Many people start out the new year with a resolution to get in better shape and lose weight.

Why is it that  almost everybody fails to achieve their goal? Here are some of the most common hidden reasons for weight gain/failure to lose weight.

1. "Zero calorie" foods and beverages.

Most of these items are chock-full of artificial sweetener. Sucralose, Stevia and others may not impart any caloric consequence, however the intense neurochemical effect of their hyper-sweetening stimulates the brain to generate intense hunger. Yes, in the moment you are having a 0 cal beverage, but shortly thereafter you will be craving food.

2. Diet/low-fat foods.

Frequently low-fat foods have simply take out the fat and put in a carbohydrate to replace it. This may make the label look good, but as we now know carbohydrates are a primary driver of obesity, much more so than fats. A good example is "low-fat yogurt." It is always better to take the full fat yogurt.  Not only is it a healthier food, but you will feel satisfied for a longer period of time

3. Too much exercise.

What, you say, exercise can cause weight gain!? It turns out that there is a "sweet spot" regarding exercise. If you exercise with interval training for approximately 30 minutes it can be a minor benefit to weight loss. However if you extend your exercise you will start to generate hormones that will amplify your hunger, slow down your metabolism, and ultimately cause you to gain weight. If your passion is to run 10 K road races, then by all means continue training. However if you are going into the gym for the purpose of losing weight and getting in better shape, you are better off limiting your cardiovascular activity to not greater than 30 minutes.

4. Denying your hunger.

Any attempt to lose weight by ignoring hunger will always fail. Whenever the brain senses deprivation it will generate hormones that will slow down your metabolism, and preserve fat. Frequent feeding times are far superior to long episodes of abstinence for your better health, and to shrink fat.

5. Failure to use proper medication.

If you need to lose 10 pounds or so to get into your best shape, medication is not necessary. However, if you have had long-term tendency toward excess weight and you need to lose 10% or more of your current bodyweight, then you have more than a mere nutritional challenge. You have a hormonal/metabolic condition that will require medical treatment in most cases. Will power and exercise will usually fail to permanently remove the excess weight. Look for a Nurse Practitioner or Doctor with expertise in supplements and pharmacology to complement your nutritional efforts.

6. Diets

A "diet" is nothing more than a temporary interruption intended to address a chronic problem. As such, they are all destined to fail. Remember, excess adiposity is a persistent, chronic neurochemical and hormonal condition. As such it requires open-ended treatment, not a moment of altered eating behavior. Whatever you do to lose weight ask yourself a simple question, "can I live this way." Whatever you do to lose weight you will need to do for the rest of your life.

Finally, be patient with yourself! Behavioral change is an incremental process. It requires consistent effort, episodes of failure, and slow forward progress. Ultimately, the changes you make toward a more healthy diet will be it's own success, regardless of the amount of weight lost.

-Dr. Stephen Petteruti