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New Year’s Resolutions: Avoiding Common Mishaps

Monday, January 04, 2010 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Given that a new year (and a new decade) has just begun, right on the heels of another holiday season full of big and rich meals and little physical activity, it is common for many individuals to embark on lifestyle changes under the guise of a new year’s resolution.

Given that the large majority of North Americans are overweight and sedentary, losing weight and becoming more active usually rank among the top resolutions. Unfortunately, most people go about these specific goals in such a way to almost guarantee failure, lose a bunch of money, and end up exactly where they started (if not worse off): overweight and inactive.

Thus, as the first post of 2010, I thought we’d quickly look at just a sample of common errors people make in the new year in an effort to shed pounds and get fit.

1. Error #1: Going on a Diet
I know this sounds crazy – isn’t dieting the best way to lose weight? The issue here is more with the concept of “dieting”, understood by many as a quick and temporary fix for years or even decades of poor lifestyle. Literally starving yourself for a few weeks or even months will result in weight loss, but how long can you maintain that before you inevitably resort right back to your unhealthy diet? Avoid diets that are too restrictive or that sound plain crazy (i.e. grapefruit diet). The goal is to make modest but maintainable changes to your diet. Such goals include eating breakfast each day, switching pop and juices for water, eating more small meals throughout the day instead of a couple large ones, slowly replacing your chocolate and chips with healthier snack options, etc. The key in these changes is to adopt each suggestion slowly – don’t overwhelm yourself with a complete overhaul of your current lifestyle. Think about changing each part of your diet much like quitting smoking – for most, going cold turkey is not effective. In the same vein, understand that changing your diet for the better does not happen overnight. It has taken yours truly a good decade to significantly reduce intake of chips and pop – it didn’t happen overnight! For a further insightful discussion on how to improve your dietary patterns without “going on a diet” check out an excellent post by our friend Darya Pino over at Summer Tomato.

2. Error #2: Getting a Long-term Gym Membership
Again – I’m crazy right? While I fully endorse the use of a gym facility to be physically active (I use the university gym on most days of the week, and have panic-attacks when the gym is closed – like the previous week), this mentality has taken me a long time to develop (I started dabbling in structured gym exercise when I was 15 years old – that’s 13 years ago, if you’re curious). The key error people make here is committing to a gym with a long-term contract (mandatory at many establishments) when they have no idea whether they will like it. This works great for the gym owners – they get tons of money from people who end up never using the facility. Trust me – the majority of you who get a one year contract at the local gym, no matter your motivation today, will not be using the facility in 6 months. Every January I see a huge surge in the traffic at the gym (to the tune of 2x to 3x the regular volume). By February, the gym is back to normal and the large majority of people who started in January have stopped coming (but continue to pay). Thus, when you head over to your local gym demand that you pay on a per session, per week or per month basis – whatever they allow. Do not under any circumstance sign up for a year contract. If in June you are still regularly using the gym – then consider a longer term commitment to save some money. Also, you can check out our list of top 10 ways to become more physically active that does not involve using a gym! (Thanks to Yoni Freedhoff of Weighty Matters for this tidbit of info via Twitter).

3. Error #3: Falling for Miracle Weight Loss Cures
The whole reason behind the development of Obesity Panacea was to help debunk many of the bogus weight loss products on the market (check the list of weight-loss products we’ve reviewed on our site). Judging by the spike in traffic from Google to our site over the past weekend from people searching for “Acai Berry”, “Slender Shaper”, “Air Climber” among many others – too many people will end up buying some utterly useless product they were made to believe is the panacea for obesity. Unfortunately, there currently exists no cure for obesity – only treatments. Anyone or any product that suggests otherwise is trying to rip you off: run away!

These are the most common errors I see people making every January. From your experience, what other mistakes do people make in terms of new year’s resolutions?

As for my personal new year’s resolution, I plan to cook more at home – something I have been struggling with for a couple of years now. What are your resolutions for the new year? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments section below.

Peter Janiszewski

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4 Response to "New Year’s Resolutions: Avoiding Common Mishaps"

  1. Jenny Said,

    I'm doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer next June, so my resolutions all tie in to that; spin classes at least twice a week, hop on the exercise bike while I'm watching TV...basically get my body ready for a 200km bike ride. It should be awesome and super easy*

    *not really

    Posted on January 4, 2010 at 4:39 PM

  2. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @Jenny - Sounds like you have a great plan - not to mention a good sense of humour to help you along:) I hope you can maintain the active lifestyle beyond June once you complete the ride.

    Posted on January 4, 2010 at 5:19 PM

  3. Anonymous Said,

    Ha, so true! Every year the same rituals. The (weightloss)circus is in town! I enjoy your blog! I wrote on the subject as well. You might find it interesting:

    All the best for 2010 and success with the debunking!

    ~ Chi

    Posted on January 6, 2010 at 10:30 AM

  4. Eiskrystal Said,

    Cut my alcohol intake by at least half. Leaving me time to exercise more. Oh and less tv (he says with 30+ hours of stuff waiting on the dvd player to be watched). Feeling like I never have time was the big thing last year.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 at 3:32 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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