New Year 2011 Resolution Tips

Eat less. Exercise more. Lose weight. Get healthy. Each year, our New Year’s resolutions seem to stay the same, and so does our typically disappointing lack of results. Despite the best of intentions, we ignore or forget what we tell ourselves or set out to accomplish. This year can – and will – be different, thanks to the following insights and suggestions from the experts.

‘I’ll get started as soon as the leftovers are gone’

If you really plan to change the way you eat, you can increase your chances of success by creating the right environment.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the best way to kick off your post-holiday diet is by clearing the kitchen of all fattening or unhealthy foods. That includes leftover holiday cookies or candy, party food and other tempting treats. Fill your kitchen instead with nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and nuts, and you’ll be far more likely to eat healthier snacks and meals.

Media Contact:

‘We’re eating better, but those fresh fruits and vegetables sure are pricey’

The American Cancer Society recommends that you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but cost and availability, particularly at a time of year when fresh produce isn’t plentiful, can be an easy excuse for coming up short.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a nutrition expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says you can augment the fresh produce you find in season with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the height of freshness, and are therefore generally almost as nutritious as fresh produce. Some canned fruits and vegetables are even more nutritious than fresh. Just be sure to scan the ingredient label to be certain you’re not getting any added sugar, salt or fat.

Media Contact:

‘I won’t eat for a week. That will give me some wiggle room.’

If you’ve vowed to lose weight starting Jan. 1, you may be tempted to go all-out. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center say that could be a bad idea.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the key to losing weight and keeping it off is long-term behavioral changes. Starving yourself for quick results could damage your health.

To get results, take a three-pronged approach.

• Change your diet to include nutritious, low-calorie food in smaller portions;

• Focus on lean proteins, low-carbohydrate vegetables and high-fiber foods;

• Exercise regularly, and include strength training. Developing muscle will help you look leaner.

It also helps to work on the buddy system. Find a friend with similar goals and encourage each other.

Media Contact:

‘I’m determined to keep my resolutions … maybe’

Each year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, lose weight or work on their personal relationships. By February, many of those resolutions have become distant memories.

Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?

Dr. Timothy Wolff, a psychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says people often aren’t successful because they either set their goals too high or because they subconsciously can’t accept change.

“Change is often difficult, due to people being unaware of how ingrained certain behaviors are,” Dr. Wolff says. “In addition, people don’t like looking at their negative parts. They don’t want to feel badly about themselves.”

To help resolutions become new habits, Wolff suggests setting small goals, finding activities you enjoy that can help in attaining these goals and communicating your objectives to others, so as to be more accountable.

“As the proverb goes: the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” Dr. Wolff says. “So, make sure the first step is doable.”

Media Contact:

 ‘A couple diet books will give me an idea of what I need to do’

If you’ve tried to lose weight, you know that there are a lot of popular options out there and many seem to have their own book and product line. Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says a better idea is a diet designed specifically for you by a registered dietitian.

This health professional can consider your specific needs, goals and lifestyle and craft a daily eating and exercise plan just for you. Then you won’t have to buy books, workbooks, videos and expensive prepared foods to follow a plan designed for the masses. You don’t even have to be a movie star to get a personalized diet. To find a registered dietitian near you, visit

Media Contact:

‘I only put on a couple pounds? Great!’

Although some Americans gain five to seven pounds with a diet of big meals and sweets between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, most people only gain a pound or two during the holidays, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center registered dietitian. But even a slight weight gain, if left intact, can accumulate yearly and endanger health.

“The problem is in gaining a pound or two and not working it off, even with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions. The gain stays on and adds up each year. In a decade it’s 10 or 20 pounds,” says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition. “That can lead to obesity and related health problems such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other maladies.”

Ms. Sandon offers further tips to help keep pounds from piling up:

• Avoid fast food. And set consistent meal times.

• Don’t starve all day before a big feast, and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

• Eat slowly, and wait a few minutes after one serving to see if you are full.

