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If you’ve ever resolved to lose weight and keep it off, then you know how hard it can be. Trying to lose weight during the holidays—especially amidst a pandemic--can feel especially daunting, says Sarah R. Barenbaum, MD, Obesity Medicine Director at WCM’s Comprehensive Weight Control Center and GI Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program. “It has been a stressful and scary time,” Dr. Barenbaum says. “Stress can make it difficult to adhere to weight loss goals and maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.”
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But keep in mind that weight loss takes time. Be realistic about what you can achieve, and patient with the process--and yourself. “Try to see losing weight as a journey,” Dr. Barenbaum says. “Keep your goals small and achievable.”
It helps to set two kinds of goals: those that are incremental and achievable, and bigger picture goals. “Trying to lose a lot of weight quickly can be a recipe for discouragement if you don’t meet your goal,” Dr. Barenbaum cautions. “Set a goal to lose two to four pounds a month, along with a bigger goal of trying to lose more,” she says. Because a diet only works if you stick with it, choose one that will work for you long-term, she adds.
Try not to get discouraged—or give up--if you stop losing or start regaining weight. Rather, ask your physician for guidance. “It’s especially important to meet with a physician if you have a medical condition that is related to weight (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnea), might affect the safety of diet or exercise, or requires close monitoring,” Dr. Barenbaum says. If you’re unsure how to begin your weight loss journey, then meet with a registered dietitian, she recommends.
Of course, dieting alone is not enough for losing and keeping off unwanted weight. To shed pounds permanently, you’ll need to couple healthy eating with regular physical activity. the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and Obesity Society all recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week to lose weight. This should include daily aerobic activity (walking, running, cycling) and strength training at least two days per week. Don’t expect to stop exercising once you’ve reached your weight-loss goal, however, because you’ll need 200 to 300 minutes of weekly exercise to maintain it.
For help at any stage your weight loss journey, contact WCM’s Comprehensive Weight Control Center. Its multidisciplinary team of board-certified physicians specializing in internal medicine, nutrition, and endocrinology, along with its registered dietitians, family nurse practitioner, and diabetes educator work together to help you lose weight and maintain the loss through a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and sometimes surgery. “We can help individuals who are about to embark on their first attempt and don’t know where to start, as well as those who feel they’ve tried everything without success,” Dr. Barenbaum says.
Whether you resolve to lose weight now or after the new year, take it slow and steady. Says Dr. Barenbaum, “The time it takes to reach your goal is not as important as getting there.”