The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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What’s in a New Year’s Resolution?

What’s in a New Year’s Resolution?

Dietitian Dialogues

January 27, 2013

After surveying the Internet, friends and family, it’s clear that weight loss ranks pretty high with resolutioners. Even ranks weight loss as number six on their list of 13 Popular New Year’s Resolutions. It’s in the top three for many of the people I surveyed and number one for some. Sound familiar?

It should. As westerners, we’ve been making New Year’s resolutions for a long time. According to Bill Petro, our friendly neighborhood historian, this tradition began around 62 BC. I don’t care if you’re aneasterner, that’s a long time. So for starters, our resolutions have history.

As a Registered Dietitian, I’m partial to weight loss resolutions. I realize I may not have been very popular in the 4th century, when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire. Bill asserts that back then New Year Resolutions often included fasting. How hard can that be to figure out? Today, our resolutions often center around dieting. I like working with folks who set weight loss as one of their resolutions. They’re on the precipice of turning over a new leaf, starting a new chapter, a new way of living. Okay, maybe even just going through fast food less often. It’s pure potential energy.

These resolutioners come to me for tips, ideas, and plans to help them harness that energy. Remember what we learned in high school science class about potential energy? It can be converted to kinetic energy. We also learned that in this process some of that energy is sometimes lost. That’s how it can be with weight loss resolutioners. There can be a flurry of activity where everything is on track. The food is right, the physical activity is right, and then despite results, some of that energy begins to dissipate. That’s when inertia can set in. As Sir Isaac Newton was fond of saying, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And this is how our resolutions have some physics.

Newton’s first law of motion also includes that an object at rest can be moved when overcome by a force. When weight loss resolutioners hit inertia, the right Registered Dietitian can be the force that overcomes it. Often times, inertia is resolved.

The Registered Dietitian is the logical health care provider to help weight loss resolutioners meet their goals. With over 64,000 dietitians employed in the U.S., finding the right one can be a snap. To find a dietitian in a particular geographical area you can go to, enter your zip code and voila. You can also call the good folks at Professional Nutrition Therapists. They will not only find a dietitian near you, they’ll find one that has expertise in weight loss that’s near you.

What can a registered dietitian provide a weight loss resolutioner? Several things, but most importantly, realistic expectations, evidence-based tools, and accountability. All of these are key for resolutioners to achieve success.

Crafting realistic expectations is one of the most difficult parts of successful weight loss. The resolutioner approaches the goal with heart, and the registered dietitian approaches the goal with numbers. The first step is finding the goal in the middle.

Today there are several options for losing weight. The key to picking the right option is to fully define the weight loss goals. Here are some of the parameters that help define those goals:


  • How much weight loss is envisioned?
  • How soon?  
  • Are there medical conditions that need to be taken into account?
  • What are the time constraints for planning, shopping, and meal prep?  
  • What’s the budget?  


The right dietitian is one that will ascertain all of this, and more, then present the resolutioner with evidence-based plans that take into account all of this information. Quick weight loss, once frowned upon, has found its way into the mainstream thanks to studies showing it can be very effective for a lot of people. Genetics based plans are also on the horizon and offer the highest level of individualization available. Conventional methods that have been tried and true for decades are still popular and finding success everyday in the hands of dietitians.

But a solid goal and proven tools can turn to quicksand without the last part, accountability. An effective weight loss plan has to have a follow-up system and this is where the Registered Dietitian’s involvement is golden. However they’re performed – face-to-face, on-line, or over the phone – follow-ups are where a dietitian provides focus, clarity, and motivation to resolutioners. This not only keeps the resolutioner engaged, but allows the dietitian to impart what may be the best of what’s in a resolution: hope.


Martha McHenry is a bilingual Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator serving both the English and Spanish speaking communities. She received her nutrition degree from UT-Southwestern Medical Center in 2004 and has been a nutrition entrepreneur ever since. McHenry is currently Managing Partner of Professional Nutrition Therapists, LLC, a nutrition services company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. She is a member of the Texas and the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.