Peter Lundberg MD
New Years Weight Loss Resolutions
A new year, much less a new decade, often brings resolutions to change our lives for the better. Many of these resolutions have to do with our health and, perhaps most commonly, weight. But just as gym memberships and new diets reliably peak in January, so do they reliably fizzle by the time Spring comes around and we are left with a well known problem — how do we stay motivated to do something we know is good for us but our own biology makes difficult?
Weight in the United States is, no pun intended, a growing problem. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that, by 2030, half of Americans will be obese (a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater). Obesity, in turn, directly results in numerous diseases, including certain types of cancer, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and significant increases in early mortality and economic costs.
I tell my patients that exercise, diet, medication, and even weight loss surgery are well known options to lose weight but also that they remain tools, not cures. Successful weight loss requires education, motivation, and a mindset that allows us to get the most out of these tools, and that is the goal behind my 5 tips for achieving our weight loss goals for 2020.
1. Drink more water. Our bodies after over two-thirds water and every step in our growth and metabolism relies on being well hydrated. Staying hydrated improves our ability to heal and fight infection, our digestive and kidney health, and countless other bodily functions. Furthermore, drinking water is a zero calorie option to curtail hunger and should be had with every meal.
2. Sleep more. Americans work hard and take advantage of every opportunity. An unfortunate side effect of this initiative is that we sleep far too little, a trend that has gotten worse in recent history — presently, over 40% of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, and that rate is even higher among working individuals. With more waking hours but increased fatigue, we eat more and are able to exercise less. Making time to get good sleep improves energy level and exercise capacity, and certainly reduces stress!
3. Be skeptical of food advertising. The abundance of cheap, delicious food is certainly convenient but comes with a price — these options are usually much less healthy than what we might prepare and eat at home. Additionally, we are conditioned to believe that three full meals and over 2000 calories are are a healthy norm. While professional athletes may need this (or more!), the average American eats far more than necessary to sustain a healthy level of physical and mental activity.
4. Keep track of what you eat. Looking in the mirror allows us to behold and understand our physical appearance. Similarly, a food journal gives us better insight and control into what we eat. In fact, food journaling has been proven to significantly increase weight loss in combination with diet. It is cheap, easy, and an essential part of any dieting effort and a mandatory requirement to my weight loss patients.
5. Find gratitude. All too often, we try to lose weight or adopt new health habits because we think it will make us feel better. While reduce risk of disease, more energy, and a better self image are all excellent motivations behind attempts to lose weight, sustained and dramatic efforts to improve our health should not be made alone. No matter what resolutions we make, the goal is to healthy and happy. My best recommendation for the latter is, simply, to be grateful. Gratitude can mean different things to different people, and it can be felt towards other people, the weather, or anything at all. But this isn’t just some motivational poster — studies have shown that gratitude enhances social bonds, directly counteracts negative feelings, and leads to happier, more satisfied lives. As we strive to make ours healthier, let us do so with a smile on our face!