Taking it off and keeping it off

September 28, 2010

Keep a journal to track calories

Strategies for weight loss; 10 tips for success from the Mayo Clinic

When you're planning to go somewhere, it's good to have an idea of where "somewhere" is. The same is true for losing weight. As the experts at the Mayo Clinic wrote in a popular article a goal can make all the difference between success and failure. When we plan our weight-loss journeys, they tend to be much smoother roads to healthier lifestyles.

And while it's fine to think big about getting smaller, it's best to be honest about how you'll get there. Losing 20 pounds in a week is probably not going to happen, at least not without risking your health. Besides, it's a lot easier to win when you break things down into little steps, and a lot of little steps will get you where you want to go, too!

Most important? The more little battles you win, the less likely you are to give up on the war.

  1. Take It Personally. Think about your fitness level, health concerns, available time and motivation. Matching your goals to your reality puts you in better shape to win!
  2. Slow and Steady Is Better. Expect to lose about one to two pounds a week (0.5 to 1 kilogram) - that's the healthy amount. To lose weight, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day. So plan for that, and then work toward it.
  3. Enjoy the Trip. When you focus on the journey rather than the destination, things tend to go better. "Exercise five days a week" is a process goal; "weigh 145 pounds" is an outcome goal. Losing weight for good is about changing your processes - your daily behaviors and habits - and not about focusing on a magic number on the scale.
  4. The Long and Short. Short-term goals keep you engaged on a daily basis, but long-term goals motivate you over the long haul. Your short-term goals can become steps to reaching long-term goals. Because healthy, permanent weight loss can be a long process, your goals need to work in the long term.
  5. It's All In the Details. When planning your goals, write down everything and go through all the details. When and where will you do it? How will you fit a walk into your day? What do you need to get started? What snacks can you cut out? Then track your progress to see if you're meeting your goals.
  6. Pick A Date. Timing is everything. Choose a definite start date for your weight-loss program, and don't put that date off for anything. Be sure to plan for things like work or school demands, vacations, or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting.
  7. Start Small. It's good to plan a series of small goals that build on each other instead of one big goal. If you bite off more than you can chew you're more likely to give it up.
  8. Plan for Roadblocks. Weight often comes off a little faster in the first week or two, but after that things tend to slow down. At this point many people have what's called a "setback." But these are normal as you try to change your ways; in fact, everyone who makes life changes has setbacks. It can help a lot to look ahead for trouble spots - the holidays, a business trip, etc. - and think of ways to beat them.
  9. Measure Your Progress. Review your goals each week. Were you able to meet your goals successfully last week? Think about what worked and what didn't. Make plans for how you will reach your goals both today and during the course of the week.
  10. Think, Rethink. Be willing to change your goals if you need to. Maybe you started small but are now ready for bigger things. Or maybe your life has changed, and you need to make things fit better. On the other hand, if you find you're always scaling back, maybe you need to check your goal-setting again.

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