Samantha Heller MS RD
At any one time more than 80 million Americans are on a “diet”. With 72.3% of women and 64.1% of men overweight or obese it is clear “dieting” does not work. Emerging research suggests that people who have been overweight or obese for long periods of time are not only battling environmental and psychological influences but physiological ones as well. So what can you do if you want to lose some weight? Here are the top 6 essential steps you need to get started on a successful weight loss program.
1. Assess your motivation: Determine how motivated you are to do what it takes to adopt a new healthier lifestyle. On a scale from one to ten, one being “Fuggedaboutit” and ten being “YES 1000% motivated”, where does your motivation fall? If it is below about 8 then perhaps this is not the best time for you to begin healthy lifestyle changes.
If you do not feel motivated, ask your self why? What is getting in the way? A fear of deprivation, hunger, feeling overwhelmed, and stress can all contribute to a lack of motivation. Also not knowing how or where to begin can quash your good intentions. Seeing a registered dietitian is a great way to start. She can help you create a healthy eating plan that works for you. Go to www.eatright.org and plug in your zip code to find an RD near you. There are some decent online programs. Weight Watchers is one that seems to have been helpful for people. https://signup.weightwatchers.com/SignupVersions/Online/StepOne.aspx
2. Set realistic goals. Once you decide you are truly motivated set some realistic goals. You are not going to lose 10 pounds in 3 days. Focus on making doable, practical choices first. Take into account where you live and work and what is realistic in terms of your daily life, budget and food preferences. For example: losing 1-2 pounds/week, eating breakfast or adding exercise to your daily routine. Make a list of your goals.
3. Create a very specific game plan. Write a meal by meal menu and a shopping list to help you get organized. Set simple steps for yourself each day. For example: instead of skipping breakfast have a 100% whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter; tonight, do not eat in front of the TV; get up earlier and walk 15 minutes in the morning; eat whole grain cereal with unsweetened soy milk, strawberries & 1 tbls of walnuts for breakfast.
4. Be positive and patient. Always give yourself a pat on the back for making healthy choices. But do not berate yourself for falling off the wagon. Look at the event as a learning experience and move forward. Remember, weight loss takes time and behavior change is a process. Be kind and patient with yourself.
5. Never starve yourself or follow a fad diet. Adopting habits that you can keep forever is what will stick with you for the long haul.
6. Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat & drink, even a few grapes or a guzzle of juice. This will help you eat consciously and increase your awareness of how much and what you are choosing to eat. Food diaries will help you see what your triggers are; for example, stress, boredom or eating at night, so you can then create strategies for managing them.
Finally, your goals should be about being healthy and feeling great not being skinny. Seek support from friends, family and health professionals. Find a partner with whom you can exercise, exchange recipes or share experiences. Choosing healthy foods more often than not and adding regular physical activity to your day will help you reach and maintain a healthier weight.