Weight Loss Success
Small Steps to Reach Your Goals
Susan J. Bartlett, PhD
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 31 - NO. 11 - NOVEMBER 2003
Deciding to start a new diet and exercise plan can seem overwhelming if you try to change everything at once. By starting slowly and making gradual changes, you can build on your successes to reach your goals.
Q. Where do I start?
A. Begin by setting clear goals. Setting goals can be broken down into smaller, easier steps. The best goals are attainable (you honestly feel, "Yes, I can do that"), measurable (how often, how far, how long), and leave a little "wiggle room" so you don't feel too confined. Choose foods you enjoy so you'll want to stick to your diet, and pick activities you like to do.
First, you'll need to set your weekly goals. Some examples of weekly goals are:
Then look at your goals and see if you need to do anything else this week to help meet these goals. A typical weekly "to do" list might be:
Next, choose an appropriate reward and make a firm commitment to yourself that you will do what it takes to achieve the reward. An example would be "If I walk up three extra flights of stairs every day this week, I can go to a movie on Friday night. " You might want to tell a trusted friend about the goal and have him or her hold you to it. Avoid rewards that sabotage your progress, like a dinner out.
Q. What if I don't feel like sticking with the program?
A. It's important to set realistic goals and make a firm commitment to work toward your goals every day. You will naturally feel more motivated on some days, less on others. Avoiding the temptation to give in to excuses will make you successful in the long run. For extra motivation:
Q. What's the next step?
A. Pretty soon, your weekly goals will seem like part of your lifestyle. That's when it's time to make your goal just a little bit harder, so your program remains energizing, productive, and enjoyable.
Q. What about over the long term?
A. Meeting your weekly goals will help you reach your longer-term goals. Midrange goals (things you can do in 4 to 6 months) will help you stay on track. Examples of midrange goals are:
Then, set long-range goals—something you can do in 6 months to a year. Some examples of long-range goals are:
By using small goals as building blocks to larger goals, lifestyle changes become manageable. You can expect to lose about 10% of your initial body weight in the first 6 months. Even if you don't lose much weight, the health benefits of a more active lifestyle are worth the effort. When you look back a year from now, you'll be amazed how far you've come!
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Consult a physician before beginning a diet or exercise program.
Dr Bartlett is a clinical psychologist and faculty member in the division of rheumatology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Ms Mees is the assistant editor of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.
© 2003, by the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Permission to photocopy is granted for educational purposes.