Thrive by IU Health

May 23, 2022

How to recommit to weight loss strategies in the new year

How to recommit to weight loss strategies in the new year

Many people view the new year as a chance to make positive changes in their life and health. Whether it’s busy schedules, hard-to-keep goals, or we’re already losing motivation, by the end of January, many of our goals have hit a bump in the road. But it’s never too late to make healthy choices or re-commit to the goals we’ve made.

One of the most common new year’s goals is weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for everyone because it helps your body function properly and lowers your risk of developing a variety of health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

If you’ve resolved to lose weight this year, you may be looking for practical advice. While the internet and social media advertise a wide variety of weight loss solutions, plans and programs, Daniel Brown, MD, an internal medicine specialist with IU Health Physicians, says the best weight loss methods are those that are sustainable.

“I generally recommend that people aim to lose one to two pounds per week; it’s not only the safest way to lose weight, but also the best way to keep it off,” says Brown. “Some weight loss programs, especially those that are built on meal replacements such as shakes and specially prepared food, can deliver significant weight loss in a short period of time, but when people return to eating more normally, they gain the pounds right back.”

Successful weight loss depends on several factors, commonly known as the four pillars of weight loss:

Diet and nutrition. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes the recommended servings of vegetables, fruit, fiber and protein is an important first step in any weight loss program. This also includes limiting fat and foods that can cause weight gain, including fried and fast food, sweetened beverages and sugar.

“For my patients who want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, I often recommend finding an easy-to-use app that helps them count calories,” says Brown. “It’s not necessarily about ‘dieting,’ but making healthier food choices.”

Exercise. While it’s difficult to lose weight through exercise alone, it is a key component of both weight loss and healthy weight management. While it takes about 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week to promote weight loss, following the general guideline for adults of 150 minutes of physical activity per week has health benefits.

“Regular exercise can improve your cholesterol, your mood and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things,” Brown explains. “It’s an important part of overall good health, but for weight loss, it’s best used in combination with changes in diet.”

Behavior. There are a variety of behaviors that support weight loss efforts such as getting good sleep on a consistent basis and meal planning. Eating mindfully, which includes giving your brain the time to receive the signals that you are full, is also a good strategy.

“When people decide they want to lose weight, it can be helpful to take a close look at their behaviors to determine if there are things they’re doing that detract from healthy eating and weight management,” Brown says.

Related to behavior, some people have been successful in losing weight through intermittent fasting. The most common method is to set an eight-hour “eating window” for the day and then fast the remaining 16 hours. Another type of intermittent fasting is to fast for two full days each week.

“The science behind intermittent fasting is actually very strong, and it’s been shown to have some good health benefits such as lowering the risk of diabetes, reducing stress and inflammation, and promoting heart health,” says Brown. “If people are considering intermittent fasting for weight loss, however, it may take several weeks or even a few months to see significant change.”

Medication. Weight loss medications are an option for some people who struggle to lose weight or for those experiencing negative health effects of being overweight or obese. While medication can be a good solution for some people, Brown says that most of these medications are intended for long-term use and not something that people can take for short periods of time and then stop.

“For most individuals who want to lose weight, following through with diet, exercise and behavior modifications is enough,” Brown says. “However, if people have questions or are struggling on their own, it can be helpful to talk to a primary care doctor to assist in developing a weight loss plan that’s right for you.”

More Resources

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