Health Report: Four tips for launching and sticking to your New Year’s resolution to lose weight

Every year, nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. When you consider that more than one-third of Americans are overweight, it’s not surprising that losing weight and staying fit were among the top five resolutions in 2015 and they’re likely to rank high for 2016 as well.

However, only about 8 percent of people who make resolutions succeed in keeping them. That means most people end up abandoning their goal, often because they set rules for themselves that are simply not realistic. This leads to frustration, discouragement and, eventually, giving up.

If you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, such as losing weight, eating less sugar or exercising more, crash diets and draconian workout regimens likely won’t stick because they are just too hard to maintain. You’re much more likely to succeed if you start with changes that you can make right away, and build on over time. Try these tips to help you succeed with your resolution in 2016.

Set an achievable goal. Avoid biting off more than you can chew. Don’t sign up for a marathon if you’ve never run more than a few miles for exercise before. Start with something more appropriate, like a 5K or even a 1-mile “fun run.” Choose something that almost seems too easy, so that you can do it and feel successful almost immediately.

“Sometimes I joke with my patients who want to start exercising that all they need to do is put on their workout clothes every day for a week. Even if they don’t actually go out and exercise, they’ve taken the first step,” said Christen Benke, D.O., family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic. “Then, maybe the next week they can put on their workout clothes and go for a 10-minute walk. Within a couple of weeks, they’ve at least achieved the goals they set and can feel proud of themselves instead of discouraged.”.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Instead of giving up all sugar, give up sugary soda or pastries for two weeks. “I’ve found that after a week or two without sugar or simple carbohydrates like doughnuts, my patients lose their cravings for them,” Dr. Benke said.

Refuse to buy any food from a fast-food drive through for a month. That way you have to get out of your car and walk into the store or restaurant, and you may decide it isn’t worth it.

Vow to take the stairs instead of the elevator – even if your appointment is on the 10th floor.

Challenge yourself to park at the other end of the lot, as far away from your destination as possible.

It’s really all about psychology and tricking your brain into accepting a new habit that you can maintain. You’ll likely find that once you start practicing these new behaviors, they’ll be easy to keep up.

Make yourself accountable. Tell your friends and family that you’re doing a 5K run or giving up soda for a month, so that they will hold you to it. This gets your ego involved and makes you more likely to honor your commitment. No one wants to be embarrassed by flaking out.

Recruit a partner in crime. This is especially helpful if your goal involves exercise. We know that people are more likely to follow through on a workout program if there is another person involved, whether it is an expensive personal trainer who will charge a fee whether you show up or not, or a neighbor you’ve promised to walk with in the morning. Sign up for that run with a friend, and train together. Look into local Meetup groups for activities you enjoy. “You’ll share motivation, laughs and a sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed a goal,” said Dr. Benke, who was recently named a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians for her work and service in her field.

Check with your doctor. Before you start a new exercise routine or make changes to your diet, it’s always a great idea to check with your physician, especially if you have any medical conditions or take medications.

For more information about Scripps Health, visit http://www.scripps.org/KUSI or call 858-240-5075.

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