Underestimating the number of calories consumed and not getting enough shut-eye are some of the reasons why dieters fail to win the battle of the bulge.
That's according to one medical expert who doled out some helpful advice last week, at a time when the weight loss industry churns at fever pitch, gyms the world over are filled to capacity, and dieters take on a steely resolve to win the battle of the bulge.
But like every year, good intentions often fall by the wayside, dissolving at the sight of chocolate cake or morning snowfall.
Conquering one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is also about identifying some of the top reasons why weight loss efforts fail, says Dr. Jessica Bartfield of the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care in Chicago, who points out that only 20 percent of people who vow to lose weight succeed.
"Dieting is a skill, much like riding a bicycle, and requires practice and good instruction," said Bartfield in a statement. "You're going to fall over and feel frustrated, but eventually you will succeed and it will get easier."
Here are Bartfield’s top four reasons why diets fail — and how to avoid them:
1. Underestimating the number of calories consumed
Most people sabotage their weight loss efforts by underestimating their daily caloric intake, says Bartfield, a theory that builds on a steady stream of research. A study out of Cornell University, for example, found that overweight people underestimate the number of calories consumed by as much as 40 percent. Bartfield suggests writing down everything you eat in a day, including drinks, snacks, and "bites" of food to increase self-awareness. She also advises looking up nutritional information of favorite take-out meals before going out to eat.
2. Overestimating activity and calories burned
"Typically you need to cut 500 calories per day to lose one pound per week. This is very difficult to achieve through exercise alone, and would require 60 minutes or more of vigorous activity every day. A more attainable goal would be to try to increase activity throughout the day and get a total of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. Buy a pedometer and track your steps. Try to increase to a goal of 10,000 steps per day. But be careful — exercise is not an excuse to eat more."
3. Poor timing of meals
When it comes to weight loss, timing is everything. Try not to go longer than five hours without eating a healthy snack, Bartfield advises. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up, and eat every three to four hours. That will keep the metabolism steady.
4. Inadequate sleep
People who get fewer than six hours of sleep have been shown to have higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates the appetite, particularly for high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods, says Bartfield. Fatigue can also raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to weight gain.