A new mind-set
Dawn is no stranger to dieting. Over the years, she followed many different weight-loss plans. Each plan worked for a while, but eventually she would go back to her old eating habits and her weight would go back up. She says that with dieting "There is a mind-set that this is a diet. And when I get to my goal weight, then I don't have to do the diet anymore."
She found that with each diet it got a little harder to lose the weight. So when Dawn's employer decided to offer a yearlong healthy-weight program that focused on making lasting changes instead of temporary dieting, Dawn was eager to try it.
"I think I was at a spot where I was mentally prepared and wanting to do stuff," says Dawn. "I've been on the American Heart Association Diet. I've been on the diabetic diet. I've been on South Beach. I've had success in the past. But I needed something that was going to work and stay with me."
Dawn lost 35 pounds over a year on the healthy-weight program. But more important—she learned a new set of eating habits that she can live with.
Setting goals that work for her
An important part of Dawn's program was setting realistic goals that she could turn into long-term habits. She identified small changes she could make, such as eating an apple instead of a doughnut for a morning snack. Then she would try that strategy for 1 week. If it was something that Dawn was easily able to do, she would add it to her list of healthy eating habits. If it didn't work well for her, she would try another type of healthy eating change the next week.
Making one change at a time helped Dawn sort through all the nutrition advice she had heard and pick out only the things that worked well for her. And it allowed Dawn to try a variety of healthy eating strategies without feeling like a failure if something didn't work with her lifestyle.
"I didn't try to completely redo my whole diet. I focused on things that seemed reasonable at the time," Dawn says. "There were other things that I tried for that week that didn't work so well. So I put those aside." Dawn would think to herself, "That might be a good idea for other people, but it doesn't work for me."