Ask a Doctor: New Year's Resolutions

January 06, 2016
  • Less than 10% of us keep our New Year's Resolutions
  • There are more obese people in the world then starving people.
  • The US has 5% of the world's population but 33% of the world's weight.

Dear Doc,

My New Year's resolution is to get healthier and lose weight ! I have failed in the past but am more determined than ever. Any tips on keeping to my resolution?

Dear Reader:

Despite the new year, only 45% of Americans make New Year resolutions! It is reported that 25% of those who do make resolutions abandon their optimistic goals after just one week! Sadly, surveys reveal that less than 10% of us who make resolutions feel we reach our goal by year's end.

Many of us, like you, make our resolutions about being healthier and losing weight. The Center for Disease Control would approve of this, as they report that 34.9% of Americans (some 78.6 million of us) are obese with another 35% of the country considered overweight. That's just about 70% of Americans with some serious pounds to lose. The terms obesity and overweight are defined medical terms based on the body mass index (BMI). To calculate your BMI, take your weight in kilograms and divide by your height in meters squared. Or an easier way might be to Google BMI calculator, plug in your height in inches and weight in pounds and see how much weight you have to lose to be considered healthy!

The United States has 5% of the world's population but 33% of the world's weight! Compare that to Asia that has 61% of the world's population and only 13% of the world's weight. As recent as 1990, no single state in the US had an obesity rate of more than 15%. Today more than a dozen states have an obesity rate greater 30%, with all states weighing in at an obesity rate of more than 20%. Colorado is the lightest state with a rate of 21.3% and Arkansas the heaviest with a rate of 35.9%.

Obesity is a complex health issue rooted in the industrialization of our food industry. Cheap fatty sugary high calorie foods coupled with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle have created not just a US problem, but a world-wide epidemic of obesity. Now, there are more obese people in the world than there are starving people. Obesity places a heavy burden on society, contributing to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and some cancers. Worldwide, it is estimated that obesity is a factor in over 2.8 million deaths per year.

So clearly you have chosen a worthwhile resolution. Consider the following five key points that will help you succeed in your resolution this year!
  1. Pick a realistic, obtainable and measurable resolution. Saying you are going to be healthier in the new year is too vague of a resolution. A resolution should be more specific and have an objective way of knowing if you are successful. Instead, set a goal to lose ten pounds or to exercise three times per week. These are specific, realistic, obtainable and goals that can be tracked. If your resolution is not obtainable then you will get frustrated and give up. Quick fact: There are 3,500 calories in a pound. If you cut back 250 calories a day or burn 250 more calories a day you will lose a pound every 2 weeks (14 days x 250 calories equals 3,500 calories.)
  2. Planning is key. To eat healthy, it takes significant planning - plan out your meals and snacks. Pack your lunch. Do not go to the grocery store hungry! The more planned your meals are the less likely you will be tempted to snack on junk food at the office or be forced to eat whatever food is available. Quick fact: There are 365 calories in a medium fast food french fry order, that is about 100 calories more than some fast food burgers!
  3. Stick to it! Some say it takes doing something 21 days in a row to become a habit and that it takes six months of doing something to become a part of your personality. Other studies indicate that it takes closer to 60 days to form a habit. Either way, get past the first week and go day-by-day until your new approach to food becomes a habit and then a part of the new healthy you.
  4. Mark your progress. Studies show that those that mark their progress are more likely to stay motivated. In some weight loss studies, those that weighed themselves daily were more likely to lose weight and keep the weight off. Quick fact: The average American weighs 180 pounds while the average Austrian weighs 160 pounds.
  5. Share your goal with family and friends. Having loved ones support you and not tempt you with desserts will increase your chances of success. Finding someone with the same goals will make your year more enjoyable and will also increase your chances of success.

Happy New Year, and may your resolution be a success. Stay healthy, and remember the quote by Melody Beattie, "The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals."

Nagpaul_arunDr. Nagpaul is a medical doctor and is board-certified in Internal Medicine. He currently is the Medical Director at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, DeMay Living Center and Wayne County Public Health. This column is meant to be educational and not intended to be used to make individual treatment decisions. Prior to starting or stopping any treatment, please confer with your own health care provider. To send questions to our medical providers, please email Dr. Nagpaul at and put “Ask a Doc” in the subject line.