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Making lifestyle changes doesn't come naturally. To change your eating and exercise habits, you've got to plan - to make it happen.

You're running late, flying out the door. You might skip breakfast: the cereal box is empty, and the milk's gone sour. Forget taking lunch: there's peanut butter in the jar, but you are out of bread. Exercise before work? You've got to be kidding. It's a typical hectic morning, at the beginning of a typical jam-packed day. What happened to those resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, lose weight? It's easy for them to get lost in the daily shuffle.

In a perfect world, we could accomplish all this by the time our busy day starts:

  • Jump out of bed by 6:30 (or earlier).
  • Get a good chunk of exercise, 20 minutes or more.
  • Eat a satisfying but healthy breakfast: fresh fruit, high-fiber cereal, low-fat milk.
  • Brown-bag a wholesome lunch: more fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, whole-wheat bread, homemade vegetable soup (maybe that you prepared last night).

It's true -- with a little planning, this could be your reality. Your morning rush would go more smoothly, and your weight loss efforts would stay on track. You bounce out of bed, knowing what your next move is - all day, all week, all year.

"If you leave exercise and healthy eating to chance, it's not going to happen," says Milton Stokes, RD, MPH, chief dietitian for St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City. "You're responsible for you. Use your personal digital assistant to set your day - gym time, dinner. Make these things pre-meditated - so it's not like a surprise, you've got an extra hour, should you go to the gym or watch TV. If you don't plan it, you won't do it."

Planning for Weight Loss

Planning helps you build new habits, says Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, the Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in Pittsburgh and author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan. "Without planning, you're always going to be struggling - trying to figure out how to eat what you should. You'll end up making yourself eat things you don't want to eat. Eating will always feel like work."

Indeed, planning involves discipline - and that is a key trait that is evident among the "successful losers" who belong to The National Weight Control Registry. They have maintained a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year - and many have lost much more, and kept it off for much longer.

"It is very difficult to lose weight and keep it off - and people who succeed must have discipline," says James O. Hill, PhD, the Registry's co-founder and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "People who are most successful plan their day to ensure that they stick to their eating plan and get regular physical activity. It takes effort to be successful in long-term weight management."

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