"When you're trying to make any kind of a significant change to improve your health, it's not a simple task," says family physician Dr. Shahebina Walji at the Calgary Weight Management Centre. "Most of us have experienced very real challenges around trying to maintain those types of changes in the long run."
What can help is setting realistic goals, planning your moves and tracking your progress. So if you have your sights set on success, here are six questions to ask yourself.
1. What's my motivation?
Why do you want to lose weight? You have a better chance of success if it's because you want a health boost, not because your pals are doing it or your husband called you 'tubby'.
Be sure you really do need to lose weight. Measure your body mass index (BMI) by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in metres). A BMI of over 25 is considered overweight. But it also depends how your body weight is distributed, so take that into account too. If your waist circumference is over 88 cm, you are facing a higher risk of weight-related health problems.
2. Is this the right time?
If you're already dealing with a heavy dose of stress, a major lifestyle change may be too much to tackle. "On the flip side, you don't want to wait until you feel absolutely everything is perfect," says Dr. Walji. When is life perfect, after all? Do make sure you've addressed any medical issues, like depression or eating disorders.
3. Am I setting realistic goals?
If you're counting on dropping15 pounds in two weeks so you can wear a bikini on vacation, you might as well throw in the beach towel. A loss of a pound a week is a more realistic rate – and a healthy one, because it doesn't throw your metabolism into a tizzy.
Losing weight means shifting behaviours, but keep in mind incremental changes will be easier to manage than a full-out lifestyle makeover. Adding ten minutes of exercise to your day is more doable than adding an hour. You can take it up another notch in a week or two. "It's so much easier to implement and maintain those kinds of changes," says Dr. Walji, "and you feel a lot better about yourself when you see that you're meeting those little goals."
Page 1 of 24. What actions will I take?
A solid weight loss plan involves more than just resolving to skip dessert. Weight management should address nutrition, fitness and emotional habits. Make sure your strategy includes specific behaviour changes in these areas, like having healthier snacks, biking to the office instead of driving, and dealing with stress by going for a walk instead of reaching for the cookies.
5. What are my roadblocks?
Think about what you're up against and plot how you’ll overcome any challenges. Are you tempted by the doughnut shop on the way to work? Consider changing your route. Do you end up skipping your afternoon run when you're pressed for time? Perhaps a morning jog will work better. "Your goals will be much more achievable, because you've thought about all the kinks in the plan," Dr. Walji notes.
6. How will I mark my progress?
If you're stepping on a scale, be sure to weigh yourself at the same time every day. But be aware that a scale may not give an accurate picture of your progress. Weight doesn't always drop at an even rate. And if you're gaining muscle as you lose fat, it may not dip much at all. A sign that you're likely doing well is if you're sticking to your plan. Watch for clothes that feel looser, a sign your waist is shrinking. Keep a journal to track increased energy.
Most important, be sure to acknowledge your success, every step of the way. When you take note of your progress, you'll feel great. And best of all, you're likely to stay on track.
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