Health Library

Categories > Diet and Nutrition > Weight management

Ready, set, succeed!

Every January, you vow to finally drop those extra pounds you’ve been lugging around, and every February, you give up, going back to your old ways. Don’t despair: It happens to millions of us. Make this the year you succeed with these stick-to-it tips:

  1. Make sure you’re ready. Before you begin overhauling your lifestyle, resolve any issues that could be contributing to your weight gain, such as depression, work stress or money worries. If you’ve got too much on your plate, maybe now isn’t the best time to start a weight-loss program. Instead, seek professional help to deal with the stress and any emotional issues holding you back. Then you can concentrate on slimming down.
  2. Set realistic—and specific—goals. Don’t just say, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” Instead, focus on how you’re going to slim down. A better goal? “I’m going to start jogging and work my way up to three miles a day, four days a week.”
  3. Have a support system. Getting a little guidance, whether from a dietitian, personal trainer, workout partner or all three, makes dieting easier and can help you be more successful at dropping excess pounds.
  4. Make like the tortoise. Frustrating as it may be, slow and steady is the way to go when it comes to weight loss. Aim to drop one to two pounds a week. Losing more means you’re probably losing water weight and lean muscle mass—not excess fat. This can leave you fatigued and more apt to gain back the weight.
  5. Grab a pen. Write down when you ate, what you had, how you felt at the time and how you could eat more healthfully. You may begin to notice a pattern to your bad habits (do you gravitate toward salty foods when you’re bored?) that you can work on changing. Chart your progress when you exercise by jotting down what you did and for how long.
  6. Plan to goof. Don’t beat yourself up for that weekend chocolate binge and don’t give up on your goal after one slip-up. Instead, vow to get back on track at your next meal. And take time to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.
  7. Have fun. Yes, experts recommend you get at least an hour of activity a day to lose weight, but if you hate walking on a treadmill, don’t do it. You’ll likely quit if you feel obligated to stick to a workout you don’t enjoy. Instead, try finding activities you do like: Tennis, dancing, ice skating and biking are all excellent options.
  8. Get creative. Eating bland, boring food day after day can put you on the fast track to failure. Instead, experiment with herbs and spices to liven up that grilled chicken and vow to buy one new fruit or vegetable a week.
  9. Reward yourself. For each milestone you reach, big (losing 30 pounds) or small (completing a two-mile walk), treat yourself to a new outfit, massage or other nonfood reward. Such incentives can keep you moving forward.
  10. Lengthen your meals. Change the way you approach meals. For example, make an effort to eat more slowly. You’ll enjoy the food, and you may even find that you eat less, since it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to signal that you’ve had enough.