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Is Your Weight Loss Goal Realistic?

Learn how to set (and meet) healthy goals

Changes You Can Live With continued...

Adopting a new lifestyle means finding the behaviors and attitudes that led to weight gain and, once you've figured out your bad habits, gradually changing them into healthier patterns.

For example, are you a member of the "clean plate club"? Do you mindlessly consume your food in record time? Do you eat in front of the television? Are you always eating or drinking something?

Start to adopt more healthful behaviors such as leaving a few bites of food on your plate at each meal, slowing down and tasting every bite, eliminating interruptions to your meals, and filling your spare time with activities other than eating.

Or your own "better behaviors" might include wearing a pedometer and walking 5,000-10,000 steps each day; switching to fat-free or light food products; giving up fried foods; starting each day with a nutritious breakfast -- the options are endless. The trick is finding changes that are easy for you to incorporate into your life. And when you do something repeatedly, it soon becomes automatic.

So set "process goals" (such as eating five servings of vegetables each day or logging 10,000 steps three days in a row) instead of "outcome goals" (such as losing 30 pounds). Process goals are key to changing behaviors, and that's what will ultimately lead to permanent weight loss. Besides, a healthier lifestyle is more important in the long run than the number of pounds you shed.

The Top of the Mountain

In the beginning of your program, everyone is noticing your weight loss, passing out compliments and cheering you on. But get to the third month or so, and the cheerleaders often all but disappear.

Yet studies show that three to six months after making behavioral changes is an important time for reassessing your strategies. It's a critical point to continue moving forward while maintaining the new habits that got you there.

Think of this time as the top of the mountain -- and you need to get over the top for the new, healthier habits to become routine. Challenge yourself to find ways stay energized during this time: Experiment with new recipes, find a diet or exercise buddy, or try a new type of physical activity.

Take Stock

Take a minute right now to rethink your weight loss goals, and remember you are in this journey for the long haul. Accept that healthy weight loss is slow and steady. Your goal is to lose a pound or two a week. And even if you only lose half a pound, isn't that better than gaining?

Make a list of all the ways your life has improved because of your weight loss so far. Celebrate these victories, write them down, and revisit them often.

Realistic goals will improve your self-esteem and provide the reinforcement you need to help you continue the journey.

Reviewed on January 27, 2006

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