You’re Taking the Challenge!
- Making the decision to lose weight, change your lifestyle, and become healthier is a big step to take. Losing weight takes more than desire. It takes commitment and a well-thought-out plan. Before you begin any exercise program we encourage you to talk to your health care provider. He or she can explore any weight-related risk factors you may have. Ask for a follow-up appointment to monitor changes in your weight or any related health conditions. Here are five tips to ensure long term success . . .
Keep a “food diary” for a few days, in which you write down everything you eat. By doing this, you become more aware of what you are eating and when you are eating. This awareness can help you avoid mindless eating.
- Next, examine your current lifestyle. Identify things that might pose challenges to your weight loss efforts. For example, does your work or travel schedule make it difficult to get enough physical activity? Do you find yourself eating sugary foods because that’s what you buy for your kids? Do your coworkers frequently bring high-calorie items, such as doughnuts, to the workplace to share with everyone? Think through things you can do to help overcome these challenges.
- Think about aspects of your lifestyle that can help you lose weight. For example, is there an area near your workplace where you can buy a healthy meal at lunchtime? Etc. . . .
- Set some short-term goals in addition to your S.M.A.R.T. Goals and reward your efforts along the way. If your long-term goal is to lose 40 pounds and to control your high blood pressure, some short-term eating and physical activity goals might be to start eating breakfast, taking a 15 minute walk in the evenings, or having a salad or vegetable with supper. Focus on two or three goals at a time. For example, “Exercise More” is not a specific goal. But if you say, “I will walk 15 minutes, 3 days a week for the first week,” you are setting a specific and realistic goal for the first week.
Remember, small changes every day can lead to big results in the long run. Also remember that realistic goals are achievable goals. By achieving your short-term goals day-by-day, you’ll feel good about your progress and be motivated to continue. Setting unrealistic goals, such as losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks, can leave you feeling defeated and frustrated.
Being realistic also means expecting occasional setbacks. Setbacks happen when you get away from your plan for whatever reason – maybe the holidays, longer work hours, or another life change. When setbacks happen, get back on track as quickly as possible. Also take some time to think about what you would do differently if a similar situation happens, to prevent setbacks.
Keep in mind everyone is different – what works for someone else might not be right for you. Just because your neighbor lost weight by taking up running, doesn’t mean running is the best option for you. Try a variety of activities – cycling, resistance training, elliptical to see what you enjoy most and can fit into your life. These activities will be easier to stick with over the long term.
- Revisit the goals you set for yourself and evaluate your progress regularly. If you set a goal to exercise each morning but are having trouble fitting it in before work, see if you can shift your work hours or if you can get your exercise session in or after work. Evaluate which parts of your plan are working well and which ones need tweaking. If you are consistently achieving a particular goal, add a new goal to help you continue on your pathway to success.
Reward yourself for your successes! Recognize when you’re meeting your goals and be proud of your progress. Use non-food rewards, such as a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, a sports outing with friends, or a relaxing bath. Rewards help keep you motivated on the path to better health.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.