Sunday, February 14, 2010

Serious about losing weight? Follow this 5-point checklist

I remember when I wanted to lose weight. I just wanted to lose weight. I was tired of squeezing into my jeans and despairing at the flabby reflection in the mirror. I wanted the fat to be gone. But at that stage, I wasn't willing to make the changes losing weight required. I had no intention of giving up easy dinners of pizza and hamburgers. If my husband was going to have a slice of cake after lunch, then I wanted to enjoy one too. If friends invited us over for dinner I was hardly going to refuse a rich and delicious meal. If I stayed up late at night, then my goodness, I really needed to get my rest the next day - forget exercising.

I was not serious about losing weight.

Years - and many failed diets - later, I got serious. Something clicked. This time I was ready to make all of the lifestyle changes that would support losing weight - and staying slim, fit and healthy. When I look back, I can see clearly what was required to make this happen. Here is my 5-point check-list. Rate yourself - are these statements true for you?

You're serious about losing weight if you:

1. Have a definite, numerical weight-loss goal. If your goal is to fit back into the jeans you wore when you were 16 (or 21 or before the baby!), that's not good enough. You need a number - actually two numbers. First, the number you want to see on the scale when you have lost all the fat you need to lose. Second, the number of pounds or kilograms you need to drop to see the first number on the scale. Both numbers are very important. The first number is your goal weight and the weight that you will maintain. The second number should be divided by 1 pound or 500 grams (which is a healthy, weekly fat-loss average) to give you the number of weeks it is going to take you to reach your goal weight. For example, my goal was to lose 22 pounds. Ideally I would be losing 1 pound a week - so I knew it would take me 22 weeks to lose the weight. That's about five months. By by identifying and writing down these two numbers you can track how your weight-loss is progressing each week and make any changes required. You also get perspective - while you really want to fit back into those jeans, you now know it is going to take you five months.

2. Have someone you're accountable to. If you've done Weight Watchers before (or if you're doing it now!), you can appreciate the importance of the weekly weigh-ins. You have to front up, get weighed and be accountable to your supervisor and the others in the group. What a great system! Enlist yourself with a nutritionist or dietician who can track your progress each week and give you the right nutrition advice. Being accountable to someone other than yourself is a solid way to stay on-track every day. You know you're going to have explain any indescretion - it's much easier to just stick with a clean programme.

3. Have a definitive food plan and keep a food diary. Just planning to 'eat healthy' or 'cut out junk food' will not work. Why? Because our brains are too clever! They find ways of justifying any delicious morsel. You need to spell out exactly what foods you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that are going to support your weight-loss goals. Anything not on that list cannot be eaten. Simple as that. Keep a food diary - write down exactly what you eat every day. I keep my food diary in a handy place so that I can write down what I eat after each meal or snack. Sounds a bit over-the-top, but when you weigh yourself each week and you're not seeing a loss, the food diary becomes a handy reference. It also makes you accountable - I can't tell you how much it pains me to have to write down something that is not on my food programme. The food diary has kept me from 'cheating' a fair few times!

4. Are committed to a clearly-defined exercise programme. Set out exactly when, where, what and how long you are going to exercise for. My exercise goals have changed over the years but here's my current clearly-defined exercise programme: Monday through Friday, walk briskly for 40 minutes in on my neighbourhood streets starting at 6:45 in the morning. I know myself too well, if I just set the goal to 'walk in the morning', I would justify this as having been accomplished if I only walked two mornings in a week at a slow pace.

5. Tell people what you are doing. I don't mean emailing your entire contact list about the weight-loss journey you've set out on. I'm talking about those social situations that often cause people to cave in on their weight-loss commitments such as Friday night drinks after work, morning tea shouts, lunch or dinner with friends. If people ask why you are not indulging in all the food and drinks, just tell them. Don't say that you are 'trying to lose weight' or that you are 'on a diet'. That seems to be an open invitation for people to tell you how you don't need to lose weight or 'just have a little'. The best line I've come up with if people ask is: "I only have treat food once a week and this isn't it." Amazing how this works.

If all of these statements are true for you, congratulations, you are on the road to weight-loss!

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