As a new year begins many people view this time as an opportunity for fresh starts; a chance to refocus, to break bad habits and to make changes for the better. A common goal is to improve one’s health and specifically for many it is weight loss. How often, though, do those well intentioned New Year’s resolutions fade within a few weeks, months or even days? Whether it is the busyness of life or failure to get results that leads to a resolution breakdown, there are ways you can set yourself up for success. First, establish a reasonable goal. Second, come up with a plan. Third, utilize available resources and maintain a positive attitude. Although it may sound like simple common sense, the specifics of those steps can make a big difference.

When it comes to setting your goal it is helpful to start small. Instead of one drastic number for the whole year, think about small movements in the scale over a shorter period of time. Not only does this make reaching your goal more attainable, but it is also more beneficial for the long run. Remember you can always set another goal after you achieve your first. Plus, large fast drops often lead to rebound weight gain versus a gradual weight loss of 1-2 lbs. per week which is more ideal for sustained weight management. Really, you don’t even need to have a specific weight loss number in mind, but instead could focus on making healthy food changes or on starting an exercise regimen, not necessarily even at the same time. Think about what is manageable with your current life — do you have the time, money, or other priorities to balance. Finally, it is important for you to have a strong motivation for achieving your goal whether it is health related or just wanting to fit better in your clothes. Be specific if possible; don’t just think “I want to feel better," but instead that you want to have less joint pain or prevent heart disease that runs in your family or be able to do a certain hobby you haven’t been up for doing in a while.

Once you have your goal set it is time to plan how you are actually going to make it happen. Just saying “I am going to eat healthier and exercise more” isn’t going to cut it. What does your current food intake and activity look like? What specific changes are you going to make? Remember the starting small concept from setting your goal — well it applies here too. If you aren’t currently doing any exercise it can be overwhelming to jump into a plan of 1 hour 5 times a week, so start off with shorter maybe even 10-15 minute segments a few times a week and build from there. Another thing to consider is that oftentimes adding in good habits is easier than breaking bad ones so it can be useful to frame your plan around that concept. For instance, focus on adding in more vegetables and eating them first so that you fill up and by default are not eating as many carbohydrates.

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to make lifelong changes to improve your overall health, not just go on a 30 day diet or join an 8 week exercise plan and then revert back to the same behaviors as before. It is about developing healthy habits that you can continue. You can use more extreme changes to kick-start weight loss but the foundational lifestyle adjustments need to be made to sustain it long term. That means eating mostly whole food meals with a well balanced nutritional profile; emphasizing vegetables and healthy fats, eating small portions of lean meats and whole grains, and limiting processed foods. It means picking a type of exercise you actually enjoy doing to start and experimenting with different activities to get a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility in your routine.

Finally, it is critical to maximize available resources. See your doctor to make sure you have a clean bill of health — double check that there are no medical contraindications to any plan you have formulated as well as to address conditions such as thyroid disease or mood issues that can interfere with your success. Make use of your smart phone to set reminder alarms or download one of the various fitness apps to guide and track your progress. Talk to you family and friends for support and even better find a fitness partner to make changes with you. Lastly, consult a reliable source such as a naturopathic doctor or certified nutritionist for specific nutrition and natural supplements recommendations

Happy New Year!

Dr. Jennalyn McBride is a Naturopathic Doctor at Northwest Center for Optimal Health in Marysville, WA. Contact her at 360-651-9355 or

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