ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Every year the clock strikes midnight on January 1, and people show up in droves to gyms in hopes of losing weight in the new year.
According to a dietician, an internal medicine doctor and a health and wellness director, success is all about consistency.
After speaking with three different professionals, each one essentially said the same thing. People come out of the gates blazing, but usually with unrealistic goals and/or fad diet and exercise plans. So, even if they see some success and drop the weight, they go back to their old habits and gain it all back.
"This is a lifetime process, this is forever."
If you want to lose weight in the new year, don't assume this is the only time you can start a diet.
"Generally, I encourage people to make changes that they can still make in July or August. Some of those more long-term changes rather than those fad diets, quick fixes. Because I see it all the time, people try them for a few months and they work and then they go back to their old habits and then they're back where they started," said Phoebe's Diabetes Care Center Registered Dietitian Julie Joiner.
If you are really determined to lose the weight, you need to be honest with yourself. This is going to have to be something you change for the rest of your life.
"This is a lifetime process, this is forever, it's not just short-term," said Albany Area YMCA Health and Wellness Director Donnette Kline Lewis.
When you start developing your weight loss plan, make sure you focus on things you can do consistently.
"The most important thing to me is consistency. You want to develop healthy habits that you maintain. So, instead of going for a fad diet or trying to really tightly restrict your calories for a short period of time, you want to say, 'Okay, am I eating the right types of food? Am I eating the correct portions of food? Am I staying active? Am I drinking plenty of water?' Those are the things that as you do them consistently, they weight does come down. It's not a magic 100 pounds in a month kind of thing, but it's going to be what gets you going the right direction and staying the right direction," explained M.D. Meredith Koomson with Phoebe Primary Car at Meredyth Place.
Where to start
Another common issue that professionals agreed on is that people tend to fail when they start out by over restricting their diets.
"I don't really categorize foods as good or bad. Most foods, unless you have some kind of medical issue, can be included in moderation," said Joiner. "That's usually the first one is just eliminating entire food groups. I see that often and I don't think it's necessary."
Koomson suggested beginning by evaluating why you want to lose weight. Is it just to get to a healthy weight? Is it because you want to feel better or be more active? Is it because you are trying to treat or prevent a condition like diabetes?
"So kind of evaluating the reasons why you're trying to lose weight or make a change," said Koomson. "And then as far as sort of deciding what resolutions could be, I like to set up goals that are kind of specific and they're achievable and measurable."
The professionals also agreed that your physician is a great place to start.
"Make sure you're having that, at minimum, a yearly checkup with your physician. It's looking at what your current weight is, what your medications are, are you physically able to do exercise, is there anything underlying going on, get that kind of overall clearance from your physician and then start tackling those things," explained Joiner.
And when you do start making goals, make small ones that converge into your overall long-term goal.
"Eliminate one thing a day," suggested Lewis. "Just start eliminating one thing, one portion, one soda. Rather than not having any if that's what you use."
Remember, you are trying to develop lifetime habits. Don't start by completely eliminating something you love from your diet. Start by cutting back on it.
"We set these kinds of rules for ourselves and then we don't follow through with them and we're disappointed. And we have this guilt that sets up this kind of mental roller coaster of disappointment and then we just say the heck with it, I can't do this," explained Joiner.
Also, don't assume that a healthier diet means a lack of flavor.
"You can include tons of flavor by using herbs and spices. It's a great opportunity to experiment in the kitchen," Joiner said. "Fresh herbs, dried herbs, different vinegars, there's all kinds of sauces that you can add that aren't going to add too many if any calories. But those fresh herbs and dried herbs are great ways to get flavor."
And you don't have to completely cut out carbs either.
"I tend to tell people to try to eliminate kind of those, the carbs, I call them the trigger foods and for each one of us that's different," explained Joiner. "So if rice is something that you cannot control very well then maybe we don't do rice. But if you could have a few potatoes and that doesn't seem to be something that you go overboard on then maybe that's the carb choice that you pick."
Basically, just focus on overall healthy habits that you know you can do on a regular basis.
"Good weight loss is about a half a pound to two pounds a week, no more," said Lewis. "It's all mathematics. It's 3,500 calories equals one pound. The easiest way to start is by eating more fruits and vegetables. That's what most people lack. Add more fruits and vegetables, fill up on that."
Making healthier food choices
The consensus on diets is that people need to cut back on sugars, especially in drinks, and eat more fruits and vegetables while drinking more water.
"The easiest way to start is by eating more fruits and vegetables. That's what most people lack. Add more fruits and vegetables, fill up on that," explained Lewis.
"The sugars that come in fruit are actually healthier for us than for example the sugars that are found in sodas or a lot of packaged processed food, and in addition to that that they come along with the fiber and the water content as well as the vitamins and minerals that are in fruit," said Koomson.
But it's important to be realistic about what dietary changes you can make within a reasonable amount of time.
"You just don't go from eating 3,000 calories down to 1,200, you'll be starved. You have to condition yourself to do that. And that could take several months just to get to that point that you're eating the proper amount of calories," explained Lewis.
Working out doesn't have to suck
One of the biggest struggles people face when trying to lose weight is consistently exercising. But you can do something you love so you don't have to force yourself into a routine you hate.
"Do something you like. Do not do something that's a chore. If you like going swimming, go swimming, if you like going cycling, cycle, if you like riding a bike, ride a bike, if you like yoga, do yoga. But you have to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it you're not going to stick with it," said Lewis.
Why is getting healthy so important?
It's no secret that obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S., and with dangerously high weight levels comes other dangerous health risks.
It's not just about the number on the scale
It's extremely important to remember that it's not about just your weight. It's about your overall health. So just because you didn't lose two pounds in one week doesn't mean you're failing.
Koomson suggests gauging how you feel, how your clothes fit, and if you're able to be more active. But if you are looking at a number, Koomson suggests using the Body Mass Index or BMI. She said when looking at your BMI, which she said should fall in the range of 20-24.
Koomson also suggested just making small changes can help, like parking further away, taking the stairs and setting reminders on your phone or calendar to workout.
But what about...
If you've ever wondered if women actually have a harder time losing weight, Dr. Koomson said yes, they do. Sort of.
"Women, obviously we carry the task of bearing children so we do have to have a higher fat percentage on our bodies. So we are going to try to maintain a higher fat percentage, so to a certain extent, it does make it a little bit more difficult for women to lose weight because muscle mass helps to burn calories. So, if you're a more muscular person you're going to have a faster metabolic rate," explained Koomson.
But Koomson also said that sometimes people can give that more credit than it's due.
This is supposed to be a lifetime change, and it's about health, not just a number on the scale.
So, if you're planning on heading into the new year with the resolution to lose weight or get fit, start by talking to your doctor.
Then remember not to over-restrict yourself. Don't tell yourself you can never have certain foods ever again, just enjoy them in appropriate portions and in moderation.
Consider a food diary to target some of the eating habits that may need to be changed and track your progress.
There are also plenty of apps to track your diet and your exercise.
You can also get a buddy to help you stay on track.
And remember to focus on your overall health and not just the scale.