Why do weight loss New Year's resolutions fail?

New Year's resolutions to lose weight often don't work, because that occasion doesn't have much meaning or value long term. In this video, bariatric surgeon Michael Snyder, MD, discusses how taking small, meaningful steps can be more effective. 
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

New Year’s resolutions can help to lose weight but it takes work and commitment. Making the resolution to lose weight is the first step. The next steps are the hardest because it takes planning and follow through. It is so easy to fall back into our old habits the minute something goes wrong. Often times when we get derailed, we psych ourselves into thinking it is too hard to get back on track. In the beginning when first making changes, avoid situations where you have to stray from your new routine.

All resolutions to lose weight are not successful. People often make New Year’s resolutions just so they can do something, but in order for them to be successful patients, they have to be committed to the process. The reality of it all is that the weight loss process doesn't take a couple of months—it takes more than that.

If people are really committed to losing weight and being healthier for the new year, they have to think of it as a long-term investment—that’s the only way they can be successful. A short-term diet change won't be good in the long run. Patients may lose some weight, but they will probably gain it back because they never truly changed their lifestyle or eating habits.

Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine Specialist

Studies show that when we engage in a change out of fear or force we are not likely to stick with the change. That’s why New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, go to the gym and eat healthy don’t work well. When we "resolve" to do something it means that we have finally given into pressure or are being forced to perform.

Enas Shakkour
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

New Year's resolution to lose weight don't necessarily have to fail to work. Most people make very unrealistic goals to lose weight at the beginning of the year. That is probably why most people to do not stick to their regimen. The first step to achieving your weight loss goal is to make realistic goals. Losing 2 pounds every day, for example, is unrealistic. I advise anyone who is trying to make a New Year's resolution to lose weight to resolve to make changes that are doable. Resolutions such as these are realistic:

  1. I will only drink water and low-calorie drinks.
  2. I will have a serving of sweets once a week.
  3. I will exercise at least 3 times a week.
  4. I will eat 5 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit per day.
  5. I will lose 2 pounds per week.

If your New Year's resolution is achievable and realistic, you are more likely to stick to it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.