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New Year’s Resolutions: Focus on Gains, Not Losses

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The cusp of a New Year is often a time for reflection and prediction. Given the mayhem and madness of 2020, more than a few of us are happy to turn the page and look forward to the promise of hope and health as we welcome 2021.

As the ball drops and glasses of champagne are raised, more than half of American adults will make a resolution, and most of those will deal with health and self-improvement. Not surprisingly, very few will adhere to them. Fewer still will succeed. For people who are overweight or have obesity, weight loss is a necessary health improvement, though resolutions alone are unlikely to be route to success. However, this is a great time to broach the subject of weight loss because motivation, which correlates to weight loss success, is high and increases the likelihood individuals will achieve their goals.

To guide patients towards more successful weight loss efforts, rather than asking (or telling) them how much they’d like to lose, ask why they want to lose weight. If their goals are not in line with their values they are unlikely to maintain the motivation needed to achieve them. To that end, help them focus on what they will gain — better health, greater mobility and flexibility, sound sleep, improved mental health, etc. — rather than what they have to give up. Emphasize micro-goals of a few pounds per week and encourage celebrations of all victories along the way. Every pound lost is weight that is not gained, and that is worthy of acknowledgement on a regular basis. Given the increase in numbers of those trying to lose weight, finding a buddy to walk or exercise with and to share the ups and downs of progress can offer much needed support.

It is important to discuss a range of weight loss options and the pros and cons associated with each. Even among the highly motivated, lifestyle changes are hard to adopt and even more difficult to maintain. Some people may do well trying new, healthier recipes while others benefit from a more structured medically prescribed weight loss program. For others, a tried and true process may no longer achieve the same results and a jumpstart through a new program can be a better alternative. This isn’t a “one and done” option — everyone experiences setbacks, and patients need to be reminded that it’s a process that may require adjustments along the way.

While resolutions are likely to fade quickly, the start of a New Year can be a new beginning for patients who can benefit from weight loss and increased activity. Research shows that exercise related searches increase during the winter while weight loss queries peak in summer and winter. Creating awareness programs linked to these timeframes can spark interest and help patients start planning on how they might incorporate changes to their daily routine (a lack of meal planning is one of the primary reasons people don’t stick to new diets), leading to a greater likelihood of attaining goals.

A New Year is an opportunity for new beginnings. If this year has taught us anything it is that we will face unexpected and perhaps even seemingly insurmountable challenges. But we can and will overcome. Cheers to joyous, kinder and healthier 2021 and the bright future it offers!

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