(NaturalNews) Although weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions, and in fact approximately two thirds of all people in the United States are on a diet at any given time, the vast majority of diets fail to deliver significant or sustained weight loss.
"Losing weight is one of the top resolutions made every year, yet only 20 percent of people achieve successful weight-loss and maintenance," said Jessica Bartfield, a doctor who specializes in weight management and nutrition at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care.
According to Bartfield, research suggests that most diets fail because people don't recognize that dieting is a skill that requires both good technique and practice to perform effectively.
"Much like riding a bicycle," she said, " ... you're going to fall over and feel frustrated, but eventually you will succeed and it will get easier."
The major pitfalls to successful dieting can be summed into four reasons, she said:
1. Underestimating calorie consumption
"Most people (even experts!) underestimate the number of calories they eat per day," Bartfield said.
Keeping a food journal in which to record everything that you consume, including beverages and small snacks or "tastes," can help create an accurate picture of how much you are actually eating, Bartfield says. To regulate caloric intake, she suggests using measuring spoons and cups as serving utensils. Since both portion size and caloric density tend to be higher in restaurant dining home-cooked meals, Bartfield suggests looking up the nutritional information of your favorite restaurant meals ahead of time.
2. Overestimating physical activity
According to Bartfield, you need to reduce your energy balance by the highest hundred calories per day to lose a pound a week. Without decreasing food consumption at all, this would require exercising vigorously for 60 minutes or more every single day. A more realistic goal, she suggests, a small increases in daily activity (like taking the stairs rather than the elevator), combined with 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days. A device like a pedometer can supply you with an easily measurable goals, such as 10,000 steps per day.
3. Poor meal spacing
"You need a steady stream of glucose throughout the day to maintain optimal energy and to prevent metabolism from slowing down," Bartfield said.
Bartfield also suggests eating breakfast within an hour of waking up, followed by a healthy meal or snack every three to four hours.
" Try not to go longer than 5 hours without eating a healthy snack or meal to keep your metabolism steady."
4. Insufficient sleep
Scientific research has shown that getting less than six hours of sleep each night leads to elevated levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite and can lead to craving high-calorie foods. It can also lead to raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has also been linked with weight gain.
The most important thing is persistence, she says.
"Behavior change is the cornerstone of healthy, successful weight loss and it takes about three months to establish a new behavior," said Bartfield.