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  • Writer's pictureDerrick W. Spell, MD FACP

2021 - This Is Your Year!

2020 was a difficult year for all of us. Our usual daily routines were disrupted thanks to the coronavirus. We spent more time at home and less time with family and friends. We also experienced more stress and uncertainty in our everyday lives - worrying about health, finances and the future. Unfortunately, all of these changes and stressors created a “perfect storm” for those who struggle with weight management. Many people turned to unhealthy comfort foods. Others were unable to attend their usual workouts and exercise classes. In fact, the term “Quarantine 15” was coined to describe the weight gain that many experienced in 2020.

We have a lot for which to be thankful and optimistic in 2021! If you are currently unhappy with your weight, I am confident that 2021 can be the year you achieve your desired weight. How can I be so confident? In this blog, we will review three steps that you can take right now to get you moving in the right direction!

First, you must develop your growth mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset believe that no matter what kind of person they are, they can choose to change. These individuals acknowledge that they may struggle at times but know they will gradually improve and ultimately succeed. Those with a growth mindset understand that true self-confidence is the courage to embrace change and a reflection of the eagerness to grow and develop. To lose weight successfully, it is imperative that you possess a growth mindset. You must learn to be extremely optimistic and maintain complete confidence in your ability to transform. Our abilities are like muscles and they can be strengthened with practice. Trust that your abilities will improve with practice. Have confidence that you can and will effectively change. Realize that you may have some struggles along the way, but you will succeed in the end. You have an opportunity to transform yourself right now! It is your choice to lose weight and you are in control!

The second step you can do right away is to script your critical moves. Influence gurus focus on critical moves called vital behaviors, because altering a few strategic activities can drive a considerable amount of change. Fortunately, the vital behaviors for effective weight loss have already been identified through the efforts of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). This registry includes over 10,000 people who have lost at least thirty pounds and have maintained a weight loss of at least thirty pounds for over a year. (I am proud to be a member of the registry!) The average person on the NWCR has lost sixty-six pounds and kept it off for over five years. The three vital behaviors identified by the NWCR include eating breakfast every morning, regular exercise and frequent self-monitoring of weight. Starting your day with proper nutrition makes perfect sense. Exercise helps to burn calories and stimulate your baseline metabolism. Like the old adage, “What gets measured, gets managed.” I suggest weighing yourself first thing in the morning at least once a week. I also recommend another proven critical move - tracking your calories in a food journal. The tracking of dietary intake has been proven to boost weight loss in several clinical trials. Once you are aware of your caloric intake, you can adjust your food choices accordingly to facilitate weight loss. Food journaling also promotes future meal planning and your nutritional education. (I encourage daily meal and snack planning in advance.) Some people prefer to use actual journals to record their food, while others favor smartphone or tablet apps like MyFitnessPal.

Lastly, you can immediately shape your path to success by making good behaviors easier and bad behaviors harder. There are countless methods by which you can manipulate your surroundings to your advantage. You can encourage exercise by laying out your workout clothes and shoes. You can place your home exercise equipment in a highly visible location. You can also utilize tricks that can drastically alter your food consumption, such as using smaller plates or bowls and eating with smaller utensils. I suggest placing healthy foods, like fresh fruit, in more conspicuous places as well as hiding (or eliminating) more tempting foods like your cookie jar. Again, meal planning can be helpful so that you have healthy choices available. I also propose avoiding TV and alcoholic beverages while eating. Any extra distractions can result in overeating. It is also helpful to always eat at the table and never eat directly out of the box or bag. These simple behavior adjustments can lead to big changes over time.

This year brings added hope and opportunity. I wish you all of my best for a successful 2021! For more detailed instructions and weight loss advice, please check out my book The Bite-Sized Guide to Getting Right-Sized!

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