Losing Weight: Getting Started
Losing weight takes more than desire. It takes commitment and a well-thought-out plan. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.
Making the decision to lose weight, change your lifestyle, and become healthier is a big step. Start by making a commitment to yourself. Many people find it helpful to sign a written contract committing to the process. This contract may include how much weight you want to lose, the date you’d like to lose the weight by, changes you’ll make to establish healthy eating patterns, and a plan for regular physical activity.
Writing down the reasons you want to lose weight can also help. It might be because you have a family history of heart disease, or because you want to see your kids get married, or because you want to feel better in your clothes. Post these reasons where they serve as a daily reminder of why you want to make this change.
Consider talking to your health care providers. They can evaluate your height, weight, and explore other weight-related risk factors you may have. Ask for a follow-up appointment to monitor changes in your weight or any related health conditions.
Write down everything you eat for a few days in a food diary pdf icon[PDF-106KB]. By doing this, you become more aware of what you are eating and when you are eating. This awareness can help you avoid mindless eating.
Next, examine your current lifestyle. Identify things that might pose challenges to your weight loss efforts. For example, does your work or travel schedule make it difficult to get enough physical activity? Do you find yourself eating sugary foods because that’s what you buy for your kids? Do your coworkers frequently bring high-calorie items, such as doughnuts, to the workplace to share with everyone? Think through things you can do to help overcome these challenges.
Set some short-term goals and reward your efforts along the way. Maybe your long-term goal is to lose 40 pounds and to control your high blood pressure. Then some short-term eating and physical activity goals might be to start eating breakfast, take a 15 minute walk in the evenings, or have a salad or vegetable with supper.
Focus on two or three goals at a time. Great, effective goals are —
- Forgiving (less than perfect)
For example, “Exercise More” is not a specific goal. But if you say, “I will walk 15 minutes, 3 days a week for the first week,” you are setting a specific and realistic goal for the first week.
Remember, small changes every day can lead to big results in the long run. Also remember that realistic goals are achievable goals. By achieving your short-term goals day-by-day, you’ll feel good about your progress and be motivated to continue. Setting unrealistic goals, such as losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks, can leave you feeling defeated and frustrated.
Being realistic also means expecting occasional setbacks. Setbacks happen for many reasons – maybe the holidays, longer work hours, or another life change. When setbacks happen, get back on track as quickly as possible. Also take some time to think about how you could prevent setbacks in similar future situations.
Keep in mind everyone is different – what works for someone else might not be right for you. Just because your neighbor lost weight by taking up running, doesn’t mean running is the best option for you. Try a variety of activities such as walking, swimming, tennis, or group exercise classes. See what you enjoy most and can fit into your life. These activities will be easier to stick with over the long term.
Find family members or friends who will support your weight loss efforts. Making lifestyle changes can feel easier when you have others you can talk to and rely on for support. You might have coworkers or neighbors with similar goals, and together you can share healthful recipes and plan group exercise.
Joining a weight loss group or visiting a health care professional such as a registered dietitian can help. Healthcare providers, may provide further information about medicationsexternal icon, devices or even surgery to assist you in controlling your weight and supporting your overall health.
Revisit the goals you set for yourself in Step 3 and evaluate your progress regularly. If your goal is to walk each morning but have trouble fitting it in before work, see if you can shift your work hours or if you can walk at lunchtime or after work. Evaluate which parts of your plan are working well and which ones need tweaking. Then rewrite your goals and plan accordingly.
If you are consistently achieving a particular goal, add a new goal to help you continue on your pathway to success.
Reward yourself for your successes! Recognize when you’re meeting your goals and be proud of your progress. Use non-food rewards, such as a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, a sports outing with friends, or a relaxing bath. Rewards help keep you motivated on the path to better health.
What is healthy weight loss and why should you bother?
Improving Your Eating Habits
Your eating habits may be leading to weight gain; for example, eating too fast, always clearing your plate, eating when you’re not hungry and skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast).
Keeping the Weight Off
Losing weight is the first step. Once you’ve lost weight, you’ll want to learn how to keep it off.
National Institutes of Health Resources:
- Treatmentexternal icon for overweight and obesity.
- Choosing a safe and successful weight-loss programexternal icon.
- Prescription medicationsexternal icon to treat overweight and obesity.
- Bariatric surgeryexternal icon for severe obesity.