Weight loss is consistently among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Efforts to change eating and exercise habits often don’t last. People start strong right after the ball drops in Times Square, but determination fades.
According to a 2007 Wall Street Journal Harris Interactive Poll, fewer than half of those who made a resolution to eat healthier, consume less food, exercise more or lose weight were successful.
Don’t ditch your promise to drop pounds in 2010. If you are overweight or obese, weight loss can be a lifesaver, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other debilitating conditions. There is a substantial body of research available to help guide your efforts.
Before you dive into a new diet and exercise plan in the New Year, arm yourself with information and prepare for the challenge ahead.
As you make lifestyle changes that will hopefully change your frame, let’s take a look forward at potential treatments, and back at recent study findings that might help you succeed at slimming down in the New Year and beyond.
1. Count calories for weight loss
A large population based study leveled the playing field when it comes to the effectiveness of different types of diets. Researchers tracked the success of more than 800 obese and overweight people who embarked on nutritionally sound weight loss regimens.
According to the findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it didn’t matter if the diets emphasized protein, fat or carbohydrates. Calorie reduction was the key to success.
“There is no perfect diet for everyone,” says Ken Fujioka, MD, director of the Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management.
For more than two decades, he’s been studying obesity treatments and developing individualized weight loss programs.
“Find an eating plan you can stick with and that’ll give you the best chance for long-term success,” Dr. Fujioka says.
2. Skip the sugared soda and high fructose corn syrup
If you quench your thirst with sugar-sweetened soda, consider this before you pop another top: in the United States, a 12-ounce soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar — which is usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if the calories in just one can are added to the typical diet without cutting intake from other sources, one soda per day could lead to weight gain of 15 pounds in just a year.
In 2009, the body of evidence linking soda to obesity expanded. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles analyzed the correlation between soft drink consumption and weight.
According to their findings, adults who drank one or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages every day were 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.
“Cutting back on sugar-sweetened sodas may be more effective for weight loss than skipping the same amount of calories in solid food,” Dr. Fujioka says. “Switch to water. If that won’t work for you, drink diet beverages with artificial sweetener.”
3. Move your body for long-term health benefits
Research shows that few people achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone. Eating habits need to change. But routinely breaking a sweat still has big long-term health benefits.
“Exercise is a critical part of maintaining weight loss,” Dr. Fujioka says. “The two go hand-in-hand.”
A study published in the online journal Obesity last year found that as little as 80 minutes a week of resistance or aerobic training helps to prevent weight gain and inhibit a regain of harmful visceral fat one year after weight loss.
Visceral fat lies under the abdominal muscles and surrounds vital organs. It is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
4. Weigh yourself for frequent self-monitoring
A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that daily weighing may be a helpful way to get slimmer and stay that way.
After examining the habits of more than 3000 obese and overweight people enrolled in weight loss or weight gain prevention trials, researchers at the University of Minnesota concluded that those who stepped on the scale daily experienced greater success.
The authors indicated that frequent monitoring may give people the nudge they need to correct their behavior, so small gains don’t eventually add up to a big weight problem.
5. Explore options for long-term weight loss
2010 will likely yield even more study findings to help dieters refine their habits and reach their weight loss goals. New treatment options, in pill form, could also be on the horizon.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are expected to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this year to market three new weight loss drugs.
“Some of the drugs in development are a combination of agents with longstanding FDA approval, so their side effects are known,” Dr. Fujioka says.
He was lead investigator of a large multi-center study that tested the efficacy of Contrave, one of the investigational medications.
“Achieving 10 percent weight loss is fairly easy. The rest is tough because the body makes metabolic adjustments to our behavior changes,” Dr. Fujioka says. “With this new medication, some study participants achieved double digit weight loss, which is 10 percent and up.”