HEALTHY EATING: Set realistic goals to lose weight

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

For many of us, ringing in the new year brings a new commitment to improve our lives with resolutions to make positive changes.

Diet resolutions are among the most popular. Fitness centers fill up, and restaurants sell more salads. TV shopping channels hawk diet supplements, exercise equipment and lots of Spandex active wear.

But often, even the most enthusiastic plans to “finally lose weight this year” fade by the time Super Bowl snacks appear.

In one survey, 45 percent of those who set New Year’s resolutions had broken them before Feb. 1.

Chef Jenny Levison prepares her homemade soups in the kitchen at Souper Jenny. Pictured here is Absolutely Everything Roasted Veggie Soup.  Photo by Becky Stein/Special.

Chef Jenny Levison prepares her homemade soups in the kitchen at Souper Jenny. Pictured here is Absolutely Everything Roasted Veggie Soup. Photo by Becky Stein/Special.

Dietitians who specialize in adult weight management say that New Year’s diet resolutions are often too broad and unrealistic — such as “I’ll never eat ice cream again!” or “I’ll cook at home every night.”

It turns out that to lose big, you have to think small by setting specific goals.

Dietitian Marisa Moore, president of the Georgia Dietetic Association, said, “Instead of trying to do everything all at once with overly aggressive New Year’s resolutions, resolve to take a one-week-at-a-time approach to healthy eating. Each week start a new behavior like using smaller plates, cutting back on soda, or trying a new fruit or vegetable. This keeps you focused on implementing positive behaviors throughout the year, not just in January. By the time 2011 rolls in, you’ll have 52 new and healthy behaviors.”

Those small changes can lead to big rewards. Cutting back on just 100 calories (or burning an extra 100 calories) a day can result in a 10-pound weight loss in a year.

Fresh start,
smart advice

You don’t have to go it alone. Meagan Moyer, dietitian with the Emory Bariatric Center, said she’s heard from a lot of folks that they are ready to get back to the basics regarding their weight- loss programs.

“People are being more frugal with their money and are more willing to invest in proven methods of weight loss versus a fad diet that may or may not work. Using a registered dietitian to help guide you though weight loss is a sure bet. It may cost more outright, but the long-term gains are priceless.”

Some of the nutrition lessons registered dietitians might offer their clients who want to eat more healthfully and shed unwanted pounds:

● Recent research suggests that just 27 percent of adults get the recommended daily three servings of vegetables. Moore advises boosting veggie intake when dining out: “Opt for the roasted beet appetizer, add broccoli and mushrooms to your pasta dish or request grilled asparagus as a side to your entree.”

 Grilled tilapia with vegetables. Photo by PHIL SKINNER,

Grilled tilapia with vegetables. Photo by PHIL SKINNER,

● Keep your quest for healthy eating exciting by trying new and healthy cuisines. Among others, Japanese, Indian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines all offer lots of healthy options.

● Keep an eye on portion size when dining out. If they’re huge, ask the server to put half in a takeout container before it comes to the table. You won’t be tempted to eat the whole thing.

● Look at restaurant menus online to make a plan before you go. Dietitian Janet Helm, author of, said, “I almost always order fish when I eat out because I tend not to make it as often at home. I looked for grilled fish with a side of vegetables. Soup is a great starter, takes a little more time to eat and it’s filling, so I won’t be so ravenous when the entree arrives.”

● Let go of the guilt. Having dessert or a piece of bread won’t ruin your diet. It’s what you do on a regular basis that determines your overall health. Banish the guilt and balance the occasional indulgence with a healthy diet daily.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at

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17 comments Add your comment

David Roddenberry

December 29th, 2009
6:46 pm

Enhance your likelihood of sticking to your New Year resolutions with incentives. Healthywage, pays you $100 to lose weight in 2010. You only have to weigh-in once a week on the website and lose the weight.

Get healthy and get paid!

Skinny Resolutions. « The Unfit Mother

December 30th, 2009
12:26 am

[...] weight.  It’s one of the top New Year’s resolutions made each year.  An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution confirms what most of us already know.  At this time of year [...]


