Losing weight is consistently one of the most popular New Year’s goals, however, 88% of people fail to keep their resolutions. Even if you’ve failed in the past, experts share how you can succeed by avoiding six common mistakes:
You’d like to lose weight but you don’t set a specific goal, which makes it hard to plan or succeed. “Many people set vague intentions such as ‘eat more healthfully’ or ‘get more exercise’ which won’t work,” says Pauline Wallin, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
The fix: “You need a specific plan, including if-then contingencies. [For example], ‘I will not eat candy for two weeks. If I get a craving for sugar, then I will wait for 30 minutes, and if I still want something sweet, I will eat 10 grapes.’”
Some goals are easier to achieve in smaller chunks. “If I proclaim I want to lose 50 pounds, but I most likely won’t accomplish it, then I am setting up myself for shame and failure,” says Angel Planells, MS, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The fix: “Start with the initial goal of losing 5–10 pounds. Work toward and accomplish that goal,then you’ll feel more motivated and capable of tackling an additional 5–10 pounds.”
Research shows perfectionists are less likely to keep their New Year’s resolutions; their self-critical tendencies and flair for overplanning backfire, making them feeling lousy about themselves.
“One of the main problems with perfectionists is that they tend to view things as all or nothing,” Wallin says. “If they have a diet lapse one evening, they are apt to feel as if they’ve failed the whole program and give up.”
The fix: It’s better to build in some flexibility, says Wallin. “Some people can have a cheat day and it works for them. But for others, especially perfectionists, expect minor lapses and get back on track the next day.”
Life gets messy, and if you don’t take that into consideration, it may sideline your resolve. For example, “You might plan to get up and eat a healthy breakfast, but if you oversleep, do you have healthy options in the office fridge,” asks Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and author of “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.”
The fix: “Anyone can plan for things to go right. True time-management masters plan for when things go wrong.” This could mean having healthy meals in the freezer or putting your workout clothes in your bag the night before.
Most people have days where they fall off track, but more than 70% of those who keep their resolutions say slipping up strengthens their efforts and helps them succeed; quitters view it as a fatal flaw.
“They believe ‘I failed. This is proof positive that I will never do it,’ and they go back to the problem behavior,” says John Norcross, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, whose research examines New Year’s resolution compliance.
The fix: “Messing up is unfortunate but it’s natural. It doesn’t mean it’s over. Get back on the wagon, so to speak. It’s not how often you slip, it’s how you respond to the slip.”
Often when people want to lose weight they cut out their favorite food groups and categorize foods as “good” or “bad.” This can lead to feelings of deprivation and, in turn, binge eating, says Kelly Hogan, RD a New York City-based nutritionist.
The fix: Instead of putting any one food off limits, pay attention to portion sizes, says Hogan. Eating a well-balanced diet means most of your plate contains plenty of colorful veggies, lean proteins and whole grains, but there should be room for dessert, too.