How to stick to your New Year’s weight loss goal

By Denise Dick

On the surface, weight loss seems like a simple proposition: Burn more calories than you consume. But in reality, it isn’t easy.

“It’s a tough thing to do to lose weight,” said Dr. Crispin Barlatt, a family physician at Humility of Mary Health Partners’ new Church Hill Family Health Center in Liberty.

Losing weight and becoming physically fit typically top lists of the most popular New Year’s resolution. But many people make the same resolution year after year without success.

Dr. Barlatt urges people who want to lose weight to first prepare, and second, set a realistic goal.

By preparing, you learn what works and what doesn’t, he said. He even suggests starting before the beginning of the new year.

Every Jan. 2, fitness centers are filled with people eager to fulfill their weight-loss resolutions. A few weeks later, though, only regular gym members remain as most of the newcomers have fallen off.

“Every year in January, you can hardly get into the gym,” said Doris Bullock, co-owner with husband, John, of Fit Family on state Route 46, Austintown. “After Feb. 1, it starts to go down.”

To improve the chances of fulfilling the New Year’s resolution, Doris, a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor, suggests setting small goals to help achieve your overall weight-loss hopes.

“Rather than saying you want to lose 20 pounds, set a goal to lose 1 pound per week or 2 to 3 pounds per month,” she said.

Those little victories will keep you motivated and on track for more weight loss.

Alfie Burch, a personal trainer and general manager of Fizek in Niles, encourages people to stay committed.

“You have to know your why you’re doing it,” he said. “You can’t do it because of exterior things — it’s your ‘why.’ It’s your health. You have to take responsibility for your physical health. If you don’t do it now, physicians will do it later. You have to be committed to the reason why you got started.”

Fitness isn’t just about a physical change, Burch said. It’s a whole mindset.

“Fitness is not 30-day or a 90-day change,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle. You need it to make your life better. People need to understand it’s just what it says. It’s a commitment.”

Like the Bullocks, Burch also encourages clients to set small goals at first.

“Establish small ones that lead to larger ones that lead to great ones,” he said.

For example, set a goal to exercise five days in a 10-day period. Once that’s accomplished, plan to work out 15 days within a 21-day period, then 30 days within 45.

“The next thing you know, you’ve lost 5 to 6 pounds just sticking with a goal,” Burch said.

John Bullock suggests enlisting a personal trainer. That person can map out a routine, offer tips and inform about what to expect.

It also provides accountability, Doris said.

If you know you’re going to be meeting with someone who’s going to ask you about your week, you’re more likely to stick to a workout schedule and a healthful eating plan.

Journaling also helps, she said. Writing down what you did or didn’t do, what you ate and how you felt can help you stick to a plan.

If a personal trainer isn’t available or in your price range, the Bullocks suggest working out with a friend or family member. That can provide motivation as well as accountability and even healthy competition.

But don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away.

“Everybody is different,” John said.

Doris says even if you aren’t seeing the needle on the scale move down, ask yourself how you feel. Look in the mirror, check to see how your clothes fit.

Working out includes other benefits besides weight loss. It promotes heart health and improves energy level, she said.

Susan Canavan of Youngstown has been working out at Fit Family for about six months. She underwent hip- and knee-replacement surgery, and she’s trying to get stronger. But she wants to lose weight.

She doesn’t have a specific number in mind. “That doesn’t work for me,” she said.

Working out using weights has helped her get stronger, while cardio work has improved her endurance.

“And I feel better,” Canavan said.

Marianne Kosek of Youngstown has been working out with Doris at Fit Family for about two years. She started doing Pilates and only recently added heart-pumping cardio and weight training to her routine.

Like many Americans, Kosek’s perennial New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. She set 10 pounds as this year’s goal.

She hopes to do that with a combination of healthful eating and varied exercise.

While Pilates helped her lengthen her muscles, weight training helps to tone and cardio burns calories while also helping her heart, she said.

“I think that’s called cross-training,” Kosek said.

Exercise is only one part of the weight-loss equation; diet also is essential.

Dr. Barlatt said water, fiber and snacks are crucial to an eating plan with a weight-loss aim. Water flushes the system, clearing it of excess.

Drink a bottle of water on your way to work and continue to replenish throughout the day, midmorning, at lunchtime, midafternoon and on the way home from work.

Fiber allows your body to eliminate waste. Without fiber, our bodies can hold on to that, making it more difficult to shed pounds.

It’s important to snack, Dr. Barlatt said, because our bodies are machines that need fuel to keep going.

If you don’t snack and then eat a huge meal, your body tends to hold onto those calories, not knowing when it will get its next top off, the doctor said.

By snacking, on the other hand, your body learns to burn and process the food more efficiently. It doesn’t hold onto excess calories because it knows it will be refueled regularly.

When Dr. Barlatt talks about snacking, however, he doesn’t mean potato chips and brownies. He suggests healthful alternatives such as nuts, granola bars, fruits and vegetables.

Make a list of healthful snacks, and a second list of snacks that you eat. Switch out those that aren’t healthy for those that are.

Losing weight doesn’t have to be all about deprivation, however.

Dr. Barlatt encourages people to allow themselves one day for a treat, like enjoying a dinner out. “It doesn’t make sense to be healthy and be slim if you’re not happy,” the doctor said.

The Belmont Avenue Church Hill Family Health Center office is stocked with healthful snacks such as fruit, peanuts and granola bars as well as a few more indulgent items such as chocolate bars.

The staff is into healthful eating, too.

Amy Roskos and LeChelle Irizarry, who work at the center, strive for healthy lifestyles.

Irizarry said she eats a lot of fruit and has learned to cut back on her portions. For exercise, she enjoys Zumba.

Roskos lost 48 pounds during the first five months of 2012. She achieved her goal by choosing healthier food options, cutting back on carbohydrates and working out using exercise DVDs.

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