Medical Moment: Hidden factors may sabotage your New Year’s weight loss resolution

By Dr. Laura Choi, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital

We’ve made it through the holiday season. Now many of us will resolve to eat better and lose a few of those holiday pounds. Before you start, beware of things that can sabotage your efforts to lose or maintain weight. Let’s uncover some factors that could be holding you back. Although you have the power to change a few of these factors, some are beyond your control. Either way, finding out why weight loss is challenging can be helpful, especially when coming up with a plan or deciding when to seek help for weight loss.

Your health suffers when you’re sleep deprived, and lack of sleep can affect your chances of losing weight, too. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to increased cravings for high-carb foods and junk food. When you’re overtired, you may be more likely to reach for high-calorie beverages or a sugar fix for quick energy. You may also lack the energy and initiative to make healthy food choices. “When you’re tired at the end of your day, you may not feel like going for a walk or exercising. You may also not have the energy to make a healthy meal — choosing fast, convenient food instead, which disrupts efforts to lose weight,” said Dr. Laura Choi, a bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital.

Take control: Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep at night so you can function at your best during the day.

Yo-yo dieting (a cycle of losing weight and gaining it back) can take a toll on your health and make it harder to lose weight. You may lose weight rapidly on a fad diet, but you’re not just losing body fat. You lose lean muscle as well, which in turn decreases your metabolism. The problem with yo-yo dieting is that it’s not sustainable. “Once a diet is discontinued and regular eating resumes, the body’s metabolism is lower than before, and any pounds regained consist mostly of fat,” Choi explained.

Take control: Modify your diet in a way that’s sustainable for the long term. You want to find solutions for managing your weight that will work for the rest of your life, not just dropping pounds for a special event or a few months.

Have you been toiling away at the gym without losing any weight? If this sounds all too familiar, it may make sense to spend more time and energy on meal planning. “How much and the types of food consumed has more to do with weight loss than anything else,” explained Choi. Exercise is good for your overall health and longevity, but it’s only a small component of weight loss. The majority of weight loss comes from making dietary changes and consuming fewer calories than you can burn in a day.

Take control: By spending 30 minutes preparing a healthy meal, you can avoid consuming an extra 700-800 calories compared to eating fast food or takeout. When you combine a healthy diet with exercise, it’s a win-win!

Controlling your weight can be an uphill battle as you age. Even if you’re exercising and eating right, the pounds can still creep up. “With each passing year, metabolism decreases, and the body doesn’t use as many calories,” Choi said. In addition, you may lose muscle mass with age, and the problem is compounded if you’re less active. It all adds up to a recipe for weight gain.

Take control: Cut back on portion sizes of higher calorie foods and increase portion sizes of lower calorie foods like non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and okra, etc. Try to exercise for 30 minutes every day — going for a walk is a great way to start.

Did you know that weight gain is a side effect of certain medications? Some medications taken for depression, inflammation, thyroid disorder or other conditions can make it difficult to maintain or lose weight. These medications may cause you to feel hungrier, burn calories slower or retain extra fluids. It’s important to continue taking your medications as directed by your doctor, but don’t hesitate to ask about alternatives.

Take control: Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how your medications may be affecting your weight.

Genes can influence appetite, metabolism, body-fat distribution and more, but genetic influences don’t tell the whole story. Environmental factors including eating habits formed in childhood, family and social connections, ways you cope with stress and other psychological factors can have an even greater impact on your weight.

Take control: Even if you’ve been overweight for most of your life and struggle to lose weight, you can fight back. It starts with making the decision to get help for losing weight. Houston Methodist Weight Management Center at Baytown develops a personalized weight loss plan that helps you lose weight and improve your health. Dr. Choi will host a virtual information session about bariatric procedures on January 17th. To learn more about your weight loss options, register at or call 832.667.LOSE (5673).

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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