An obesity medicine doctor and weight-loss specialist explain where people tend to flub up in the first few weeks of the month

By Cassie Shortsleeve
Updated: December 13, 2017
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By the time January rolls around and the holidays (read: cupcakes at every corner, eggnog for dinner, and a slew of missed workouts) are behind us, weight loss tends to be top of mind.

No surprise there: Research finds that year after year, "lose weight" makes the list of most common New Year's resolutions. And while the Internet is littered with articles about successful ways to shed weight in January, we were curious: What's the biggest mistake we all make when it comes to dropping pounds in the new year?

So we pinged weight-loss specialist Charlie Seltzer, M.D.-he's the only physician in the country who's board-certified in obesity medicine and certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist.

His answer: "Trying to undo a lifetime's worth of habits all at one time because the clock turned." [Guilty.]

Instead, it's best to think about weight loss in terms of probability and the likelihood that you'll succeed, he says. "If you tell someone who drinks seven sodas a day to drink six, that might be difficult, but they could likely do it." Seltzer adds: "When you tell them not to drink any soda at all, they fail 100 percent of the time." (P.S. Here are the healthiest-and most effective-diets to follow this year .)

We've all been told to stay away from extremes: I'm not going to eat sugar; I'm giving up french fries for life; I'm cutting carbs out entirely. But we've all also been guilty of succumbing to the mentality from time to time. It's statements like these that keep Seltzer busy.

So before we get too far into 2017, reset. And keep these two pointers in mind:

Patience is key. "In defining what works with weight loss, you have to look at it in the terms of years, not days," says Seltzer. "One half-pound of weight loss per week over two years is 50 pounds-and that's way more rapid weight loss than someone who is losing that in a shorter amount of time but gaining it back." (Next, check out these six tricks for preventing weight gain and staying at your "happy" weight.)

Use your habits to your advantage rather than trying to fight them. "For people who like to eat at night, the worst thing they can do is say, 'I'm not going to eat at night,'" he says. Rather, look at your tendencies and work out a plan that fits into your life. After all, if you're busy all day with little time to eat planned out meals and you don't binge at night, it's OK to eat at night, he says. "Piggy-backing on existing habits-even if they're not the best habits-is still better than trying to reinvent everything."

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