The start of the new year is when most people try to make dietary changes, and these diet resolutions are usually motivated by weight loss.
“If you’ve made weight loss resolutions in the past, and you haven’t been very successful, it’s time to try something new,” said Asmeen Bhatt, MD, gastroenterologist and board-certified obesity medicine specialist with UT Physicians Multispecialty – Bayshore. “With advice and strategy, you’re much more likely to stay the path and reach your desired outcome.”
For Diet Resolution Week (Jan. 1-7), Bhatt, assistant professor of gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, offers her diet recommendations to help individuals safely shrink their waistlines in 2023.
Drink more water
Sugar-sweetened drinks, fruit juices, and alcoholic beverages not only add calories but can slow down metabolism. Try replacing these fluids with pure H2O.
“Drinking lots of water can help you lose weight because it suppresses your appetite by giving you a sense of fullness to help you eat less. It also keeps you hydrated so it boosts your overall health,” Bhatt said. “Try to make water your main drink.”
Eat more produce and whole grains
Fruits and nonstarchy vegetables are not only high in fiber and antioxidants, they are low in calories. Whole grains digest better than refined sugars and can enhance metabolism.
“Fruits and vegetables will help fill you up with nutrients,” she said. “Also, try to eat whole grains instead of refined grains, and try not to eat processed foods. Most processed foods are high in sugar, salt, and fat that promote belly fat.”
Plan and make meals
Plan meals for the week to avoid eating high-calorie foods at restaurants. Preparing food at home helps control portion sizes, nutritional ingredients, and unnecessary additives.
“When you eat out, you don’t really know how your food was prepared and all the fat, sugar, salt, or refined ingredients that were put in it,” the doctor said. “When you consciously make your own healthy meals, they will be more nutritious and lower in calories.”
Get plenty of sleep
Lack of sleep can increase appetite and calorie consumption, and it can even slow down metabolism. Practice good sleep hygiene for better weight management and overall health.
“To improve your quality of sleep, have a well-defined morning and bedtime hour, keep your bedroom dark, and quiet, turn off your TV or phone screens, and avoid large meals before bed,” Bhatt said. “Exercise helps with your sleep and fitness, so get some in each day.’
Burn more calories outdoors
When more calories are burned than consumed, it results in weight loss. To help burn more calories, incorporate more physical activity every day, and try to do it outside.
“Any increase in activity helps, and being outdoors will promote increased physical activity,” she said. “To fit in more exercise, take your dog for a walk or do more yardwork, and start a physical hobby you think you’ll enjoy.”
Stress can lead to weight gain. The strain pumps more cortisol into the body, which stimulates appetite and cravings. To reduce stress, meditate at least five minutes a day.
“Carve out time each day for meditation or yoga or something that promotes self-awareness,” Bhatt said. “Meditation sets a calm and positive tone to help lower stress and manage our behaviors. It also lowers blood pressure and offers other mental and physical benefits.”
Set SMART goals
Set small, incremental goals for better weight-loss results. Try the SMART method for greater success. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
“The key is to achieve your final goal in small steps,” the expert said. “For instance, set a goal of losing five pounds in four weeks. When you reach it, set a new goal for five pounds in the next four weeks. Each time you reach a goal it will keep you motivated during the process.”
Share diet resolutions with family members, friends, and coworkers. Do not rely on willpower alone. Enlist their support for encouragement and accountability.
“Your family and friends influence what you eat, so tell them about your diet and weight-loss goals. They’ll be more mindful of what they cook or eat around you. They’ll usually try to help you with your choices,” Bhatt said. “Remember, you don’t have to do this alone.”
See an expert
Due to different physiologies and environments, dietary challenges differ for everyone. Seek help from an expert to determine any underlying issues and offer the appropriate assistance.
“There’s no ‘one size fits all’ formula, so a professional opinion may be extremely valuable,” she said. “Along with lifestyle changes, there are weight-loss medications, minimally invasive endobariatric procedures, and bariatric surgeries. See a medical weight loss specialist to know what is best for you.”
“Whether it’s for weight loss, health reasons, or both, a new diet is not easy. It requires a lot of effort,” Bhatt said. “If you experience setbacks with your diet resolutions, be kind to yourself. Remember it’s not the end of the road. Just get back on track.”