It comes this time each year – a realization of the need for post-holiday weight loss. Christmas is past, favorite carols are fading, and the New Year’s Holiday is looming. In a few days, the last holiday empty cookie tray will get tossed, the fruit cake that was never opened will find its way to the trash, and the tighter belt that signals the need for weight loss will begin to bring you back to reality. Guilty of bad behavior, remorse begins to set in. Take heart, however! A resolution will make anyone who has indulged in high calorie treats and fatty foods immediately feel better. How successful are most people, though?
It’s a predictable pattern. Around 45% of adults can be expected to make a New Year’s resolution, with around 38% involving weight loss. Weight loss is the most frequent of resolutions, followed by such self-improvement efforts like curbing smoking, better money management, improving finances, eating healthier, reducing alcohol intake, getting a new job, or trying a new activity.
The drive for weight loss persists at an almost constant level, though much lower, throughout the year, only occasionally peaking at times that beach season is approaching or some other similar time periods when unsightly bulges near the waist become a concern.
The increased intake of unhealthy sweets and rich foods during the holidays, however, likely fuel the drive to lose weight and prompt the formation of a plan. These strategies usually involve joining a gym, buying exercise equipment and/or dieting. On January 2, optimism is high as is enthusiasm, and calls are made to gyms about membership or after-holiday circulars are scoured for good prices on exercise equipment of various types.
Gym memberships peak in the first few weeks of January and are the busiest time of year for health clubs. However, the lines for the exercise equipment soon disappear as enthusiasm wanes, and many people stop going altogether as procrastination begins to take control. In fact, gym memberships are one of the top ten wastes of money for that reason. Most gym memberships come with contracts for which payment still has to be made whether you use the gym or not. These expenses may total $500 or more per year, and is a wildly unnecessary waste of money for the 67% of gym members who don’t use their memberships.
Exercise equipment may be an option for some, though the cost of the equipment may exceed the cost of a gym membership for a year. A New York Times report indicates that people who owned home exercise equipment were 73 percent more likely to actually begin an exercise program but, after a year, were 12% more likely to stop exercising than someone who did not own equipment. The equipment that is not being used sits gathering dust and eventually needs to be disposed of rather that letting it clutter a family room or basement.
Diets are another option for post-holiday weight loss. There are many plans out there with frequent promises of quick, effective weight loss. While it might seem that diets would be inexpensive, a few require that you purchase weight loss foods from them which can run up costs greater than a gym membership. The problem with diets that drastically change the way you eat, and that you know will not be sustainable after the diet is over, is that once you lose weight, it is likely to return. It is estimated that 80% of people who lose weight from a weight loss program gain back some or all within a year.
A better option is to make an overall change to the way you eat in a way that you look at the effort not as a diet but as a lifestyle revision. People know that many of the things they eat foil weight loss endeavors, and these need to change in small, subtle ways that remove unhealthy foods from your eating regimen and add in some exercise. Packing a healthy lunch instead of buying lunch at work, skipping the potato chip and ice cream aisles at the market, and adding salads (not smothered in high calorie dressings) to your menus can help to cut calories out of your overall count. Drinking water helps to flush breakdown products out of your system and keep you feeling full. Be aware of drops in blood sugar in between meals that may have you heading for the snack machine you vowed to avoid. WebMD suggests dealing with these with lean protein snacks like nuts, lean meats, or low fat dairy.
Some kind of exercise that raises your heart rate should accompany these lifestyle changes. Walking 30 minutes a day or getting out and working on the lawn all help. While they’re not big calorie-burners, they help in toning muscles and improving your overall health.
In the end, persistence is the key to success in any of these strategies for weight loss, and making any strategy a success. If you are the type to join a gym and go consistently so that membership will not turn into a loss, great. If you have experience in the past of buying gadgets and know you will have more than enough determination to to use the expensive exercise machine that has caught your eye in the sale circular that came the day after Christmas, wonderful. If you are planning to lose weight, talk to your doctor about proper nutrition and make sure you are following a plan that is safe for you. It sounds trite, but you don’t want to take a course of action that is counter to a health issue that you have. Then take some time to learn about the nutritional content of foods before you go shopping and put together a long-term lifestyle change plan that you can live with.
Take a breath, tell yourself firmly that this is for the long run, and then stick with it.