It’s resolution season again, that time-honored exercise of self-restraint when people try to negate the fallout from holiday celebrations and other indulgences. According to statistics, however, these well-meaning attempts are mostly doomed to fail. The vast majority of ‘born-again’ dieters and exercise enthusiasts will give up in less than a month. The reasons can be myriad, and sometimes they are beyond a person’s control. But there are also ways to beat the odds and find success at last.
More people pay close attention to their physical health and well-being, and yet obesity rates and diseases stemming from weight problems continue to rise. While healthy eating and regular exercise have become commonplace among the educated and affluent, the less fortunate show little signs of improvement regardless of efforts by health experts and government policy makers to change their fate. In fact, studies find that the gap between the fit and the fat keeps widening.
I like to eat healthily, not only when it’s convenient and the opportunity presents itself, but all the time. I compromise if there are no good options, e.g. when I’m travelling. But whenever I have the chance, I go for the most nutritious food I can find. I’m lucky that I can afford a high-quality diet, but I also make it a priority among my expenditures. Does that mean I’m obsessed with my eating habits? Hardly.
The holiday season is a notorious time for unwanted weight gain. Office parties, family gatherings, and a thousand temptations wherever you turn can quickly lead to extra pounds that are hard to get rid of in the aftermath. Fortunately, none of this is inevitable, and you don’t have to wait until New Year to get back on track.
Most of what we achieve in life is based on compromise. Getting exactly what we want is rare. Usually it’s give and take. Conflicting interests make it necessary to bargain constantly. However, we also haggle with ourselves when no one else is around to limit our options – often unconsciously. As behavioral scientists tell us, even under the best of circumstances, smart and regrettable choices balance each other out over time.
Nutrition counselors have arguably the lowest success rate among all healthcare professionals. We have plenty of repeat customers, especially after the holidays, but we are also faced with a large percentage of “drop-outs,” meaning clients who eventually give up on weight control, regular exercise, and improving their lifestyle choices. Some say, it’s not the people who are failing to heed our advice, but that the messages we give are failing the people.
When it comes to treating weight problems, even experts believe that similar methods can be applied almost universally: Put your patients on a diet, have them engage in regular exercise, and, if all else fails, recommend some surgical procedure. What gets rarely looked at are the differences between overweight individuals that may have led to their unhealthy weight gain in the first place. Only one such study has recently been published, and the results are eye-opening.