It seems these days that there’s a national observance for just about everything. Some are critically important like breast cancer awareness and diabetes education. Yet others, like National Hamburger Month (yes, it’s apparently real and observed in May) don’t seem that important at all. I recently came across an article that said this week (January 15-21) is dedicated to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Now, there’s an observance I can stand behind.

The title of the week also got me thinking. Its creators didn’t call it National Weight Loss Week or National Cabbage Soup Diet Week. No, the message is much clearer and simpler–that it’s important to maintain a healthy weight by doing what works for YOU! I like this concept for many reasons. First, January is a tough month for many people who struggle with their weight. It’s a month that’s filled with the pressure, expectations and guilt we place on ourselves to achieve that big New Year’s Weight-Loss Resolution as quickly as possible. (More on managing that New Year’s Resolution here).

The end of January is even tougher and is usually the time when the realization sets in that maintaining a strict diet of cabbage soup (for example) really isn’t sustainable. This leads to frustration and often, causes people to give up on their goals all-together. I understand and I see it often in my practice. You know, the public frequently sees obesity as a “lazy person’s disease.” Yet, judging from the patients I’ve cared for, nothing can be further from the truth. These are some of the most determined people I know. It’s just that so many other factors are standing in the way of their success including genetics, metabolism, relationships, self-esteem, and the list goes on.

So during this Healthy Weight Week, I offer you some do’s and don’ts that I hope will be simple motivation to stick to those New Year’s Weight Loss Resolutions, especially when the going gets tough:

DO: Ditch that cabbage soup diet, or any diet that limits you to one food group. It isn’t healthy and it isn’t sustainable. Balance is key.

DON’T: Put so much pressure on yourself to lose all that weight in one month. The best success stories are achieved by those who live by the notion “slow and steady wins the race.”

DO: Move. In the beginning it really doesn’t matter how much or how often. Committing to some form of exercise a few times a week can create the beginnings of a great habit.

DON’T: Give up. Just because one approach didn’t work doesn’t mean there aren’t others that will. Experiment and find out what works best FOR YOU!

I hope the observance of this as Healthy Weight Week and this post provide at least some motivation to “keep your eye on the prize.” Significant weight loss is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Seeking out motivation along the way is essential to staying on track and eventually winning the race. I’m certain your effort will be well worth it when you cross the finish line.