Too many people make New Year's resolutions to lose weight, only to end up disappointed when results don't materialize. Then as the weather warms up, they do it again. They become resolute to lose those extra pounds before summer so they can feel good in skimpier clothing.
But now it's July and nothing has changed.
This should come as no surprise. There are some very logical reasons people fall short of their summer weight-loss goals:
1. Ignoring reality. Too often dieters make unrealistic demands of their body by trying rigid regimens that promise weight loss much more quickly than is actually possible.
2. Starting too late. Permanent weight loss doesn't happen overnight. Still, many of us don't give ourselves enough time. So we resort to extreme methods such as limiting calories so much that metabolism slows — the exact opposite of what we were working for.
3. Skipping exercise. There is no better fat burner than an active lifestyle, which includes frequent exercise. Dieting alone is not an effective way to lose weight permanently or as quickly as when coupled with exercise.
4. Failing to take the long view. Rather than saying, "I will lose all my weight by the summer," say, "I'll gradually change my lifestyle so that each summer I will be leaner." Don't set your sights on just this summer, but on the rest of your life.
5. Failing to recognize the power of psychological deprivation. Ban all your favorite foods, and your mind will register that you are being deprived — making you even more preoccupied with the foods you're trying to avoid. If you want to succeed, accept that you'll need to be flexible and prevent deprivation.
The dieting company we keep
Dieting the same way everyone else does — especially when it doesn't work — only puts you in a perpetual yo-yo syndrome that gets you nowhere. Sure you have camaraderie, but what else do you have?
It's better to quietly watch everyone else go through the same old madness while you slowly make permanent changes. One day people will say, "Hey, you've lost weight! How did you do it?"
You won't be able to offer them a miracle diet, but you will know that your methods, if not fast, were sure. You may have started out like the tortoise, but all the hares dropped out along the way, leaving you the winner.
Don't overthink it
Losing weight ought to be like brushing and flossing your teeth. We don't get preoccupied with what the toothpaste and flossing are actually doing to our teeth. We don't fixate on long-term dental health consequences.
We simply trust that if we just perform the behavior, the desired result will happen. It's the same with trying to lose weight. Focus on eating well and being active. The body will take care of the rest.
Tips for summer
Want to make resolutions without the same old disappointments? Try these ideas:
• Resolve not to do the same thing you've done every summer that hasn't worked.
• Focus on changing your lifestyle instead of obsessing about weight.
• Take responsibility for the actions that cause fat loss (healthy eating and activity) and let your body handle the rest.
• Be a wise consumer of weight-loss information and stay away from diets that are only temporary fixes.
So, you see, summer is not lost after all. You can start to look at the big picture (the rest of your life) and take slow but sure steps toward permanent weight loss. It doesn't matter when you get to the finish line as long as you get there. The trick is to continue to progress, recognizing that since gradually is the best way to do it permanently, there's no reason to do it any other way.
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa clinical psychologist who specializes in weight management. She can be reached at (813) 240-9557 or DrRod@FatMatters. com. Her book, "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management," is available at FatMatters.com.