A step by step guide to losing weight-including set goals, action steps, and a relapse plan-makes weight loss easier and increases the chances of success.
According to Harvard University, almost $50 billion is spent each year on weight-loss products and services. A massive industry is dedicated to making money from the millions of Americans that attempt to lose weight each year. A step by step guide to losing weight increases the chances of success. Clearly defined goals, action steps, deadlines, and a plan to deal with set-backs helps to make weight loss a reality.
Defining the Goal & Making A Plan
The first step is to make a specific goal. A popular first goal is a loss of 5 percent of body weight. This is a fairly short-term goal that most people can easily reach. Other goals include reaching a certain weight, a certain size, or achieving a healthy BMI. Once the goal is defined, it should be written down.
The second step is designed to change the goal from wishful thinking into concrete actions. There are three parts to a healthy lifestyle: nutrition, fitness, and motivation.
- Nutrition is the one part of losing weight that gets the most attention. A person wanting to lose weight needs to eat within a certain calorie range. There are a multitude of plans- both free and cost-based- that help people to track nutrition. Sparkpeople is a free online service that is becoming fairly popular. Popular cost-based plans include Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and the Atkins diet. A person should select a nutritional plan carefully, checking with their doctor that the plan is healthy, safe, and that it transitions easily into a healthy lifestyle.
- Fitness is not only a vital part of weight loss, but essential to a healthy lifestyle.
- Motivation is often overlooked, but necessary to success. Motivation can include “before” pictures, various ways of tracking progress, quotes, notes around the house, and support of friends and family.
In this step, concrete steps should be decided upon. These can include: eating within calorie range six days per week, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables, exercising 30 minutes per day, and writing down one reason per day to lose weight. A person should write down exactly what they are going to do and turn these steps into a non-negotiable part of their day.
Exercise is Vital to Long-Term Success
Becoming physically fit is often skipped by people attempting to lose weight and eventually this leads to their failure. Exercise is a vital part of weight loss, as demonstrated in “A Descriptive Study of Individuals Successful at Long-Term Maintenance of Substantial Weight Loss.” The study showed that 89% of people who successfully kept weight off long-term had increased their physical activity level. The third step of starting an exercise program- no matter how small- and making it part of a healthy lifestyle is absolutely essential to losing weight and keeping it off.
Tracking Progress, Meeting Deadlines, & Rewards
The fourth step is tracking progress. A detailed food journal and exercise diary are vital to both short- and long-term success. Weight should also be tracked on a weekly basis. Tracking progress both increases awareness of how well one is doing and also provides a record to show over time which actions work and which actions don’t. A simple checklist of the concrete action steps defined above should be checked each day to see if those steps were achieved.
The fifth step is to set mini-deadlines. Deadlines turn wishful thinking into concrete action. These mini-deadlines can be losing a pound a week or achieving an increase in fitness level each week- such as increased exercise time or distance. Mini-deadlines should be an immediate, but reasonable, goal. This provides instant motivation and breaks up the long-term goal into reasonable parts.
Rewarding oneself for achievement is vital to long-term success and is the sixth step in losing weight. Rewards should be determined ahead of time, should be given for accomplishments- such as losing a certain amount of weight or meeting a fitness goal-, and should not be food-related. Rewards should be tailored towards the individual, making it feel like a genuine celebration when they can finally buy that new purse or video game.
Managing Hurdles & Achieving Success
Setbacks are an unavoidable part of any long-term plan. If one is prepared ahead of time, and has defined exactly what they are going to do, these setbacks can be temporary and can even be turned into a learning experience. As with the other steps, actually writing down the information increases the chances of success – most people attempting to lose weight do so in a lackadaisical fashion with little planning and tracking.
Setbacks can include over-indulging in food, losing motivation, or insufficient exercise. If one has a possible problem and a defined, written solution- such as “immediately go back to healthy eating, do not say “well, today is already ruined” – setbacks are turned into small hurdles that are easily overcome.
The final step is achieving success and re-adjusting goals if necessary. If a goal is not reached the first time around, the solution is to try again. The only way to ensure failure is to stop trying. On the other hand, should the first goal be reached easily, a person may decide to attempt a more ambitious goal. For weight loss in general, once the desired weight loss is reached, the person should immediately start working a plan for maintaining weight loss.
No Magical Solution to Weight Loss
There is no magical solution to weight loss: no pill, no diet, and no exercise plan is going to melt away the pounds without serious effort on the part of person wanting to lose weight. “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration,” as noted by famous inventor Thomas Edison. This holds true in weight loss as well. The person losing weight must make a dedicated effort to achieving their goal. A good plan can help them on their way, but it cannot achieve success on its own.
- Edison, Thomas A. (1999-2010). Thomas Alva Edison Quotes. Think Exist.com.
- Harvard Health Publications. (2009). Lose Weight and Keep It Off.
- Klem, Mary L.; Wing Rena R.; McGuire Maureen T.; Seagle Helen M.; and Hill, James O. (1997). A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66, 239-246.