of 2019 when many of us were hopeful, positive and optimistic about the New Year. Perhaps we have made some decisions, maybe firm resolutions or simply new goals that demand focus and attention. But the newness, the exciting opportunity and the novelty quickly wears off. How can we stay committed to our New Years resolutions and not slip back into bad habits?
Take weight loss, for example. Many people incorporate this into their New Years resolutions, but most people who lose weight gradually over time, regain what they have lost. This is very discouraging, so why bother? Well, there is some research that can help provide answers. Not everyone who loses weight gains it back. Some are successful at weight maintenance. What is their secret?
Researchers with the National Weight Control Registry have been following successful weight-loss patients for more than 10 years. They define success as someone who has lost 14 or more kilograms and has kept it off for at least one year.
The secret is sustained behavioural change. That means adhering to the plan, staying on track and choosing certain behaviours that have a positive impact on health. As described in this particular research, there were five specific behaviours that most successful patients adopted and maintained:
1. They ate a healthy breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast helps control sugar and insulin levels and starts up the normal metabolic function of the body.
2. Those patients exercised every day. Whether they were walking, playing sports, in 60-minute intervals or smaller intervals throughout the day, they were active. When I discuss exercise with my patients, they often say, “I just don’t have the time.” What that really means is, “It is not my priority.” Well, very simply, very clearly, you have to make activity your priority. Walk more. Walk to a farther bus or subway stop. Walk the kids to school. Take a lunchtime interlude or meet a friend, not for coffee, but for a walk. Walk more, walk today, walk every day.
3. Successful patients watched less then 10 hours of TV per week. They were less sedentary and more active. It all adds up.
4. They checked their weight regularly. No surprises. No creeping up and ignoring it. No slipping back into bad habits. Being accountable, checking the scale and then making the minor changes needed to stay on track makes a big difference.
5. They had important goals. What is really interesting about the group that was successful was that they were not solely focused on being slim. Rather, they had goals ranging from better health, living longer, coping better with chronic diseases and keeping up with their children or grandchildren. This is all about life choices, not merely weight numbers. Those private, intrinsic goals were an important part of the package that made them successful.
No one is perfect. We strive for excellence, not perfection. So time to regroup, re-evaluate and recharge. Let’s learn from others and stay on track.