It's that time again when we all resolve to clean up our eating habits, get fit and lose weight but statistics show that less than 5% of us actually succeed long term. So what does it take to make sure that you win the war against weight gain?
According to the National Weight Control Registry (a massive ongoing US study that has tracked the eating and exercise habits of over 10,000 people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds for a year or longer) there are six habits that set the successful slimmers apart.
Habit 1: Successful slimmers are realistic goal setters
Instead of focusing on a weight that they would like to be to look good they focus on a weight that they know will help them feel good.
It's no use being super slim but eternally hungry or tired. Focus instead on a weight that is realistic for your body, one that will help you to be healthy and happy long term. Ask yourself what is the lightest I have been in my adult life for a period lasting longer than six months. This will give you a good idea of what is a realistic and achievable weight for you.
[See also: 7 tinned foods no slimmer should be without]
Habit 2: Successful slimmers want to be a 'tortoise' not a 'hare'
Weight losses of the study's participants have ranged from 30 to 300lbs and have taken between one and 14 years.
Whilst no-one is suggesting you should take 14 years to achieve your goals, these statistics do emphasise the importance of taking a slow and steady approach. Long term success is never achieved with a fast fix solution so aim to lose no more than two pounds a week. Any more than this and it is highly likely you'll be losing lean muscle tissue which will only reduce your body's ability to burn calories in the long run.
Habit 3: Successful slimmers take full responsibility
They realise that there is no point blaming external people or circumstances for their weight. They also understand that they must lose weight for themselves — not to please others and accept that there are no magic pills or potions that will do it for them.
Be honest enough to identify the real reasons you have gained weight in the first place and have the courage to tackle those root causes head on. Accept that whilst others may be able to eat anything and never seem to gain a pound you simply cannot and therefore need to adopt an eating an exercising regime that takes this into account.
Habit 4: Successful slimmers exercise — a lot!
The successful participants lost weight in a number of ways, 55% with the help of some kind of programme whilst 45% achieved success by themselves. However, almost all have found that in order to maintain their weight losses they need to exercise for approximately an hour a day.
Start by upping your general activity levels. 62% of the successful slimmers watched less than 10 hours of TV a week and 75% achieved their exercise hours through an increased amount of walking. Buy a pedometer and aim for the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Walk or cycle to work and back and power walk through your lunch breaks. Then, once you're moving more build in some structured exercise on top. Start attending fitness classes, swim after work, enroll in a tennis club or take up dancing. Whatever you do, find a way of exercising that fits with your lifestyle and adds quality to your life.
Habit 5: Successful slimmers don't even try to be perfect
They understand that to be a long term success it's all about getting it right most of the time — but not all! They don't ban foods and they certainly don't beat themselves up when they 'fall off the wagon'. They see exercise and healthy eating as something they deserve to have in their lives to help them feel better not as a grueling regime or a punishment. They eat smaller portions which enable them to have the odd treat here and there and they don't just reward themselves with food. They understand the value in other rewards such as a manicure or a hot bath and they don't obsess over the scales.
Habit 6: Successful slimmers eat real food
They also eat at regular intervals. 78% ate breakfast every day and almost all monitored calories or portion sizes but steered clear of pills, potions or pre-packed diet foods.
Eat at least seven servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day along side good quality, slow releasing carbohydrates. Limit fat, sugar and alcohol and adopt a consistent eating pattern regardless of whether it's a weekday, weekend or holiday. Make sure you listen to your body too and only eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.