• Socialize away from the buffet table, removing a temptation to overeat.

• Bring a low-calorie dish to family feasts.

Media Contact:

‘I’m perfect at 5-foot-8, 260’

Having a positive self image is great, except if it keeps you from recognizing the need to lose weight.

Dr. Tiffany Powell, a cardiology fellow at UT Southwestern Medical Center, found through research that some people who are obese and at risk for heart diseases think they do not have to lose weight.

“There is a definite disconnect between how they see themselves and what is actually going on,” Dr. Powell says. “Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue. It could lead to heart attack and stroke.”

Dr. Powell says that adults should get their weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol checked at least once a year. If they are found to be obese, even if they think they look healthy and attractive, they should continue loving their bodies by making lifestyle changes to increase exercise and improve their diet.

“We are not telling people to hate their bodies, but to love them enough to check to make sure that their weight is healthy and not causing other health problems,” Dr. Powell says.

By maintaining proper weight, Dr. Powell says some people may be able to prevent premature heart disease.

Media Contact:

 ‘I can drop 15 pounds in 15 days’

More than a third of American adults are trying to lose weight, but it’s a struggle for most.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the main cause of diet failure is trying to lose too much weight too fast. These “crash diets” usually require major changes in your eating habits, such as eliminating entire categories of foods, and they’re too difficult to stick with over the long term. As a result, many dieters get discouraged and give up.

A steady loss of a pound a week from cutting calories and exercising is a more realistic goal that will lead to long-term success, and a registered dietitian can help you put together a sensible eating and exercise plan that’s tailored to your needs.

Media Contact:

‘I’ll get an operation, and all the weight will drop off’

If 2011 includes weight-loss surgery consideration, bariatric experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center say that achieving lifelong results requires life-changing behavior and life-long attention to care.

“The decision to have a weight-loss operation should be made carefully with a full understanding of the risks and benefits of the procedure,” says Dr. Edward Livingston, director of the Center for the Surgical Management of Obesity and chief of gastrointestinal surgery at UT Southwestern. “Those comfortable with the decision of surgery also need to commit to dietary changes imposed by the procedure, understand that regular exercise is essential for any weight loss program, and commit to life-long follow-up with your surgeon.”

UT Southwestern surgeons have experience with a variety of bariatric procedures, but prefer the gastric bypass, also know as RYGB, and the Lap Band. Gastric bypass procedures, for example, have been performed for more than 25 years, with average initial weight loss exceeding 70 percent of excess weight, while long-term studies demonstrate that 50 percent of the weight lost is maintained by more than 90 percent of patients.

People who make the post-op commitment will not only experience more optimal weight loss results, but also may find many associated medical problems will resolve or improve. With gastric by-bass procedures, for example, adult-onset diabetes mellitus improves in more than 90 percent of patients, with 80 percent becoming medicine-free, including insulin. Improvements in hypertension and high cholesterol may occur, and improvement or resolution of respiratory problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, shortness of breath, and asthma are seen in most patients. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux is frequently cured immediately and others see improvements in mobility and joint pain, leg swelling as well as venous stasis disease, urinary incontinence, and headaches.

Media Contact:

I can still work up a sweat while I’m expecting’

Making a resolution to work out and diet is a time-honored New Year’s ritual, but pregnant women should exercise caution about exercising. It’s not a good idea to start a rigorous program when you’re pregnant, says Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

As long as your doctor hasn't cautioned against it, however, a little extra exercise is good, she says – taking the stairs, parking your vehicle so that you have to walk farther, or taking neighborhood strolls. And once the baby is born, mom-and-baby classes are a good way to bond while getting back into shape.

The same goes for dieting, Dr. Horsager-Boehrer says. A strict diet is not a good resolution. Just think about eating sensibly instead, while allowing for a few treats.

Media Contact:



To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail,
subscribe at