FOOD & HEALTH | Don’t be surprised if weight-loss aspirations remain frustrated

According to statistics, well-meaning attempts of self-restraint to negate the fallout from holiday celebrations and other indulgences are mostly doomed to fail. The vast majority of “born-again” dieters and exercise enthusiasts will give up in less than a month. 

The reasons can be myriad, and sometimes, they are beyond a person’s control. But there are also ways to beat the odds and find success at last.

One reason why so many people get frustrated with their weight-loss efforts is that they expect too much too quickly. In fact, setting unrealistic goals can sabotage the best-laid plans. 

Especially with weight loss, people should not look for fast results but for lasting outcomes. Attacking the problem rigorously with short-term strategies may be more attractive to some, but radical approaches are usually unsustainable and even counterproductive over time. In any case, you shouldn’t wait until Jan. 1 and then try making a complete U-turn from what you’ve been doing for far too long.

“Losing weight and getting healthy isn’t something that happens once a year — it’s something that should last a lifetime,” said Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian, consultant and book author.

That doesn’t mean making resolutions is always a futile enterprise that should be abandoned altogether. For those who are willing to role the dice once more, despite of past disappointments, Amidor has good advice how to “jump-start” a new round. 

Whatever you’re planning to do, she says, it’s important to set not vague but specific, achievable goals. Do your research, so you know what you’re getting yourself into before you start out on the wrong track. Determine upfront what success or failure would look like and how to measure each. Team up with like-minded people who share your aspirations and support you. Seek professional help and guidance, if need be.

However, even the best thought-out guidelines will not help if they are not applicable to an individual. The only diet or fitness regimen that works is the one you can stick to, says Kathleen M. Zelman, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition for WebMD; in the end, it doesn’t matter what someone should do, but what he or she can do.

So before you decide on a particular diet program, you need to narrow your choices down to what suits your needs, your lifestyle and your particular circumstances, she says. 

The same, of course, goes for your exercise routine, how you handle stress and how much sleep you get — all important components for successful weight management. If any one or more of these are missing, there will be enough amiss to make you fail again. 

But also be aware that implementing changes in your habits takes time. And if success doesn’t show up right away, don’t be surprised and keep working at it. 

TIMI GUSTAFSON, R.D., a registered dietitian, is author of the book “The Healthy Diner: How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun.”