Every year, about 45 percent of Americans make a new year's resolution, but only 8 percent of them are actually successful, according to Statistics Brain Research Institute.

The Camden Herald is launching a series to help improve those odds. Each week, we will feature one of the most common new year's resolutions and ask an expert for advice on how to enter the resolution winner's circle in 2016.

Losing weight is among the year's top resolutions. Again.

Instead of turning to the latest fad diet, we turned to Dr. Barbara MacDonald, a licensed naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist at Camden Whole Health, for advice on how to drop the Halloween candy/pumpkin pie/peppermint bark weight this year.

I want to lose weight, but I don't know where to begin. What are some first steps?

The first step to achieving and maintaining an optimal weight (vs. yoyo dieting) is to ask yourself some questions. Be really honest with yourself.

Number one: Why do I want to lose weight? If the answer is “so I look better," chances are it won’t last. If you can get to a place where you decide in your heart-of-hearts that you want to feel better, have more energy, think more clearly, reduce your risk of future illness then you will have more long-term success.

Second question: Is there something out of balance in my system that is preventing weight loss? See your doctor to get tested to make sure you do not have insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, diabetes or a thyroid issue, all of which could make weight loss more difficult. Also, think about your digestive health. If you experience gas, bloating, and/or have too frequent or too infrequent bowel movements, you may have an imbalance in your digestive probiotic (gut flora), which may cause you to extract too many calories from your food.

Third question: Do I eat more calories in a day than I burn? If the answer is YES, then either increase your exercise level, or reduce calories. If it's NO, go back to question two. If you don’t know, track what goes in and out. Get a pedometer and track steps, track what you eat and calculate total calories in a day, grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates. A simple (but challenging) way to improve energy, focus, mood and optimize weight is to eliminate flour products, refined sugars, fried foods and reduce or eliminate alcohol. Focus on eating 3-5 half-cup portions of a variety of colored vegetables daily, 2-3 fruit servings and 3-plus servings of proteins and fats per day. Whether to eat meat, fish and eggs or vegan/vegetarian sources (legumes, avocado) sources of proteins varies for everyone. As a general rule, those with type O blood do better with meats (grass-fed, without hormones, ideally local and organic). Those with type A blood are often great vegetarian-style eaters (with eggs, poultry and fish). I generally have all patients reduce fatty dairy products like oily cheese but some folks do fine with yogurt and butter.

Every year I try to diet and eat less but then I get so darn hungry that I give up! What can I do to keep going?

If you eat enough calories at three meals per day, from a balance in fat, carb, protein and fiber your body should get used to not snacking and going 12 hours overnight without being too hungry. Often, I find that hunger means there isn’t enough fat or protein in the diet or that folks aren’t eating enough at each meal.

I have a sweet tooth. Can I still eat sweets and lose weight?

Yes and No. You can choose to continue to eat sweets like cookies and cakes and lose weight if your number of calories consumed is fewer than burned, but you will likely continue to crave sweets and over eat them if you have any. Sugar is an addictive food. When you eat a little, you want more. I always recommend a complete, 100 percent sugar fast for the first 21 days of any diet, then allow yourself to have honey, maple syrup, Stevia or chicory-sweetened foods so long as the total calories in and out are achieved.

What about alcohol? Can I have a glass of wine with dinner?

Alcohol, such as wine, contains quite a few calories and grams of carbohydrates and needs to be considered in the total daily calorie consumption. Many of my patients who quit or reduced alcohol intake lost weight simply by reducing calories consumed. Women can often drink up to 3-4 glasses of wine per week and maintain good health.

What is more important for losing weight, dieting or exercise?

Both. I find that people who get into the habit of exercising 3-4 hours per week feel a lot better and naturally begin to make healthier choices of foods and weight loss begins.

What's a reasonable amount of weight I can expect to lose per week?

Most people will lose 1-4 pounds per week if they are consuming fewer calories than they burn per day. Men tend to lose weight faster than women, which drives women crazy! A reasonable expectation is 2 pounds per week for 6 weeks then there is often a plateau for a week or so then you will begin to lose again if you stick with it. The body needs time to adjust. After three years at the new, optimal weight, a body will stop trying to drag us back up to the old set-point. Once that new set-point is reached, maintaining optimal weight is easier.

Any other tips for losing weight?

Some people can afford to skip one meal per day in lieu of a medical food beverage such as MediClear for a month or so. Others do well fasting until dinner one day per week.  Drinking green tea can help weight loss as well. I also recommend that people work on their sense of humor when trying to lose weight. When we laugh, we secrete more stimulating neurochemicals and weight loss is easier when we are content. Lastly, be kind and loving toward yourself. Having a kind relationship toward ourselves will make our body our friend. Our friends are more apt to listen to us and want to help us out than folks we are critical toward. Treat yourself like you were your own best friend or your best employee.

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