Success Secrets from Weight Loss Clinics
Weight Loss Rx
Success Secrets from the Pros
Evaluating Your Behavior and Emotions
Choosing an Approach
Increasing Daily Activity
Keeping the Weight Off
You know the old saying “A journey begins with a single step,” but sometimes that first foot on the ground—or into a sneaker—can be the hardest one you take. Still, wanting to lose weight and being ready to make healthy lifestyle changes are parts of the equation too. “A healthier life begins the day you decide that you are going to align your actions with your intentions,” says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, who leads the Integrated Weight Loss program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. “Weight loss starts not when you lose 1 pound, but when you make a decision to go to bed earlier or eat a healthier meal.”
Try these five strategies when embarking on a new weight loss goal:
Devise your own plan. At the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, lead dietitian Katrina Seidman, RD, uses a technique called “motivational interviewing” to help clients formulate weight loss plans and healthy habits that they can—and will want to—stick to. “You’re not so much telling people what to do or teaching people what to do,” she ways. “You’re getting a person to formulate and create and decide what changes he or she wants to make and how to proceed.”Seidman and her staff ask questions like, “What do you think you could do to avoid grabbing a bag of chips for your nighttime snack?” A patient’s response is used as a guide toward making a healthy change (e.g., "I always eat chips when I watch television, so I’m going to try taking a walk after dinner instead of sitting down with the remote.”) “If the suggestion comes from the patient, it has much more value and it is more likely to be followed,” says Seidman.
Share your goals. “When we talk to others, we get perspective,” says Futuronsky. “When left to our own devices, it’s kind of difficult to get a realistic sense of what is true.” She advises talking to a friend, family member, or coworker, or writing in a journal. Start with broad statements, like “What I want in my life is…” and “My commitment to myself is…” Then boil things down to what you can do now: Jot down “What I’m willing to do today is…” and fill in the blank with a healthy habit that you can stick with for the entire day, she suggests.
Immerse yourself. Jumping into a healthier lifestyle feet first can be very motivating, says Futuronsky, noting that when participants in Kripalu’s 5-day retreat-style weight loss program arrive on Sunday and start eating a whole-food diet and participating in outdoor exercise and yoga that they typically feel better by Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thursday they are beaming and by Friday they are profoundly motivated because they are not clogged with processed foods, caffeine, and sugar and have spent the past week participating in daily physical activity, she explains. Still, it’s important to bear in mind that achieving your ultimate goal will take time and that small changes made over time will pay off (more on that below).
Acknowledge intermediate achievements. When setting a weight loss goal, there’s often a disconnect between how much weight someone wants to lose and what amount of weight loss could improve that person’s health, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. The CDC states that even modest weight loss of 5 to 10% of your total body weight (a 200-pound individual would need to drop 10 to 20 pounds) can produce lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar. Still, many patients are not satisfied with losing only 10 pounds. “When setting goals, keep in mind that you can get benefits from intermediate weight loss too,” says Cheskin.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Adopting an all-or-nothing attitude can put you on the fast track to failing a weight loss strategy. It’s important to talk yourself down from overpromising (e.g., hitting the gym 7 days a week), says Futuronsky. Instead, take one day at a time, deciding what you’ll do today and acknowledging that even small bouts of activity (like 10 minutes of yoga or stretching) are better than no activity at all, she says.