(MayoClinic.com) Your weight-loss success depends in large part on your readiness to take on the challenge. If you jump in before you're ready, your weight-loss plan may buckle under the first challenge. Use these questions to assess your weight-loss readiness.
Successful weight loss depends on permanent lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods and exercising more. That could represent a significant departure from your current lifestyle. Be honest. Knowing that you need to make changes in your life and actually doing it are two different things. You may have to overhaul your diet so that you're eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, for example. You'll also need to find time to exercise for at least 30 minutes nearly every day of the week. Exercise is especially important to prevent regaining your lost weight.
Your motivation for undertaking these changes may be better health, improved appearance or just feeling better about yourself in general. As long as your motivation is a healthy one, it doesn't really matter what it is. Find your motivation and focus on it.2. Have you addressed the big distractions in your life?
If you're dealing with major life events, such as marital problems, job stress, illness or financial worries, you may not want to add the challenge of overhauling your eating and exercise habits. Instead, consider giving your life a chance to calm down before you launch your weight-loss program.3. Do you have a realistic picture of how much weight you'll lose and how quickly?
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong process. Over the long term, it's best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. To lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day. You can do that through a low-calorie diet and regular physical activity or exercise.
Initially you might lose weight more quickly than that if you make significant changes — just be sure the changes are health supporting. Don't get discouraged if your rate of weight loss slows a bit after bigger initial losses.4. Have you resolved any emotional issues connected to your weight?
Emotions and food are often intertwined. Anger, stress, grief and boredom can trigger emotional eating. And if you have a history of an eating disorder, weight loss can be even trickier. Start by identifying your emotional issues related to food so that you're prepared for the challenges. Talk to your doctor about what weight-loss options are best for you.5. Do you have support and accountability?
Any weight-loss program can be difficult. You may face moments of temptation or become disheartened. Having someone in your corner to offer encouragement can help. If you don't have friends or family you can rely on for positive help, consider joining a weight-loss support group.
If you want to keep your weight-loss efforts private, be prepared to be accountable to yourself with regular weigh-ins and a log of your diet and activity. You might also want to consider joining an online program or using a certified health coach.6. Have you embraced the weight-loss challenge?
If you don't have a positive attitude about losing weight, you may not be ready. If you dread what lies ahead, you may be more likely to find excuses to veer off course. Try to embrace the vision of your new lifestyle and remain positive. Focus on how good you'll feel when you're more active or when you weigh less. Picture yourself celebrating every little success along the way, whether it's opting for a low-fat cottage cheese snack instead of chips or going for a walk.You're ready for weight loss: Now what?
If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, you're probably ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary to work toward permanent weight loss. You may be able to forge ahead on your own, creating your own lifestyle program for healthy eating and exercising. Or you may feel you need help.
Educating yourself about the process of successful weight loss and maintenance is a start. For example, learn more about the dietary changes necessary for losing weight. See a dietitian or enroll in a behavior-based weight program that can help you change the habits that can interfere with weight loss, such as eating when you're stressed or bored. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, you may benefit from medically supervised weight loss with a team of health professionals that may include a dietitian, a therapist or an obesity specialist.What if you're not ready?
If you answered no to more than one of these questions, you may not be ready to embark on a weight-loss program right now. And that's OK. Explore what's holding you back and face those obstacles. In some cases it may simply be a matter of timing. For instance, you may need to resolve other stressors in your life first. In other cases, you may need to work on related issues, such as your feelings toward weight loss or your willingness to commit to permanent lifestyle changes.
Consider seeking help from your doctor or another professional, such as a certified wellness coach, to help you work through these issues. Try to address the obstacles as soon as possible and then re-evaluate your readiness for weight loss so that you can quickly get started on a healthier lifestyle. Don't let the chaos of life become a permanent excuse, however. There will never be an absolutely perfect time.Still unsure?
You may have found that you couldn't answer all of the questions with a simple yes or no. If you feel generally positive about most of your answers and you're upbeat about a weight-loss program, consider starting now. You may never have definitive answers in life. Don't let that rob you of a chance to achieve your weight-loss goals.
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