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New year, new you? 10 tips for getting healthy in 2020

Obesity study
Obesity study(Patrick Sison | AP)
Published: Jan. 3, 2020 at 11:46 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - No one has ever said dieting is easy - because it’s not. However, it can be necessary.

Finding the motivation to diet can sometimes be as challenging as maintaining the diet itself, but it somehow continues to be one of the most popular new year’s resolutions.

According to a survey, “eat healthier” was yet again one of the most popular resolutions for 2020. Of the study’s participants that made a resolution, 51% said they want to eat healthier and 42% said they want to lose weight.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. You see posts all over social media in late December and early January. Dr. Beth Kitchin, Ph.D, R.D.N., sees those posts too.

“The enthusiasm is really high because of course it’s the new year, new beginnings, all that sort of thing. But the problem is for a lot of people they go on a pretty extreme diet," Dr. Kitchin said.

An extreme diet often don’t last. And, unfortunately, about 80% of new year’s resolutions don’t last either, according to U.S. News & World Report. So how can you make your diet last? Here are 10 tips to help!

This isn’t an opportunity to back out of dieting, but it is important to know you’re ready for a major lifestyle changes.

Really ask yourself is now is the right time to dedicate yourself to a diet. If you just started a new job or have recently faced added stressed, maybe hold off on dieting. And definitely don’t feel like you have to diet just because you see others on social media making it a resolution.

“Don’t feel that pressure because it’s new years that we have to set a goal, have to set a resolution, we have to do this now," Dr. Kitchin said. "Really think about if this is the right time for you. If it’s not, give yourself a break and wait until it is the right time.”

But if it is the right time for you, here are some helpful tips!

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Dieting is not easy. But the good news is it gets easier the longer you stick with it.

The restrictions of dieting can be tough regardless of your background. UFC fighter Eryk Anders found cutting weight hard early in his career despite being a former Alabama linebacker and professional football player.

Now, to be fair, cutting weight for MMA can be vastly different than a regular diet. However, the concepts are the same.

For Anders, he’s fought 11 of his 14 professional fights at middleweight (185 pounds) despite weighing between 220-230 pounds outside of camp. Naturally, cutting that kind of weight is a major challenge, but now having several years of experience, Anders says cutting weight is “kind of second nature.”

The same attitude applies for traditional diets.

If you don’t want to create your own diet then you might consider a trendy diet like the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet or Whole30 Program. It’s fine to choose this route, but there are things to keep in mind.

“There may be some that benefit from a Keto diet, but for someone to say, ‘I’m going to cut out all carbs and sugar,’ you don’t need to do that, first of all," Dr. Kitchin said. "Carbs and a little bit of sugar aren’t going to hurt you. It’s when we overdo it to where it affects our weight.”

The effects can also become psychological.

“Many people will do the Whole30 with no ill effects either psychologically or physically," Dr. Kitchin said. "The people I really caution going with those program are if you’ve had psychological problems with eating before, such a psychological disorder or an eating disorder, have problems with binge eating or mindless eating, those are probably not going to be good programs for you.”

The concept behind losing weight seems easy enough. You need to eat healthy food and avoid unhealthy food, right?

Yes and no.

Words like “moderate” and “tame” should be used instead of “avoid” and “eliminate.”

Eliminating certain foods can lead to caving for cravings and binge eating when your commitment to dieting hits a weak moment.

“In a way when people start to diet it’s easier to say, ‘I’ll cut out all sugar,’ but that ends up backfiring a lot of times because we like sugar - and a little bit of sugar is fine,” Dr. Kitchin said. "So then when you cut it all out and you decide, ‘Ah, I can’t take this anymore,’ you have a little bit of sugar, many people have this response of no control and then they’re binging on it. That’s a really distressing place for people to be psychologically and again can lead you into eating disorder territory.

“It leads into this ‘all or nothing’ thinking. I’m either on a diet or off a diet. I’m either eating extremely well or I’m going to throw caution to the wind and eat whatever I want. Neither or those two are good places to be.”

There are programs that avoid the “all or nothing” attitude. Weight Watchers uses a point system to make the diet effective rather than telling participants what they can and cannot eat.

"No foods are off limits, you just kind of cut back and they really encourage high-fiber foods and low-calorie foods,” Dr. Kitchin said about Weight Watchers.

Coupled with avoiding “all or nothing” is finding the “magic middle.” It’s your personal level of moderation that will make a diet fun, easy and successful. (Well, maybe not fun and easy, but definitely successful.)

The “magic middle” is a reasonable diet that is also effective. It doesn’t cut out whole categories of foods and you’re not miserable. If you want some ice cream, that’s OK. If you want pizza for dinner, that’s all right. The key is that you don’t binge.

The “magic middle” will not only lead to a successful diet, it will also allow you to learn and maintain long-term eating habits that will keep you happy and healthy.

You have goals in mind, but remember that small goals add up to achieving the big goal.

Consider setting specific goals, like eating more fiber or going for a walk three times a week. These are active goals that can be measured and achieved. It can be a morale boost while you work toward your long-term goals.

“Think about some small specific things that you’re can do that are actionable and achievable," Dr. Kitchin said. "The more achievable it is you’ll have these small successes that will feed into ultra successes.”

It’s OK to enjoy eating. In fact, you should enjoy meals and snacks - even on a diet.

“You don’t want to take away that pleasure principle of food. For many of us, food tastes good," Dr. Kitchin said. "We enjoy it. And when you take that enjoyment away, that’s not a happy place to be.”

With the psychological and emotional effects that dieting can have, find ways to continue enjoying snacks and meals. You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

You want to avoid peer pressure, but temptation can come in other much more subtle ways.

For Anders, that subtle temptation is created by having snacks at home for his two kids.

"(They) like Cheetos and cookies and Oreo’s and things like that, so I’ve had a lot of practice at avoiding those foods,” he said.

Keep these small details in mind.

It’s not difficult for Anders to get motivated. If he doesn’t make weight, UFC takes 30% of his purse.

“For me, that right there is enough incentive to not eat that cheeseburger or not eat that piece of pizza or not eat that candy bar,” he said.

You probably won’t get fined if you don’t reach a goal, but there must be something that motivates you. Find that motivation and use it daily!

Cheat meals happen. Even cheat days happen. And that, for the most part, is OK.

The important thing to remember is one or two small struggles doesn’t ruin the entire diet. Set small goals, stay motivated and do what you need to do to be successful.

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