Weight and Obesity
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Make Plans for Permanent Weight Loss

Once you feel truly ready to lose weight and have adopted new attitudes about weight loss, it's time to make some concrete plans. The following are good steps that will start you off on the right foot. Pick a meaningful start date When Steve Purser of San Francisco decided to lose weight, he knew he was prepared to forgo alcohol and substitute walks for desserts — but he didn't plunge right in. "I waited until the first of the year. I'm not really sure why. It just felt right."

Pick a start date that's personally meaningful to you: January 1, your birthday, or the anniversary of some event that pushed you to make the commitment. Get a physical Maria Simonson, Ph.D., urges would-be weight losers to consult their physicians as a general precaution, and to get a professional opinion about the level of physical activity they can manage. Plan to eat "If you're still thinking about 'dieting,'" says Jean Antonello, a nurse in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, "you're not ready. Deprivation inevitably leads to bingeing."

"In our program we insist that participants eat three meals and have three snacks every day," Simonson says. "Of course, meals and snacks should be low in fat, but you've got to eat. If you don't learn how to eat until you feel satisfied, you won't achieve permanent weight loss." Maintain your weight Here's a small, realistic, manageable goal: Don't jump into losing weight. Instead, begin by holding the line for six months. "That's a real success," Syracuse University psychologist Thomas Wadden, Ph.D., says. "It can provide a boost of confidence that helps you move on to the next step, actual weight loss." Practice sidestepping the saboteurs You're ready to lose, but at the family picnic, there's Aunt Susie handing you a thick slice of apple pie a la mode, saying, "I made it just for you." The thing to do, Olson says, is reply, "I appreciate how hard you worked on it, but I'm working hard now, too. I'm committed to losing weight and I know you'll understand when I decline."

Also, practice sidestepping the "food police." A friend who knows you're losing weight might say, "Should you have that cookie?" Psychologist Susan Olson, Ph.D., suggests replying, "I know you want to help me. So far I've made two manageable lifestyle changes: no late-night dish of ice cream, and a walk every day at lunch. Eventually, I plan to eliminate cookies, but not yet. I need you to support my progress and not make me feel guilty." Plan to weigh in once a week — and no more Many veterans of the dieting lifestyle weigh themselves several times a day. That's a mistake. Weight comes off slowly. "For permanent weight control, losing a pound a week is plenty," Kolotkin explains. "You don't see progress if you weigh in daily. Don't set yourself up for frustration and disappointment." Plan to celebrate small victories "Think of the best parents you know," Kolotkin says. "Think about the huge fuss they make over their baby's every little accomplishment. Be that parent for yourself."

"Yo-yo dieters" are often so disgusted with themselves that they become incapable even of recognizing their accomplishments, let alone celebrating them. "If they lose weight, they credit the diet," Olson says, "If they don't, they blame themselves."

If you have trouble seeing how far you've come, create some charts, not just of your weight, but also the number of minutes you walk each day, or the flights of stairs you climb. Or take pictures of yourself on the first of each month and post them.

"To lose weight permanently," Wadden says, "you have to become your own cheerleader. Don't lament, 'I only lost half a pound this week.' Say, 'All right! Another half pound! That makes seven pounds in 10 weeks. I'm doing it.'" In other words, be your own cheerleader. Plan to have fun Part of cheering your progress involves rewarding yourself — not with hot fudge sundaes, but with other treats. "After six months of walking 10 minutes a day, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes," Price suggests, "or take a weekend at a health spa." Pace your rewards so that you earn at least one a week "Don't fall into the trap of saying, 'I'll do this or that after I've lost 30 pounds,'" Wadden says. "Buy some new clothes now. See the symphony next week. Take a vacation soon. You deserve it."

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