Americans spend more than $50 billion a year on dieting, yet we are a country riddled with obesity-related diseases.
The average diet lasts 42 days. Women spend about 31 years of their life dieting; for men it's 28 years. Obviously, dieting doesn't work. The most effective way of managing weight is through permanent, sensible lifestyle habits.
Here are some tips to get started:
1. Exercise. It's the No 1 predictor of who keeps the weight off, and isn't that the overall goal? One-third of Americans exercise and one-third of Americans are at a healthy weight. Could that be more than a coincidence? I tend to think so.
Start small maybe 15 minutes every other day. Gradually work up to 150 minutes of heart-pumping exercise each week. Throw in a couple of days of weight resistance and stretching for overall fitness.
2. Eat breakfast. Only 40 percent of Americans eat breakfast. If you skip breakfast, you are likely to eat an extra 200 to 300 calories that day. It is also great at revving up your metabolism in the morning so you burn fuel more efficiently.
3. Eat less. We eat 300 to 400 more calories than we did in the 1970s. To lose one pound of fat, you have to eat 3,500 calories less than your body needs. That is why weight loss is a slow process.
It's the first couple of bites and the last couple of bites that are savored the most. Knock out some of the ones in the middle and your calorie intake will fall.
4. Keep a food and exercise journal. You may not eat the cookies if you have to write them down. Research shows that logging is highly effective in changing behavior.
There are great online trackers and apps that can help you meet your calorie and exercise goals. MyFitnessPal, Lose It, MapMyFitness and SparkPeople are personal favorites. Some sites have the option of interacting with other members for support.
5. Go to bed earlier. In the 1910s people typically slept nine hours a night. What is the average today? Six hours! Frequently getting less than seven hours of sleep a night increases obesity risk by 30 percent.
There are more than two dozen hormones that regulate appetite, and much of their work is done while we sleep. If sleep cycles are too few or interrupted, the appetite hormones are affected. It appears that sleeping can actually help with weight loss.
The bottom line? Dieting doesn't work. Focus on making small, gradual lifestyle changes that you can maintain for life.
Nawrocki is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.