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Make over your weight-loss resolutions

  • Story Highlights
  • Diet is often associated with deprivation and leads to self-punishment
  • Set a goal that is "specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and trackable"
  • Dieters who take on too much are setting themselves up for failure
  • Have a friend hold you accountable and make sure you stick to plan
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By Mara Betsch
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Health

Amid pink slips and plummeting stocks, 2009 may not be shaping up to be the year you hoped for. But one thing you do still have some control over is your body. So put your stress on the shelf and resolve to focus on you come January 1. To help you out, here are some experts' tips for turning last year's failed resolution into something stable for the future and who couldn't use a little more stability?

Being overzealous about New Year's resolutions and taking on too much could backfire.

Being overzealous about New Year's resolutions and taking on too much could backfire.

Old resolution: That's it, no more chocolate ever!

Banning your favorite treat whether it's chocolate, soda, lattes, or french fries is bound to backfire, says Julie Upton, Health.com's resident dietitian: "Dieters will eat it, binge on it, feel bad, and then throw in the towel and revert back to their old eating patterns."

Makeover: "Make peace with your trigger foods," Upton says. "Don't have them at home staring you in the face, but allow yourself to have them once or twice a week."

Old resolution: All those holiday parties went straight to my hips. Starting January 1, I'm going to starve myself to undo all the damage.

"When somebody says diet, they're thinking deprivation," says Dr. Tom Kersting, a clinical hypnotherapist, private-practice psychotherapist, and the author of Losing Weight When Diets Fail. If your weight loss plan feels like a drag, you're going to feel punished and abandon it.

Makeover: Rejoice in the lifelong health benefits you'll be creating instead of getting down about dieting. "I want people to think health and longevity," Kersting says. "Losing weight actually becomes very easy when you invest your mental energy in making positive, healthy changes for yourself." Health.com: Going on a boob diet-- Eating for breast health

Old resolution: I am going to lose weight-- somehow.

"People often will just set a weight-loss goal, but they don't have a good plan on how to get there," says Dr. Donald Hensrud, a preventive medicine and nutrition specialist for MayoClinic.com. Without a detailed plan, you can't measure and celebrate your progress or notice and overcome any difficulties; you're likely to go back to previous eating and exercise patterns.

Makeover: Set a goal that is "specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and trackable," Hensrud says. Walk for 15 minutes three times a week after work, or cut your meat intake in half while adding an extra serving each of fruits and vegetables, he suggests. Focus on changes that you can make a part of your lifestyle easily and seamlessly so you'll be able to sustain the changes for the long haul. Health.com: Six diet trends you should never try

Old resolution: I'm signing up for my gym's lifetime membership plan.

While finding a gym you really like is a good start, simply signing up won't help you lose weight. "Like any plan, you want to be specific, because if it's very vague it leaves you too many places to sabotage yourself," says Gold's Gym Fitness Institute expert Ramona Braganza. Without a program in place- no matter the cost of the membership plan- your goal to work out more will get pushed aside, she says.

Makeover: Start working out at home with DVDs or become a member at a gym you feel comfortable with before the New Year. This way, you'll have a plan in place when your resolution kicks in January 1. Planning ahead also gives you the time to structure your workout based on your gym's offerings. "Pick some classes, find the best trainers, and have some friends join you," Braganza suggests, "and it all falls into place."

Old resolution: I'm going to lose 30 pounds by March.

Drastic resolutions like this are simply not realistic, says Diana Keuilian, a California--based personal trainer and author of Avoid the Freshman 15. You'll just get discouraged and give up.

Makeover: Make some basic alterations to your lifestyle. "These changes don't all have to happen at once, but changes in what you eat, when you eat it, and how much you move your body will ultimately cause you to lose the weight," Keuilian says. "People who aren't willing to change their lifestyle will never be successful with weight loss." Health.com: There may be more than 1,000 hidden calories in your daily diet!

Old resolution: I'm the New Year's Resolution poster child. I can do it all- eat better, lose weight, and start exercising.

Dieters who take on too much are setting themselves up for failure. This resolution may sound good, but it "is a high bar for most people to achieve," says Melinda M. Manore, professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at Oregon State University. If your goals are too lofty, you'll have trouble accomplishing them, and you're likely to give up, she says.

Makeover: Have a friend hold you accountable. Focus on one or two areas and team up with a weight-loss companion- a friend, relative, or personal trainer- who will make sure you stick to the plan. "It is much easier to go for a walk every day at 6 a.m. if you know a friend is waiting for you," Manore says. Health.com: Weight-loss success story- Together we lost over 200 pounds

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Copyright Health Magazine 2009

All About Diet and NutritionExercise and FitnessHealth and Fitness

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