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Expert Q&A: Getting Started With a Weight Loss Plan

An interview with James O. Hill, PhD.

How much exercise should I be doing? continued...

You could also try using a step counter, which I think is a wonderful tool. They give you immediate feedback and make setting goals easy. We find that people in the National Weight Control Registry take an average of 11,000-12,000 steps a day, which works out to about five to six miles. But when you’re just starting out, take it slowly. Work up to an hour a day slowly in 15 minute increments.

Getting in your physical activity will never be easy. Even people who have been doing it for years will tell you that they still have to force themselves to get out there every day. But if you want to keep off weight, exercise has to be a priority.

How many calories should I be eating?

To lose weight, you can go on a 1,200- or 1,400-calorie diet. Eating that amount will work very well for weight loss. The problem is that although you can eat 1,200 calories for a few months, you can’t eat that way forever. You won’t be satisfied by so few calories and won’t be able to keep it up.

So I have a radical idea. I think you should eat as many calories as you can. But the only way you can eat more calories is if you balance them with increased exercise. The more exercise you do, the more you can eat.

How can I stay motivated to lose or maintain my weight?

People have no problem staying motivated in the short-term. A person will think, “Gosh, I’m going to a wedding in six weeks – I have to lose some weight.” And as you start to lose the weight, it can be pretty easy. You get a lot of positive feedback, because everyone’s telling you how good you look.

But as time goes on, you get diminishing returns. You stop getting compliments because people are used to your new appearance. Then you have to rely on internal motivation, which is a lot harder. So that’s why it’s so important to start weight loss with a real commitment to making changes forever. It’s not easy. But we’ve found that the longer you keep weight off, the better your odds. People report that after they keep the weight off for three years, their likelihood of ongoing success is pretty high.

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