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Winning Mental Strategies for Weight Loss

Realistic expectations lead to lasting lifestyle changes.
By Pamela Peeke, MD, FACP, MPH
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

What's keeping you from losing weight successfully? Chances are, it's not just what you're eating and how much (or how little) you're exercising. For most people, a major part of the problem is how they think about their food, their exercise, and themselves.

(Not So) Great Expectations

Life's greatest stresses come from unmet expectations. Here you are, expecting to lose precisely 2.5 pounds per week. Where did you get that? Develop realistic expectations. Most people who are 20 to 50 pounds overweight can count on shedding one to two pounds per week, if they're on top of their game. (But we're not always on top of our game. More about that later.) You get excited and want to take care of this problem all at once, and that's not what this is about. Learn how to take off the weight commensurate with what your body can give you.

You might be saying, "Peeke, that's too slow. I want to do it faster." Well, then, you'll suffer. With short cuts, I'll guarantee you consequences -- consequences you don't want. Short cuts give you consequences, patience gives you progress.

Regroup and Recover

Now, let's talk about how to handle it when you're not at the top of your game. Life happens. Maybe you're doing very well and have lost 10 pounds of the 50 you're trying to lose. Then life hits. Your mother gets ill, your husband gets depressed, or you're having serious problems at work. Since life has obstacles, expect them. If you do, you'll be much better prepared to handle them. People who do best at maintaining a healthy body weight over time are people I call "master regroupers."

How do you regroup? First, expect to have multiple starts. Maybe you did pretty well this week, but then winter hit and it killed your plans to exercise outside. When something comes along, don't feel hopeless, helpless, defeated. Have in the back of your mind a plan A, B, and C. A is wonderful, B is OK, and C is not so great, but it'll do. A might be a beautiful walk outside, B might be, "If it snows, I'll be on the treadmill at the gym." C might be, "If I can't get to the gym, I'll climb the stairs at home for 20 minutes." It's the people who are paralyzed in plan A who fall apart. They find it impossible to sustain any kind of lifestyle change.

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One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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