Things to consider before starting a weight-loss program

Published:  05/04/2013

Because losing weight requires a lot of focus and mental and physical energy, you can't just plunge in. You need to make a commitment and prepare yourself. Part of that preparation is determining whether now is the right time. It's OK if it's not. Your success depends on your readiness to take this challenge on. Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I motivated to make long-term lifestyle changes that are focused on eating healthy foods and exercising more?
Knowing you need to make changes is a positive first step. Also carefully consider whether you are ready to face this challenge. Ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how important it is to you.

What's going on in my life now and over the next several months?
Be aware you may set yourself up for failure by trying to improve your lifestyle if you're distracted by other major problems, whether they involve your personal relationships, your job or your finances. Give your life a chance to calm down before you start. Making the lifestyle changes necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy weight needs to be your highest priority.

Do I truly believe in losing weight slowly and safely for better health?
Losing weight slowly has proved to be safe, healthy and effective over the long term. You want to aim for a loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week for a woman. That can seem agonizingly slow in an instant-gratification society. But if you make improving your health your long-term goal, then speed won't matter.

Do I believe I can change my eating habits?
Everyone has his or her own challenges that spell disaster in any weight management program. But it's not just the types of foods that get in the way. It can be when, where and how you eat them. A good weight-loss program will help you identify and eliminate your food triggers.

Do I have family, friends or both who will support my weight-loss efforts?
It certainly helps to have someone in your corner. In fact, the more the merrier. If you don't, consider joining a weight management support group or work with an experienced Registered Dietitian and a Master Personal Trainer. Studies show that a person will have more success when supported by an experienced professional.

Am I willing to find ways to be more physically active?
Moving more is essential to losing weight and keeping it off. You'll feel better and have more energy.

Am I realistic about my weight-loss goal? Can I work on just 5 pounds at a time?
Remember, losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can reap health rewards. Start small. Work on losing 5 pounds at a time. Just because you wore a size 6 dress or 28-waist jeans in high school doesn't mean you should now. Try achieving a comfortable weight that you attained easily as a young adult. If you've always been heavy, then aim for a weight that causes your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, energy or sleep to improve.

Am I willing to record my food intake and minutes of physical activity, and will I make time to do so?
Studies show that keeping records increases your chance of success. Although this takes time at first, the amount of effort decreases as you adopt healthier habits. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how helpful it is to track your progress.

Am I willing to look at past successes and failures in weight loss and other areas of my life to see what motivates me and keeps me working on obstacles to success?
Changing behavior isn't easy. It takes time and effort. You'll run into barriers on your path to success.

Can I view changing my eating and exercise habits as a positive, even pleasurable, experience?
Losing weight and keeping it off requires patience and hard work. You'll experience both short- and long-term effects. More nutritious eating habits and increased activity will have you feeling better immediately. Most important, there will be health benefits. Try it!

Do I have an eating disorder or other emotional issues I need to get help for before I can do this?
If you have a tendency to binge and purge or to starve and overexert when you exercise, or if you're depressed or anxious, then you may want to seek professional help.

Do I believe that achieving and maintaining healthy weight is a lifelong process that requires me to change my behavior, my eating habits and my level of physical activity, and am I ready to make that commitment?
Achieving and maintaining healthy weight is a lifelong process. And it's worth the effort.

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