Either as a result of New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and eat healthy or a desire to work off the extra pounds gained during the holidays, gyms see a large increase in membership and people during the first couple of months of the new year.
"We see a major increase in our membership during the month of January," said Tricia Young, marketing director for Curves — an all women’s gym — in Arlington. "I know at my gym there always were more people in January, but then by February most of them were gone."
Because many New Year’s resolutions to eat well and work out fizzle after the first month or two of the New Year, gym professionals and registered dietitians want people to realize that losing weight is not something that can be done in two months or with the latest diet craze — it needs to be a lifestyle change.
"People need to focus more on feeling better and eating healthier instead of what dress size they want to be or what weight they want to be," said Karen Heagney, registered dietitian with Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. "Diets are really only a short term solution; you need to look at your lifestyle."
In addition to making a diet lifestyle change, Michael Hadary at Gold’s Gym in Fairfax, emphasized the same mentality for daily cardiovascular and weight lifting activities.
"You need to make it a habit," said Hadary, front desk staff. "It needs to become a priority in your life … after [working out] only three days you’re going to notice a difference."
"I REALLY BELIEVE that working out is like brushing your teeth — it should be done everyday," said Young of Curves. "It’s good for stress management and it’s good for weight control."
To combat the problem of people leaving the gyms after a month, the Curves weight loss program works hard to keep its female-only members returning by creating an eating and workout plan they can maintain.
"Our workout is a 30-minute workout from start to finish," said Young adding in the Metro-area’s workaholic environment it’s hard to find time to visit a gym. "We also have a nutrition and healthy eating class once a week."
For those who do not like gyms or cannot afford monthly fees, Heagney said there still are meal and exercise plans that can be accomplished in today’s hectic lifestyle.
"Ideally, especially if weight loss is the goal, you would [work out] five to six times a week — but we don’t live in an ideal world," she said. "People need more activity in their lives and can do little things during the day to get it."
One example she gave was for people who work in a building with elevators.
"Try to use the stairs as much as possible," she said, adding if someone works on the 11th floor they could take the stairs to the third floor and then take the elevator. "Try to fit in little things like that every day — try taking a longer route to get somewhere in the office."
In addition to parking farther away from a store and walking the extra distance or walking the halls of an office building for 15 minutes a day, Heagney said people also need to focus on their diet and not necessarily on the latest diet craze.
"There needs to be more of an emphasis on fruits and vegetables," she said. "Eat a variety of foods — use some in moderation — and cut down alcohol intake and try to eat the lower fat versions of the more common foods like milk and yogurt."
For the nights when people work late and it’s easier to stop by a fast food restaurant instead of cooking dinner, Heagney suggested people order from the healthier menus that are becoming more readily available.
"If you can, try to plan ahead on days where you have more time and try to make a larger batch of something you have at home," she said. "Freeze it for future consumption and try to bring it as lunch to work."
FOR WEIGHT-CONSCIOUS people who need the extra help finding a plan that works for their lifestyle or just need the incentive to work out, trainers and dietitians are available at most gyms.
"The Curves diet has about 15 women to each class," said Young about the healthy eating classes that are offered as a part of the gyms' membership. "We support one another and it’s a comfortable place for women to work out."
Hadary said the trainers are a great resource for people who are new to Gold’s Gym and could need help establishing a work out plan. But he added, for those who struggle to find motivation to work out, sometimes a partner is all that’s needed.
"Studies have shown that if you have a workout partner you are two, three even four times as likely to go [to the gym] because you’ve set a date with that person and you’re less likely to cancel," he said.
For those who haven’t already given up on their resolutions to lose weight or eat healthy in 2005 or who do not know where to start with a weight loss plan, Inova Healthsource’s outpatient branch offers nutrition-based classes.
"The other way to change a habit is to work one on one with someone," said Susan Baum, registered dietitian and nutrition manager for Inova Healthsource.
Baum said the group offers a Lighter Weigh course starting Feb. 1 that runs eight weeks and covers why diets don’t work, the health angles of working out and eating healthy, how exercise works with stress management and the tie between emotions and food.
"We can change things short term, that’s a diet," she said about initial weight loss. "The only way to do it for good is to look at your lifestyle and decide what you’re willing to change and are you willing to change that permanently."