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Be Your Healthiest

Year after year, losing weight is the top New Year’s resolution. Yet, for many, it’s not resolving to lose weight that presents a problem. It’s how to lose weight.

With more than one-third of U.S. adults considered obese and billions spent annually on managing obesity-related medical conditions, it is more important than ever to confront the problem of excess weight. While losing weight is a start, the ultimate goal is long-term health and wellness. To successfully lose weight and keep it off, you have to be willing to make a lifestyle change that you commit to for life not every time a new year rolls around. Here are tips to not only help you achieve your 2013 weight loss goal but transition into a healthier lifestyle.

Start a food journal. Keeping a food journal is one of the most important tools you can use for weight loss and maintenance. People often overeat because they are unaware of what they are eating. By keeping a food journal, you are more accountable for your food choices. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published the results of a study that followed over 1,600 overweight adult participants. The findings showed that the weight loss of those who kept a food journal was more than double that of participants who did not keep a journal. When starting a food journal, find a method that works best for you. Some people prefer a notepad and paper while others like using smartphone apps and websites. Whichever method you choose, recording meals daily and being honest will help you get the most out of a food journal.

Know what’s on your plate. Journaling, reducing calories and decreasing portion size is important, but what you eat matters too. In addition to proper servings of fruits and vegetables, eating a little more protein and less saturated fat can help you feel more satisfied. This may reduce your total caloric intake throughout the day.

Don’t skip meals. Part of staying in shape and living a healthy lifestyle is making sure you get the nutrients you need on a regular basis. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, may cause you to overindulge later.

Stay hydrated.  We often mistake hunger for thirst. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. (The old standby is eight 8-oz glasses.) Drink more water if it is hot outside or if you are exercising.

Set reasonable goals. If you set the bar too high or only focus on your overall goal, you may start to lack the motivation you need to keep going. Instead, try focusing on smaller, short-term goals. Once you start accomplishing these, your overall weight loss goal will seem more attainable.

Find support.  Support plays a critical role in weight loss. Many people who make New Year’s Resolutions often fail to succeed because they do not have the support and encouragement they need to stay on track. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, diet participants who had monthly personal counseling had the most success and kept more weight off. “At Medi-Weightloss Clinics, the treatment plan is built upon personal one-on-one support and medical supervision. Each patient works closely with a team of medical professionals and receives customized education and support so they can shed pounds and make long-term weight maintenance a reality,” says Edward Zbella, MD, and Chief Medical Officer for Medi-Weightloss Clinics. If you are joining a weight loss program, make sure it includes counseling and motivation. Also ask your family and friends to support your efforts.

Incorporate exercise. Research shows that incorporating daily physical activity is vital for your health and weight maintenance. The National Weight Control Registry tracked the success of more than 5,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept if off for long periods of time. Of the participants followed, they found that 89 percent reported using both diet and physical activity for weight loss compared to just 10 percent that reported using diet alone. Exercise will help boost your energy, improve your mood, improve your sleep and prevent or manage serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Join a gym, start walking with a friend or take a dance class. Most importantly, make exercise a priority. Schedule your activities and write it down on your calendar so that you have no excuse to skip it.

The fact that more than half of people who make a New Year’s Resolution are no longer sticking to it six months later proves that people need more than a resolution to achieve lasting weight loss. What many need is a comprehensive weight loss program that is customized to their needs and addresses weight maintenance. So what should you look for in a weight loss program?

“Weight loss programs should be designed by doctors and registered dietitians along with fitness and behavioral experts. They should be implemented with adequate medical supervision and deliver the accountability, encouragement and support that are shown to help patients achieve success. Weight loss programs should also provide a maintenance plan to educate patients on how to keep the weight off once they have reached their goal,” says Dr. Zbella.

April Plank is a certified personal trainer and developer of InterActive Exercise, a fitness program from Medi-Weightloss Clinics.

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