If your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight but you’re already slacking, you’re not alone. According to a study from the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions but only 8 percent follow through.
But instead of beating yourself up or throwing in the towel, experts say with a change of perspective and some simple strategies, you can lose weight and actually keep it off.
1. Re-think your diet.
The likelihood that your diet will become a lifestyle is less dependent on the type of plan you choose than on whether you’re able to adhere to it, said Karen Salmansohn, a best-selling author in New York City and founder of the DO IT Program.
In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that among four popular diet plans, people lost about the same amount of weight and the key to keeping the pounds off was their commitment.
2. Remind yourself of the “why.”
If you link weight loss to something exciting you’ll stay excited about it.
While you may be trying to lose weight to fit into a smaller size or improve your cholesterol levels, think about long-term goals too, such as having enough energy to play with your grandchildren or finishing a race.
3. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking.
Setting unrealistic goals will only set you up for failure because even the smallest snafus can make you feel guilty and want to give up altogether, said Miranda Hammer, a registered dietitian in New York City and founder of the blog CrunchyRadish.com.
Forget going gluten-free overnight or losing 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day. Instead, “create small, sustainable goals that you can reach and then set new ones and feel like you really achieved something substantial,” she said.
Whether it’s a weight loss app or a diet journal, keeping track of what you put in your mouth will keep you accountable.
5. Deal with emotional eating.
Studies show that instead of soothing yourself with food when stress gets the best of you, identify the feelings you’re having and the intensity will be cut in half.
Plus, if you do something that you enjoy other than eating, it can be a source of distraction and also help build your self-esteem.
“If you increase your self love then you lose weight,” Salmansohn said.
6. Do a “swap and stop.”
It’s OK to swear off that slice of cake, but without something to replace the urge, it can be hard not to give in. Identify what you would like to feel instead in that moment and then find another activity to help fill the void, Salmansohn said
7. Drink up.
Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, so make sure you drink frequently throughout the day. If water isn’t cutting it, make yourself a cup of hot tea or water with lemon. You’ll drink it slower and it will feel like an indulgence.
8. Set yourself up for success.
If you’re prepared ahead of time, it will be easier to make smart food choices when you’re hungry. Consider planning your meals for the week, cutting up individual portions of fruits and vegetables ahead of time or doing some meal prep on Sunday.
9. Fill up on veggies.
Since vegetables have high water content and fiber, you’ll feel fuller longer and lose weight. Aim for two servings of vegetables at every meal and eat them as snacks to get your daily fill.
Clean out your refrigerator and pantry and toss anything that’s a trigger food. A trigger food can either be something you’re bound to overeat or something that’s a gateway food to something else.
Then stock up on healthy options like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard to make healthy dressings for salads and sauces for stir fries.
11. Be mindful.
Instead of eating simply because it’s mealtime, start to become aware of your hunger signals and know that it’s OK to feel hungry.
You never want to get ravenous however, because you’re more likely to overeat. Have snacks on hand— it will help your metabolism, keep your blood sugar and give you sustained energy throughout the day.
12. Be realistic.
If you label foods as “bad” or tell yourself something is off-limits, you’ll only want it more. Instead of swearing off alcohol, for example, drink only on weekends or when you go out to dinner. Or go ahead and enjoy the chocolate cake, but only take a few bites.
“Make it more of a luxury than the norm,” Hammer said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.