If your New Year's resolution was to lose weight, you chose the most popular goal of 2014.

As you might have noticed, it's a slow process -- and one of the hardest long-term goals to accomplish. About 85 percent of people who lose weight through calorie restriction will gain it back -- plus more -- in two years, according to UCLA researchers.

But for those who want to have a healthy 2014, York experts say the number on the scale isn't the only one to watch.

Weighty issue: About 70 percent of Americans 20 years old or more are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease last year.

Angie Warnke, whose professional name is Angie March, of York Township pushes through an overhead squat while performing the workout of the day (WOD)
Angie Warnke, whose professional name is Angie March, of York Township pushes through an overhead squat while performing the workout of the day (WOD) "Nancy" at York CrossFit, 147 W. Philadelphia St., on Wednesday. The workout consisted of a ten-minute jump rope warm-up, and then five sets of overhead squats and 400m runs. (John A. Pavoncello — jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com)

The people who will benefit most from dropping weight are either obese or overweight and have the risk factors associated with obesity, said Amy Watson, a registered dietitian and wellness coach at WellSpan Health.

Joint problems, type 2 diabetes and arthritis are correlated with higher weight, but the number on the scale doesn't show the full picture, she said.

"If you think about it, you could have a thin person, and they might not be healthy," Watson said. "But the same thing could hold true for someone who's overweight."

That's why it's so important to know your numbers, she said. Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, triglyceride and physical activity levels all affect your overall health, and it is possible to be considered healthy at a higher BMI, she said.

"It's really not just about the weight," Watson said. "They really have to consider the overall package."

Numbers matter: But the science behind the risks of being at a higher weight is still inconclusive, said Rory Kraft, a medical ethicist and assistant professor of philosophy at York College.

Studies show that those who are moderately overweight have essentially the same health standards as people in the normal range, he said. Obesity has a small impact on mortality when a patient's health numbers are good, according to an Annals of Internal Medicine study that shows a 24 percent increase in mortality for obese patients over 10 years.

For people with unhealthy numbers, the Annals study found a 214 percent increase in mortality over 10 years -- even if they were at a normal weight.

"So it seems like the answer is, don't worry about weight," Kraft said. "Get your blood pressure fixed, get your cholesterol fixed. Do all the other things to have healthy standards, because that's what's mattering -- not the size jeans you're putting on."

It's also a good idea to take time to reflect on why you want to commit to be healthier, Kraft said. Losing weight isn't some magical journey that will change you -- a shy fat person is likely to be a shy thin person, he said.

"It's not like there really is a butterfly inside all of us just waiting to come out when we peel off the layers of fat," Kraft said.

Acceptance: The pressure to lose weight is all around us, said Erec Smith, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at York College who writes about size acceptance.

When examining the weight loss industry, it's clear that there's money to be made by correlating weight with health directly, he said. Deep down, he said, that "weight loss trap" is about looks rather than health.

"It's harming people because there's a stigma attached to weight that is, well, unnecessary," Smith said.

That societal standpoint can be dangerous, driving people to adopt unhealthy habits to achieve their goals.

"Many people see losing weight as getting healthy when, in actuality, it can very well be the opposite," he said.

To combat that, Smith said people should live a healthy lifestyle without focusing on losing weight. A more holistic idea of a healthy lifestyle could make for a healthier and, one could assume, happier you, he said.

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.