When you ask someone what their New Year’s resolution will be, more often than not, you’ll find people usually have set goals to eat healthier, exercise more, or just lose weight in general. On the other hand, at the end of each year, when people look back on which resolutions they were able to stick with, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is that they didn’t eat as healthy, exercise as frequently, or lose as much weight as they would have liked. So how can we make this year different from all of the past year’s failed weight-loss resolutions? Here are a few tips and strategies that may be helpful in aiding your weight-loss and healthy-eating goals this year:
1. Knowledge is Power
First thing is first, if you really want to succeed in losing weight, you must first educate yourself in weight-loss relevant topics. For example, did you know that there is a huge conceptual, strategic, and physiological difference in losing weight and actually maintaining the weight-loss? A majority of people that engage in short-term diets will lose a desirable amount of weight, but in the long run are shown to gain back the weight that they lost, if not more. Or how about the answer to this question: “what is it that I should cut out of my diet to not only lose weight, but actually reduce my cravings for bad foods?” These and other key topics are what I address in my new book Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar): Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight, and Get Healthy because research has shown that although millions of people want to lose weight and live healthier, few people actually have the information necessary to make this happen. Having the proper knowledge, will make you think twice when you eat because not only will you know which foods are bad for you, but you’ll also know why they’re bad for you and how they’re really affecting your body.
2. Avoid Food Traps
A surprisingly small percentage of the population is eating when they’re hungry. It is often the case that people eat when they are tricked into thinking they’re hungry when they’re not. This may happen on your drive home from work when you pass 3 different fast food restaurants, when you sit in front of the TV, when you walk into the break room and see a tray full of snacks, etc. These are all behavior cues, or stimuli, that prompt you to eat. So an important first step in controlling your eating is to find the cues in your environment that are prompting you to eat unnecessarily. For example, once you figure out that the McDonald’s on your way home from work is making you want to eat, figure out a way to avoid this behavioral cue: perhaps take a different route home from work. Similarly, if you’re finding that you habitually eat when sitting in front of the television, to avoid this behavioral cue, it might be a good idea to make a rule that you only eat when you sit at the dining room table, away from the TV.
3. Make Losing Weight Worth the Money
Research has shown that coupling financial incentives with weight-loss can be quite successful. However, be aware that this same research has also found this strategy to be unsuccessful in the long term. People seem to regain the weight after a while or after the financial incentives are removed.
A couple of financial incentives found to be successful in the short-term involve “deposit contracts” and lottery-based incentives. Both can be done with a group of people (e.g. coworkers or friends). With the deposit contract, people all put up the same amount of money, an amount that would hurt if lost, and set up their weight loss goals. After a pre-determined amount of time (usually a few months), the people that met their goals will split the deposited money. For the lottery-based strategy, the same principles apply only, instead of splitting the money, everyone who meets their weight-loss goals enter a lottery to see who wins all of the money. Both methods involve frequent “check-ins” where perhaps three times a week, everyone weighs himself or herself and compare how they’re doing with each other.
Perhaps in order to maintain the successes of these strategies, these types of incentives should be done on a regular basis instead of just one time. Also, instead of focusing too much on a one-time weight-loss (which could prompt people to temporarily change their eating habits that cannot be maintained permanently), these strategies could focus on a modest amount of weight loss followed by incentivizing the maintenance (instead of furthering) of weight-loss.
4. Enlist Social Contracts and Social Support
Lastly, people hugely underestimate the social factors in eating behaviors and weight-loss. It is innate within each of us to copy the eating and health habits of the people surrounding us. We can use this innate social process to our advantage for weight-loss. For example, if you know that you and a group of friends have weight issues or issues with overeating, if everyone engages in a social contract to lose weight and eat healthy, everyone has higher chances of actually meeting their goals. However, as with financial incentive strategies, frequent check-ins, seem to be key in meeting goals.
What if you don’t have a group of friends with similar goals? As already mentioned, frequent check-ins are imperative in social contracts and social support, so even if you have one friend who is a proponent of healthy eating and healthy weight, this person could provide the social advantage necessary for your goals. One study showed that even a texting-based approach could be effective. In this study, participants texted how well they did with their eating habits that day with experimenters and experimenters replied with advice for the following day or just provided positive remarks if subjects had a good day.
For more information on strategies and advice on how to keep your weight-loss resolution this year, check out my new book, Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar): Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight available on Amazon.com now!