PORTSMOUTH — Many people make New Year’s resolutions and one of the most popular is to lose weight or to eat healthier food.

The problem is dieting is hard and most people quickly abandon the resolution feeling they have failed. Local nutrition experts are offering tips to keep at the goal, without resorting to crash diets that are not sustainable.

“Change is a process, and small failures are to be expected,” said Eileen Behan, a registered dietician at Exeter Hospital. “Think of it as practicing a diet, until it becomes part of your daily living. If you make a small failure, you are not done. You are practicing and start again.”

Dr. Bernard Benedetto, director of bariatric surgery at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, said the approach to a diet varies with the person and there is no one sure-fire answer.

“A person trying to lose 15 pounds is very different from a person looking to lose 200 pounds,” said Benedetto. “People want a specific diet and rules. The challenge is there is no one diet, no rules that work for everyone.”

Behan advises starting by setting a specific goal rather than just generally saying they want to lose weight. She said to be successful choose a diet plan that you can stick to for at least two years. Otherwise, she said the result will be short terms weight loss and the weight will return as soon as you stop the diet.

“Make a plan and have in house what you need to fulfill that plan,” said Behan. “Write it down or involve a spouse or someone for support. For example, if your goal is not to eat at night, your spouse can remind you of that and offer support. Ask the people in your house not to make you a bowl of ice cream when they are having some.”

Benedetto said it is important to pick changes that are sustainable. He said to set short-term goals and keep your eye on the long view for a better chance of success.

"Be honest with yourself,” he said. “Take an honest appraisal of what you eat, why you eat and your activity levels”

What no one should do is believe the fad diet hype.

“Fad diets might work short term, and you might even lose some weight,” said Benedetto. “But they are too radical to sustain for long term. Not only are they bad diets, but they can be detrimental long term. When you do those diets, you put your body into a starvation state. Your body, in an effort to compensate will store the calories you do eat. So, not only will you regain that 15 pounds; you are likely to gain back 25 pounds. You will fail and then turn back to food because you are depressed. It’s unrealistic.”

What people often do not take into account is the psychological aspect of weight loss.

“There is a biological component for some people,” said Benedetto. “Most need to make changes to exercise and activity levels. But there are also reasons why people overeat, and hunger is not always the problem. People eat because of stress, depression and anxiety. They eat when they are bored. Get to the root of that reason and you will be more successful.”

For people who are considered morbidly obese, Benedetto said the answer is bariatric surgery, which will include all aspects of their lives, weight, exercise and the psychology of eating disorders.

“People who are obese need changes for the health risks they face,” said Benedetto. “They face diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.”

Eating out is a big source of extra calories. Behan said learn to cook; then you have more control over what is going into your meals.

Benedetto said the dash diet is most frequently cited by professionals as a dietary approach to stabilize hypertension.

“The dash, Mediterranean and paleo diets have a few things in common,” said Benedetto. “They are high in fiber, high in fruits and vegetables throughout the day. They are low in the use of processed foods, and low in sugars and especially high fructose corn syrups. They use a minimum of red meat. Do that and you are off to a good start.”

“My best diet advice is including a lot more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet,” said Behan. “Look towards a more plant-based diet, with less meat.”

There is a myriad of resources online for people looking to change to a plant-based diet.

“Look up recipes for true Mexican food, or Indian food,” said Behan. “Both are delicious and include a lot of beans and seasonings. They are flavorful and good for you. Keep in mind, true Mexican food, not the heavy stuff you find in restaurants.”

Behan said a great source for nutrition information is Harvard, at the health page located at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/.