The first step for healthy weight loss is to create some sort of weight loss plan.
I know that sounded a little vague, but your weight loss plan does NOT have to be something that only NASA could understand or approve.
YOUR weight loss plan should include such simple things as what activities (exercise) you are going to indulge in, when, where, and so on. You will want to outline your weight loss goals, long term goals as well as short term goals. You will need to outline what your strategy will be for nutrition...notice I DID NOT say "diet"!
Why have a formal, or at least semi-formal, weight loss plan?
It has long been known to those who are successful in business, sports, entertainment, motivation, and other areas, that one way to improve your chances of success is to sit down and write out where you are, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there.
It is easier to plan for weight loss or any other goal related activity if there exists a clear picture of starting points, ending points, and how you intend to move from one point to the other. It is very easy to start a weight loss program or any other activity with intense motivation and a flurry of lofty plans only to lose site of the objective or to be led down unproductive paths by daily activities and the blurring effect of time.
Here are a few tips to consider when putting together YOUR personal weight loss plan:
1. Make your weight loss goals realistic:
Wanting to weigh what you weighed in high school is, for most of us at least, unrealistic. Using some movie star's weight or a relative's weight as your goal is also possibly detrimental to actually accomplishing effective weight loss. Each of those people arrived at THEIR weight by a combination of genetics, diet, and exercise which may not apply to you at all!
Most people do not realize that a healthy weight loss program should, for most people, result in a weight loss of only a pound or so a week. To many who have been striving for years to lose weight, this may seem a depressing statement. However, let me put it in perspective.
I have a close friend who was so desperate to lose weight that she opted for gastric bypass surgery. She weighed 340 lbs at the time of the surgery. When the doctor was briefing her on what to expect, she learned that even with surgical intervention, she would probably only lose about 70 lbs in her first year. That works out to 1.35 lbs a week, which would be a healthy weight loss that most people could achieve through a combination of physical activity and proper nutrition. The doctor also informed my friend that she would continue to lose weight over the following years until she reached some new level which would be determined by genetics, nutrition, and activity. This is the same expectation that anyone bypassing the bypass and opting for a healthy weight loss program could expect.
Finally, unrealistic weight loss goals insure failure, while an average of a pound a week over a period of a year is relatively easy to attain with motivation and effort.
2. Do not focus on weight loss:
I know that sounds strange since your goal IS weight loss, but it is easy to see failure if you are only looking for weight loss. For example, people's weight fluctuates from day to day and even within the day itself. A temporary setback where weight is regained becomes inflated if viewed against the background of only weight loss. However, if your goal is to do the things which are going to make you healthy, for example, then those few days of overeating at Thanksgiving may be more excusable in your own heart if you know that you have been taking your walks, or have cut your use of sugar, or are still taking action in some other form.
This is something that should be considered in your weight loss plan. How are you going to make your life better overall? How many ways can you approach "weight loss"? Do not make it your goal to lose so many pounds this week. Rather, set a goal to walk so many minutes, lift so many pounds, garden for so many minutes. That way, even if your weight does not change that much in that period or even goes in the wrong direction, you still know that your body is benefiting from the parts of your weight loss plan that you are still in touch with.
NOTE: People who begin exercising as part of their weight loss program often experience a weight GAIN somewhere in the first few weeks of their new exercise experience. THIS IS PERFECTLY NATURAL! If you have just begun exercising to lose weight and experience a weight gain, this should be only temporary, and is most commonly caused by your body adding muscle mass faster than it loses fat.
3. Plan to go slow:
I don't know if there is a statistic somewhere that demonstrates how many people drop out of their weight loss program due to stress, strain, pain, or just plain burnout. However, I have experienced it myself, I have read about it, and I know people it has happened to. Sometimes the simplest statements are most true. One that you will often hear is, "It took years for your body to get this way, and you cannot change it overnight." This is so true. Also, take into consideration that, even though you might not be SEEING significant changes, if you are taking the steps that you have outlined in your weight loss plan, your body is adapting inside, in places you cannot see, but it is repairing and preparing to move to higher levels of fitness and health.
4. Plan to measure your progress:
I know I said not to stress so much about the weight loss, but you do need to see what is going on. You don't have to concentrate exclusively on pounds lost, however. If you can walk farther this week than you could two or three weeks ago, you are progressing. Hopefully, in another two weeks, you will be walking farther, or faster. If, at the start of your weight loss program you could only exercise for five minutes at a time, and now you can exercise for 15 minutes, that is progress, isn't it? That's an accomplishment and is something you should be proud of.
NOTE: One measurement of progress in a weight loss program is quite simply "size". Two weeks into a weight loss program, you might actually have gained weight, for example, as I pointed out a few paragraphs ago. However, if your clothes are looser, or you need to buy smaller clothes, or friends are coming up and asking, "Have you lost weight?" these are good signs that your program is working even if your scales haven't gotten the news yet.
5. Plan to stay motivated:
One of the most common obstacles that knock people off their weight loss program is loss of motivation. The drive and excitement that gets you started is very seldom still around when you lace up your walking shoes for what seems like the millionth time and have only lost two lbs.
Including your reasons for losing weight, the emotional and perhaps physical triggers that got you started in the first place, as part of your written weight loss plan gives you a means of reinvigorating your desire to achieve your goals. We often forget how we felt and what we believed at the start of such a journey, and being able to pull out the paper and review the dreams and expectations can bring us back up to that original level, or at least remind us of what we are enduring this for.
I used to be an instructor for a major national corporation, and one thing that I and other instructors would tell our students was, to achieve their goals, they had to, "plan their work, and work their plan."
Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin
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