The holidays are over and you can settle in for the winter, but there may
be more of you to settle, thanks to all those sweet and savory treats.
So, did you make a New Year’s resolution to get on a diet and stick
to it? Vow to shed 30 pounds by spring? Promise you will NOT miss a single
day at the gym this month?
If so, you probably will not succeed in losing weight or keeping any you
do lose off. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), “Healthy weight loss isn't just about a ‘diet’
or ‘program’, it's about an ongoing lifestyle that includes
long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.”
While it’s natural to want to lose excess weight quickly, those who
shed pounds gradually and steadily–1-2 pound a week–are more
successful at keeping weight off because they commit to lifestyle changes
and becoming healthier. The CDC recommends this five-step guide to help
you get started on losing weight:
Step 1: Make a commitment
Start simply by making a commitment to yourself. You may want to sign a
written contract committing to the process that includes the amount of
weight you want to lose, the date by which you'd like to reach your
goal, dietary changes you'll make to establish healthy eating habits,
and a plan for getting physically active. Or, you can write down the reasons
why you want to lose weight–whether it’s because you have
a family history of heart disease, you want to see your kids grow up,
or you want to feel better in your clothes.
Step 2: Take stock of where you are
Talk to your health care provider, who can evaluate your height, weight,
and explore other weight-related risk factors you may have. Keep a "food
diary" for a few days, writing down everything you eat, so you become
more aware of what and when you are eating. This can help you avoid mindless eating.
Identify challenges to your weight loss efforts. For example, does work
or travel make it difficult to get enough physical activity? Do you eat
sugary foods because that's what you buy for your kids? Do your coworkers
bring in high-calorie treats to share with everyone? Think through things
you can do to help overcome these challenges, such as finding a place
near work where you can walk at lunchtime, or a gym that can provide child
care while you work out.
Step 3: Set realistic goals
Break up the big “target” into some short-term goals and reward
your efforts along the way. If your long-term goal is to lose 40 pounds
and control your high blood pressure, 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. Effective goals are specific, realistic and forgiving
(less than perfect). For example, "exercise more" is not a specific
goal. "I will walk 15 minutes, 3 days a week for the first week,"
is a specific and realistic goal. By achieving your short-term goals day-by-day,
you'll feel good about your progress and be motivated to continue.
Step 4: Identify resources for information and support.
Connect with family members and friends who support your weight loss efforts.
Making lifestyle changes can seem easier when you have others you can
talk to and rely on for support. Find out if coworkers or neighbors have
similar goals. Together you can share healthy recipes and group exercise
activities. Joining a weight loss group or meeting with a registered dietitian
also can help.
Step 5: Continually "check in" with yourself to monitor your progress
Revisit your goals and evaluate your progress regularly. If you set a
goal to walk each morning but are having trouble fitting it in before
work, see if you can shift your work hours or get your walk in at lunch
or after work. Evaluate which parts of your plan are working well and
which ones need tweaking. Then rewrite your goals and plan accordingly.
If you are consistently achieving a short-term goal, add a new one to
move your forward on your path. And 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 flowers or an outing with friends.
Rewards help keep you motivated on the path to better health.