Keep Your New Year's Weight Loss Resolution Goals by Avoiding These Dieting Pitfalls

Vowing to lose weight ranks among the top New Year's resolutions for Americans. Unfortunately, many people don't follow through on their resolve to shed those extra pounds—but it's not for lack of trying. Experts cite unrealistic expectations and "quick fixes" among some of the reasons many find it so hard to lose weight. Reaching that goal weight—and staying there—requires making a commitment to change not just what we eat, but also the way we eat. 

Avoid these dieting blunders and take the first steps on your path to a healthy lifestyle this New Year.

Looking at your resolution as temporary

In today's world, the word diet is often preceded by words like "30-day" or "hassle-free." These "quick fix" diet fads try to sell the idea that if we can eat nothing but carrots for 7 days or stick to 500 calories per day for a month that we'll come out the other side ready to grace the cover of the next swimsuit issue. Unfortunately, that's not the way the real world works. After those 30 days, you'll start going back to your old ways, and more than likely you'll pack all that weight right back on. Dr. Art Markman, author of "Smart Change," suggests setting positive goals instead of negative ones (I'm going to eat differently this year as opposed to I'm going to eat less.) Then, instead of focusing on the outcome, Dr. Markman recommends, "creating a process - something you can do to live your life in a particular way that, as a side effect, is going to get you where you want to be."

Skipping meals (especially breakfast)

Because a caloric deficit is required to achieve weight loss, it stands to reason that skipping meals will lead to quicker results, right? Actually, letting yourself go hungry is likely to have just the opposite result of the one you desire. In fact, people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast. The body needs fuel to keep your metabolism working at a steady rate. If that metabolism slows down, so does the rate at which the body burns calories. Eating a healthy breakfast can keep you going for much of the day, will stave off hunger pangs, and makes you less susceptible to the temptations presented by snacks that are not good for you. Instead of focusing on eating fewer meals, focus instead on creating healthy food habits.

Stressing yourself out

Stressing over losing weight is not only bad for your mental and physical health, but it's also counterproductive to your goals. As the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Edward T. Creagan explains, “When you're under stress, you may find it harder to eat healthy. Also, during times of particularly high stress, you may eat in an attempt to fulfill emotional needs — sometimes called stress eating or emotional eating. And you may be especially likely to eat high-calorie foods during times of stress, even when you're not hungry.” Dr. Creagan advises his patients to “get a handle” on their stress by looking into stress-management techniques and identifying and removing the “comfort foods” that they usually turn to from their homes and workspaces.

Setting unrealistic goals

Instead of shooting for the moon right out of the gates, Mayo Clinic advises setting smart goals. By that they mean set small, reasonable targets and give yourself not only time to reach those targets, but also permission to fall short. "We live our lives trying to avoid failures and mistakes, but in fact, failures are learning experiences," says Dr. Markman. "What you have to do when you fail at something is not to give up, but to realize 'I need to learn from this'." Perhaps, most importantly, he reminds us to treat ourselves with some compassion. Everyone has setbacks, so if you do miss a target or suffer a setback (like after a week of holiday meals or parties), just reset the goals and target date, and focus on what you have accomplished so far. If you set a goal to lose five pounds and make it or come close, then set a goal for another five, and then another. Think of dieting like baseball: it's usually easier to score by getting a few men on base than it is to hit a home run.