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How Do You Stick To Weight Loss Resolutions?

Ah, that time of year again. For many, the start of a new year serves as a fresh start, an opportunity to finally reach those health and weight loss goals.

Reviewed by BiOptimizers Editorial
Fact checked by Nattha Wannissorn

One 2022 poll reported that 37% of Americans set new resolutions, and many set even more than one goal to work towards.

But how likely is it that these goals will stick? According to a Forbes Health survey, not very. Most people will quit their resolutions at two or three months in, with only 6% sticking with them the entire year.

The most common resolutions center around physical health, weight loss, and improving eating habits. The good news is that the approach you take when setting your goals matters and can play a big role in how successful you are in maintaining your new habits for years to come. Before we dive into some of these strategies, let’s first look at why many of them fail in the first place.

Why Do Weight Loss Resolutions Fail and So Many People Fail at Dieting?

Weight loss is arguably one of the most common resolutions set at the start of the New Year. While it is certainly doable, keeping weight off for a long time is tough and most people end up gaining it back. 

A study combining data from 29 long-term weight loss studies found that more than half of the lost weight came back within two years. By the fifth year, more than 80% of it was back.

Why do so many people fail? Likely, not just one reason but multiple factors that impact successful weight loss. It is hard to keep weight off for a couple of reasons.

First, the environment we live in is filled with factors that make us eat more and move less – we are surrounded by hyperpalatable processed foods and many of our jobs are sedentary

Second, our body actively fights against weight loss. When we lose weight, there are mechanisms in place to make us hungrier and slow down metabolism to combat it

There is a common misconception that just eating less will lead to consistent weight loss, but this is false given our body’s ability to adapt. 

Often, when we start weight loss programs, we see quick drops in weight initially. But, after a few months, it becomes more difficult to continue at the same rate. This is because the body’s response to weight loss includes increasing appetite and decreasing metabolism – making it challenging to sustain your progress over time. Despite these physiological changes, many blame ourselves for our lack of willpower or discipline.

Maintaining weight loss involves a lot more than just quickly dropping pounds or choosing a specific diet. We cover these and more in great depth here, but let’s dive into a few:

  • Having unrealistic expectations: overly ambitious goals or expecting rapid results can quickly lead to disappointment, discouragement, and frustration. For weight loss to be healthy, it must be a gradual process, and expecting quick fixes can undermine your long-term success.
  • Extreme or unsustainable diets: restrictive diets that are hard to maintain long-term can lead to burnout and relapse. This can be especially true with those that eliminate entire food groups, or severely restrict calories to unsustainable values.
  • Poor planning: failing to create a concrete, achievable plan for reaching your goals can contribute to setbacks. Without having a clear roadmap, you might struggle to stay on track and make consistent progress.
  • Not enough support: lack of social support from family, friends, or others can make it much more difficult to stay motivated and accountable.
  • Not taking health issues into account: certain health conditions, like hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders, can hinder your weight loss efforts and may even make any weight you lose more difficult to maintain. Unrealistic body image expectations can also lead to unhealthy weight loss methods and impact success.
  • Skipping meals or severely restricting calories: both can trigger your body’s starvation response, leading to slower metabolism and increasing the likelihood you will overeat later on. Severely restricting calories can also increase your risk for nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to health issues over time.
  • Not getting good sleep: Not enough, or poor sleep quality can disrupt metabolism, increasing food cravings and undermining weight loss efforts.
  • Not including physical activity: focusing only on what you are eating, and not physically moving can also set you up for failure. Exercise is important for maintaining muscle mass, which can have positive impacts on metabolism and help keep weight off long term.
  • Relying only on exercise: exercise is essential for any health goals, including weight loss. But in the long-term, studies show that exercise alone is ineffective for weight loss.
  • Not having post-diet plans and long-term plans: right after achieving goals, most people go right back to their old habits. This is a guaranteed way to lose your hard-earned progress with increased appetite and slower metabolism 

These are not your fault–most people don’t know what realistic expectations, the right diets, speed of progress, or the right support look like. This is why working with an expert coach or nutritionist to set the right goal and keep you on track can significantly boost your chance of success.

In the end, achieving and maintaining weight loss involves a lot more than just choosing a specific diet. Your genetics, personal habits, social support network, and living conditions also play big roles. It is not only about what you eat, but how you live and the support you have in your life that can determine your success.

When it comes to the high failure rate we often see in dieters, there are multiple contributing factors. In combination with what we just learned above, here are some other common pitfalls:

  • Fad diets: All diets work (by restricting calories), at least at first. But in the long term, these diets are often impractical, nutrient-deficient, and difficult to sustain. As a result, without a long-term strategy, it is more likely that you will abandon them, and the weight comes back on.
  • One-size-fits-all approaches: every person is unique and generalized diets do not consider individual variations in metabolism, lifestyle, and other factors. 
  • Overemphasis on restriction: when diets focus on food restriction, labeling foods as bad, can create a feeling of deprivation. This can lead to cravings, binge-eating episodes, and negative relationships with food.
  • Your environment: social events, peer pressure, and other factors can also make sticking to a diet more difficult. Social situations often involve food, and without proper planning, it can make it harder to adhere to diet changes.
  • Poor understanding: many of us begin diets without a clear understanding of the basic nutrition principles, like balanced nutrition and portion control. Educating yourself in these areas can help keep you on track.
  • Being inconsistent and not changing behavior: irregular meal timing or occasional lapses can hinder change in overall behaviors. Failing to address behavioral patterns, like emotional triggers or unhealthy habits, can make success more difficult.

