Being resolute about losing weight
- Losing weight is one of the top New Year's resolutions for 2024.
- New Year's resolutions aren't for everyone, according to medical experts.
- Consider using SMART goals instead, which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound.
- Start any plan with one or two small goals.
- If you're not having any luck, talk with your physician.
As we usher in another new year, it’s that time when we pledge to exercise more, save money, find a new hobby, or, in many cases, shed a few pounds.
According to a recent Forbes Health survey, losing weight checked in as the fourth most popular resolution for 2024, trailing only improving fitness, finances and mental health. Nearly 34% of respondents said losing weight was their main goal, followed by improving one’s diet (31.6%) to round out the top five.
Nicole O’Neill is a dietitian with OSF HealthCare. Her job is to help clients navigate the choppy waters of starting diets, especially this time of year.
“Resolutions are big picture things,” O’Neill says. “So, if you have a resolution to lose X amount of weight, go ahead and make it. But then break it down into smart goals, little steps along the way so that you can achieve something and feel like you did something. So, you can celebrate a success. If you just say I want to lose a bunch of weight, it's not good enough. You have to say how much weight and how you're going to do it.”
Resolutions aren’t for everyone. O’Neill says it depends on the person's personality and what other factors are involved, such as stress, hormones, pain or lack of sleep. If you need a hard start and stop to see results, a New Year's resolution might just do the trick. For other people, however, resolutions are a potential recipe for failure.
The SMART goals O’Neill referenced are specific, measurable, and attainable, realistic and time bound. For example, rather than say you’re going to cut out all fast food, why not set a goal for eating at home more, she adds.
“So, if you say I want to lose 100 pounds, well sure we got the 100 pounds part but how are you going to do it? How long is it going to take you, what are all the pieces? Do you need to lose 100 pounds? Well, some people do, and some people don't,” O’Neill says. “If you weighed 120 pounds at 18 years old, and you tell me today, I want to be 100 pounds that's not realistic. Even 120 pounds might not be realistic. So, setting up a SMART goal is better than a resolution.”
There is no magic wand or secret formula for losing weight. O’Neill says it’s a combination of factors that are going to lead you down the path that is right for you on your weight loss journey.
“If you're not drinking enough water, add more water. If you're not sleeping, let's talk about that. If you're super stressed out, see a therapist. If you don't eat any fruits and vegetables, add one. Start with little baby steps and maybe that is the hidden nugget. Do one little thing and see how you do with it and let it snowball into the next thing and into the next thing instead of trying to tackle it all at once.”
If you’re still struggling to find success, O’Neill recommends having a conversation with your provider who can recommend other options such as medication management or counseling.
After all, what do you have to lose?