Keep your motivation high all year long.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
"Starting January 1st, I am going to eat right, exercise regularly, and lose this weight once and for all." Sound familiar? The No. 1 New Year's resolution is to lose weight, and for good reason: 65% of American adults are overweight. To make matters worse, many people are carrying a few recently added pounds from the holiday season.
Enthusiasm and desire are high on Jan. 1, but come February, those good intentions often wane, and old habits return. How can you keep this from happening to you? First, make sure your fitness goals and eating plan is realistic. Remind yourself how long it took to gain the weight, and be patient as you slowly make lifestyle changes that will eventually help you improve your health and reach your weight loss goal.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay motivated all year long:
1. Make conscious decisions. If you really want another piece of candy or a big piece of pie, justify it. Eat smaller portions of other foods (except for the low-calorie, filling ones like vegetables) to save calories for the treats you crave, and/or spend a little more time working out. Remember this simple equation: Eating more than you burn equals weight gain.
2. Keep portions in check. Studies have shown that the more you are served, the more you will eat. Serve yourself small portions of rich, high-calorie foods and large portions of healthy foods like vegetables, salads, and broth-based soups.
3. Take concrete steps to improve your eating and exercise habits. According to the International Food Information Council, most people believe they know what they need to do to be healthier, but are not doing it. The reasons? Lack of motivation, competing priorities, and time restraints. It's important to find the inspiration you need to help you take concrete steps to improve your health. Do you want to live a longer, healthier life? Or maybe you simply dream of fitting into those smaller-sized jeans. Write down whatever motivates you, and keep it close at hand to help inspire you toward success.
4. Believe in yourself. Expect to be successful. In order to succeed, you must believe in your ability to control what you eat and how often you exercise. When the going gets tough, seek the support of a dieting buddy, other friends, or family. A positive attitude and an enthusiastic approach to a healthful lifestyle set you up for success.
5. Celebrate your successes. Take a trip down memory lane: Think back to how much you weighed and what your health was like when you began your weight loss program. Now pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Keep an old photo nearby to remind yourself how far you've already come. Celebrate your accomplishments, and let them help motivate you to keep up the good work.
6. Track your food intake and physical activity. The simple act of writing this information down has proven to be one of the most powerful weight loss tools. Use the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic journal, or keep your own written records.
7. Enjoy how good your healthier weight feels. Are you more energetic? Sleeping better? Has your doctor remarked on your improved blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol level? Taking off even a few extra pounds can do wonders for your body and your health. When you're tempted to abandon your healthy eating plan, remember how good it feels being thinner.
8. Fit in fitness. Physical activity is essential to burning calories and losing weight and -- especially important this time of year -- relieving stress. If your schedule is crazy, take 10-minute breaks throughout the day to power up your jump rope, walk around the block, or whatever you can to fit in some fitness. Or strap on a pedometer and work on taking more steps throughout the day, wherever your day takes you.
9. Satisfy cravings. The best-laid plans can go astray when you're faced with insatiable cravings for sweets or other favorite foods. So satisfy your craving with a small portion of the food you desire. Eat it slowly, savor every bite, and then resist the urge to reach for more. Another option: Chew on a piece of sugarless gum. Studies have shown that this can be a calorie-free way to satisfy your urge for something sweet.
10. Weigh in regularly. Keeping track of your weight is another trick employed by successful losers. When you see the needle on your scale going in the wrong direction, nip it in the bud by increasing physical activity and watching portion sizes more carefully. Don't wait for your weight to spiral out of control. Make small changes as soon as you see the number increasing.
Originally published December 22, 2005.
Updated December 2006.
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