December 30th, 2009
1:45 am

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[...] is the original post: HEALTHY EATING: Set realistic goals to lose weight | Better Health Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ajc, carolyn, lives, new-commitment, the-new, year-brings [...]

How To Set Realistic Goals For Weight Loss

December 30th, 2009
12:12 pm

[...] These are all great points to keep in mind as you try to stick to that News Years resolution to lose weight.  You can read the full article here [...]

Weight Loss Coach Jon

December 30th, 2009
12:13 pm

Great article and some good points for people to keep in mind when trying to stick to those New Years Resolutions.

I shared your article with my readers here:


December 30th, 2009
4:29 pm

Being a driven, goal oriented person, I never had problems achieving goals except this one…weight loss. Setting realistic goals is a must but as importantly is ensuring you have a group of (at least one) champions/cheerleaders. Having just lost 50 lbs and I’ve kept it off for 5 months, I know that in addition to diet and exercise goals, the support of my fitness coach (Dan McGrath of Body Solutions Atlanta), co-workers, friends and family are what really made the difference for me. Dan checked in with me in between our sessions (via text) to see how I was doing, check on my progress and mental state of mind. His support and encouragement was and is so important to me. I’m ready for 2010 and wish everyone the best in the New Year!

mike brown

December 30th, 2009
4:39 pm

It takes -3500 calories to loose a pound, which means you need to both burn calories by working out & take less calories in by eating in order to loose weight.

Eat fruits & veggies of course. It’s typical to eat a small breakfast and a big dinner, but my health teacher said you actually want to do the opposite. And never skip breakfast, it helps you loose weight. I stopped drinking pop and lost 50 pounds in 1 year!! Don’t drink juice. You’d think fruit juice is good for you, but its not. It has alot of sugar and extra calories. People say dont eat carbs’ not true, 60% of your diet is supposed to be from some type of carbs… just make sure you eat whole grain or whole wheat bread. And drink only skim milk, all others aren’t so great for you. Just watch what you eat and pay attention to nutrition labels!

Make sure you do some weight bearing activities along with cardio, it’ll help build muscle and burn fat! If you cant buy a gym membership try going for a walk or run outside, doing jumping jacks, jump rope, running up & down your stairs, lifting weights, doings situps & pushups.. those are just some ideas that’ll help!

Mike D

January 2nd, 2010
1:48 am

My number one goal is to relieve my bladder more often. No more holding it in, I’m going to pee everywhere this year.

Texas Pete

January 2nd, 2010
1:53 am

I like to wait until January 10th and become the Secret Santa of Chocolate giving. I have blown up more diets than a Pakistany Jihadist.


January 2nd, 2010
8:46 am

If you’re serious, get personalized nutrition program and calibrated meals through the Trump Network. Also, healthy kid snacks. Potential to make thousand$$ helping others to do the same. Change the way you look and the way you feel at the same time. 2010, here we come, ready or not…Be ready!!

What Works

January 3rd, 2010
10:02 pm

+1 to Mike, -1 to Sara. You don’t need a fitness coach. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.

Different things will work for different folks, but I will share what works for me.

Contrary to what many experts say, weigh yourself every day. Buy a good scale accurate to 1/10th of a pound. I have a flat bathroom scale that has four load cells on the feet and a digital read-out. Cost was about $50. I can step on and off it several times and get the same weight. Every morning, before I get in the shower, I weigh and remember the weight. I record the weight in a spreadsheet every day and compare it against my goal. Set a goal of 1, 1.5, or 2 pounds a week. Some days you will be up 2 or 3 pounds, but some days you will be down 2.1, 3.1 pounds.

You didn’t gain that weight in a month and you won’t lose it in a month.

At the bookstore there are racks and racks of diet books. If I wrote one, it would be 1 page, 3 sentences long.

Don’t eat so much.
Get off your a**.
Stick with it.

Dan Berger

January 7th, 2010
4:40 pm


January 10th, 2010
2:26 pm

Keeping a food diary helps too, if you’re committed. It helps you be aware but not overly obsessed….check out


January 23rd, 2010
3:39 pm

I found a simple effective solution for

Keila G.

March 7th, 2010
1:41 am

Great post! and so true… I have some more advices regarding smart choices when it comes to healthy lifestyle- check it out:

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