Why Is It So Hard to Stick To a Weight Loss Plan?

While the implementation part of setting weight loss goals can be easy, the most challenging aspect is sticking with them long-term. Many challenges and pitfalls can make it harder to see results, but here are some of the most common:

  • Not setting SMART goals: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. These principles are important for having a clear road map towards your weight loss goals. When goals are vague or lack direction, it can make it challenging to stay on track.
  • Failing to anticipate obstacles: many potential challenges and obstacles can arise during your weight loss journey. This is why it is important to have strategies on how to problem-solve as they arise. Without a proactive approach, these unexpected difficulties can be discouraging, and throw you off track and deviate from your goals. Failing to be prepared for common issues – social events, stress, emotional triggers, hunger – can leave you vulnerable to setbacks.
  • Neglecting your emotional health: losing weight is not just about changing physically, but also includes addressing emotional and psychological factors that may have impacted your weight in the first place. Emotional eating, stress, and negative relationships with food can undermine your efforts if you don’t take them into account or address them in your weight loss plans.
  • Not establishing routines: consistency is the major key to lasting results and forming good habits long-term. Routines provide structure and make it easier to stick to diet and exercise plans over time, ultimately setting you up for future success.
  • Unrealistic expectations: while you may want to get weight off as quickly as possible, this is often not a healthy approach. When you set out to rapidly lose weight, and then fail, it increases the risk of you abandoning your weight loss plan altogether and becoming discouraged.
  • Inconsistency in your action plan: Failing to consistently implement the weight loss plan, including irregular meal timing or sporadic exercise, can hinder progress. Consistency is crucial for the body to adapt to new habits and for individuals to see positive results. Having someone to be accountable to, like a healthcare provider, can help you be more consistent in working towards your goals.

Overcoming these challenges can be a game changer when it comes to the success of your weight loss journey. As you can see, for you to be successful, planning and goal setting play important roles, and an approach that integrates both physical and psychological aspects is essential for sustaining progress.

What Is a Realistic Weight Loss Goal Each Month?

The general guidelines for healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week. This translates to 4-8 pounds per month.

While this might not seem significant, this is the rate that has the highest success rates for keeping weight off long term. Keep in mind that your starting weight, body composition, metabolism, and overall health can all influence the rate you are able to lose weight. But, understand that gradual weight loss is often the key to lasting results and is a much safer approach than any quick fix out there.

When you lose weight too rapidly, it can increase your risk of losing not just fat but a lot of muscle mass. Muscle is critical for a healthy metabolism, and for maintaining strength. Severely restricting calories can also increase your risk for nutritional deficiencies, which can have consequences down the line.

You should approach your weight goals with a focus on overall health – not just that number on the scale. Including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sustainable lifestyle changes are the key to achieving and maintaining your ideal weight. Educating yourself on these general principles and personalized diet strategies can be helpful. We outline all you need to know and more in The Ultimate Nutrition Bible.

To learn more about the nuances of weight loss and normal weight fluctuations, read this article.

How Do I Stick To My Routine to Lose Weight?

To begin with, you need to create a specific plan. This not only solidifies your intentions in memory but makes it more challenging to procrastinate positive behaviors. What is motivating you to change your weight?

One study on weight loss success found that multiple types of motivation are important – internal and external [R13]. Let’s break some of these down:

Internal motivators for weight lossExternal motivators
To improve health or the risk for chronic conditionsDesire to live longerEngage in meaningful relationshipsSet positive examples for loved onesFollowing a structured planHaving specific targetsRegular weigh-ins or supervision in the programSupport from family and friends

Both internal and external motivators are important to keep you on track. Before you initiate a plan, it might be helpful to sit down and think about why you want to set these goals, and how you can keep yourself accountable. This is where those SMART goals really come into play.

Once you have your plan, put something of value at stake. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, those who had the option to set aside money subject to forfeiture if they failed to lose weight lost 14 pounds more than those in a control group. Making exercise appointments with a friend can be effective because you are less likely to cancel on a friend than on yourself.

Combining temptations with health goals can help encourage your progress.  For example, if you struggle to go to the gym but enjoy binge-watching reality TV, limit your viewing to only when you are on the treadmill. Research shows that combining something you enjoy with something you don’t results in a 56 percent increase in exercise frequency.

