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Keeping your resolutions and making smart choices to lose weight
By Kathy B. Glazer   View more articles by this author
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September 28

If you are like most people you have probably long since given up on your New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more.  Well you don’t have to abandon hope. Here are some strategies to help you make some healthy changes for the long term even if that New Year’s resolution has slipped by.
The problem begins when you first fix on a New Years’ resolution which requires drastic changes to your diet, lifestyle or daily routine. At the beginning of the year people make unrealistic goals to lose lots of weight or keep up with an impossible work-out schedule—goals that are simply unsustainable.  Instead you should focus on developing S.M.A.R.T. choices that are achievable throughout the year. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the following elements of successful weight loss and exercise goals:


S -- Start with Small and Specific goals
M -- Make sure they are Measurable
A -- Ensure that they are Achievable and
R -- Realistic
T -- Make sure to Track your daily food intake and physical activity


Let’s explore each of these in more detail:


Start with small changes such as “I will focus on reducing my portion sizes” or “I will increase my vegetable and fruit consumption by one serving each day.”  Be specific as to what you want to change.  To make your goals measurable, add some detail, instead of “Exercise More” make your goal: “I’ll walk for exercise 2-3 times a week for thirty minutes or 2 fifteen minute segments.”  Do not make your goal so hard that you cannot sustain it. You need to start out small and increase your goals slowly. Make your goal something that you can repeatedly achieve. For example if you thing you can’t realistically work out 5-6 days a week for 1 hour at  a time, start with two times a week for 30 minutes. Some activity is better than none.  Don’t think all or nothing.


Another key is to be realistic on how much you can change at one time. If you think you can change your diet, increase your exercise and change a behavior all at once you may simply set yourself up to fail.  Keep a food record and exercise log to track how much you eat and how much you exercise. From these logs you can start to see a pattern concerning what drives your food cravings and therefore become more aware of your eating habits throughout the day. No more mindless eating in front of the TV. Research shows that keeping a food record can help you lose more weight than people that don’t keep records.  By the same token your exercise log can help you keep track of your progress (e.g., how many repetitions you do with your free weights) so you can set and meet reasonable exercise goals.


Here are some other suggestions to help you keep on track with your goals.


  1. Go slow. Make diet changes slowly. You will be more likely to hold to these changes and make them a part of your life style. For example add a piece of produce to your lunch daily. Have a fish meal at least once a week, or consider a meat-less meal once a week.
  2. Water. Drink a glass of water before you brush your teeth each morning. Drink an 8 oz. glass of water or more at each meal. Cut out regular soda which adds lots of empty calories (12 oz. coke= 145 calories). If you drink 2-3 cans of regular soda a day you can lose up to one pound a week by cutting it out of your diet. Resolve to drink one more cup of water than you did the day before. Add some lemon or lime juice to your water to spice it up.
  3. Increase your physical activity. Walk part of the way to work or to the store. Walk further to your car of get off a bus one stop early to walk more. Take stairs vs. the elevator. Walk up and down escalator stairs. Park your car further away from the building.
  4. Keep track of your food intake. Avoid mindless eating while reading, watching TV or doing computer work. Plan snacks to avoid excessive hunger and therefore, over-eating or binging due to extreme hunger.
  5. Limit added fats. Limiting fats can decrease your calorie intake and therefore help lose weight.  Salad dressing should be low in fat and only use 1-2 tablespoons. Monitor how much butter, margarine, or oil you use. Try to limit your use to 1-2 tablespoons at each meal (depending on your calorie limit).  Try baked potato chips vs. fried.  To decrease fat content.
  6. Avoid or limit alcohol. These calories add up fast. One glass of wine or beer adds an extra 150 calorie (mixed drinks may be more). Consider limiting your intake to one glass or less a week. Alcohol has lots of empty calories with no nutritional value.
  7. Add a rainbow of color of produce in your shopping cart. Buy items like red peppers, yellow squash, and purple eggplant. Most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetable. Think of these as natures’ little power house of disease fighting plant compounds that work to keep you healthy and to help you live longer.
  8. Go for whole grains. Include fiber by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seed. You should strive for 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Fiber will help fill you up, keep you regular, and naturally supply vitamins and minerals to your diet.


Use these tips to change your habits and behaviors slowly for weight loss success. Remember when making goals to make S.M.A.R.T. choices. For more personalized advice seek out a Registered Dietitian in your area by consulting the American Dietetic Association website www.eatright.org

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