We review exactly how to create your weight loss plan for lasting results in the The Ultimate Nutrition Bible, but here are some general steps to take when starting:

Diet & Nutrition

  1. Figure out how many calories you should be eating: This article has a good formula based on your goals and activity levels. Our Ultimate Nutrition App also has a calorie calculator and food tracker. 
  2. Create a calorie deficit: a calorie deficit is when you are eating fewer calories than you burn. This is the most important aspect in losing weight. Initially, you can aim for a 1,000-calorie deficit per day by reducing 500 calories from your diet and burning an extra 500 calories with exercise. This can set you up for a weight loss rate of 2 pounds per week.
  3. Gradual calorie reduction: over time, you can continue to decrease your calorie intake by 100 calories per week as you lose weight. If you hit a plateau (i.e., you stop losing weight) for more than two weeks, consider further reducing calories by 300, or increasing your physical activity.
  4. Take a break: incorporate some refeed days (not all-you-can-eat, but days with more relaxed goals) two days a week initially. This can help keep you on track and prevent unhealthy food binges and burnout which can derail your progress.
  5. Once you achieve your goal, reverse diet: your metabolism is slower than before,  you’ll be hungrier, and your fat cells will be empty and primed for refilling. Now is not the time to go back to your old habits. Reverse dieting gently and gradually raises your calorie expenditure without the fat gain, especially if you move on to other goals like muscle gain or strength, which require caloric surpluses.

Physical Activity

Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not burn a significant number of calories. Exercise is also not a reliable way to lose weight without other methods to create caloric deficits. However, it’s still crucial as a stimulus for your body to change, such as increasing insulin sensitivity and preserving or building muscle mass. Not to mention how important it is for your mental and physical health.

Physically moving more throughout the day is more impactful for your weight loss and health than working out for 1 – 2 hours a day. However, any movement you can manage is better than nothing at all, so it’s important to find what’s practical and enjoyable for you. Here is what to prioritize.

#1: Move more throughout the day and sit less in any possible way: For example, take walks on your lunch break, pace while talking on the phone, use a standing or treadmill desk, do jumping jacks between meetings, and commuting by bike.

#2: Weight training: The actual exercises don’t burn as many calories as when your body uses energy to build muscles. In a caloric deficit, your body may be more inclined to just keep the muscles you’re using while losing the fat. You won’t get significantly bigger, but you will maintain precious muscle mass that will help maintain your metabolism. 

#3: High-intensity interval training: may be more effective in burning extra calories than slow cardio. They can also be very time effective, as you can achieve progress in as little as 5 – 10 minutes as a beginner. However, they can be stressful to the body and significantly increase hunger, so you’ll need to pay attention not to out-eat your exercise. 

#4: Progressive cardio: on days you are not weightlifting, include cardiovascular exercises like walking, swimming, or jogging. Start with 20 minutes and slowly increase. Changing the type of cardio you perform every few weeks can also help prevent adaptation and plateaus.

What if I Am Not Making Progress With My Weight Loss Resolution?

If despite all of these tips you still fall short of your goals, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Here are what to try:

1. Use the right weight loss progress measurements 

Body weight is often a poor measurement of fat loss progress, so you should rely on more accurate tools

2. Track your food as accurately as possible

Track your food for a week to every morsel and gram of food. Could there be an extra scoop of sauce, rice, or dressing that throws off your week’s calorie deficit? 

3. Try a nutritional strategy to stimulate the system

For example:

  • Further cutting 300 – 500 calories daily
  • 1 – 2 days of maintenance calories or refeeding before returning to your original plan
  • Adding cold exposure or other ways to improve your metabolism
  • Adjusting your macros such as carb cycling or reducing carbs

It’s hard to decide on a blanket recommendation on which of these is best for you, which is why we recommend working with a qualified nutrition coach. Once you make one of these changes, be consistent and give it 2 – 4 weeks to see if it’s right for you. 

4. Check for and address nutritional deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies like low magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3, and B vitamins could affect your metabolism. Often, just introducing a supplement and waiting a few weeks is a good way to tell if those are the culprits, while some people prefer to get blood tests. 

5. Address chronic inflammation, traumas, and other health issues

Food sensitivities, the wrong gut microbes, toxic exposure, and traumas, can make it harder to lose weight. We recommend consulting a naturopathic or functional medicine to test for and address these. 

For a comprehensive list of why diets fail, check out our comprehensive article.


Achieving and keeping your weight loss resolutions requires a thoughtful and sustainable approach that goes beyond quick fixes, “detoxes”, and extreme diets. Common pitfalls – unrealistic expectations, unsustainable diets, and lack of social support – contribute to high failure rates. Physiological changes, your environment, and social influences can also complicate the journey.

To overcome these challenges, it is important to set realistic goals, address not only your physical health but also emotional and psychological barriers, and establish consistent routines. Understanding the importance of both internal and external motivators, having a well-structured plan, and accountability can enhance your chance of success. The most sustainable approach is often the most successful – losing 1-2 pounds per week, regular exercise, and foundational nutrition are the big cornerstones.

It is also crucial to realize that setbacks can be an important part of your journey – learn from them! Let’s make 2024 the year that your resolutions stick. If you feel like you need more support or help in creating your weight loss plan, we detail step-by-step how to do this in The Ultimate Nutrition Bible, a comprehensive resource that will stand the test of time. No fad diets, just a sustainable, healthy approach to achieve your goal physique and keep it for life.

Grab The Ultimate Nutrition Bible Now
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