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The Road To A Healthier Weight: Staying Motivated
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Ask anyone who has successfully lost weight and they will tell you that starting out on a weight loss programme is relatively easy. The difficult part is staying motivated to continue and reach their ultimate goal. They will tell you of the days when they may have been sorely tempted to give up; the times when they felt they would never succeed; the moments when they questioned their reasons for ever trying to lose weight in the first place. Such tests of motivation happen to the best of us and if you have had similar doubts then you may gain some comfort at least from the fact that you are far from alone.

But I believe that there are many ways in which we can help ourselves to keep motivated. Below I have provided some of my top tips. These are not rocket science but relatively simple ideas and concepts which you can put into action and which I very much hope will prove effective. I should warn you that not all may work for you. Some you may find difficult to implement. But I have tried to give a broad range of ideas from which you can pick and choose to enable you on your way to what I know will be a new slimmer, healthier you.

Think Health, Not Diet

I would like to begin by saying that I desperately want to throw out the words "dieting" and "slimming", banishing them for all time, and I urge you to do the same. To me they both have particular connotations of terrible denial, deprivation, and suffering. This is borne out by the fact that most diets or slimming fads will ultimately fail because for many of us they involve too many negatives. True, they may seem to work initially but in the long-term they all too often leave us right back at square one, as we lose all motivation to carry on with them. They are too rigorous; too unrealistic; paradoxically downright unhealthy; and after a while just too downright boring - after all there are only so many cabbages or bananas you can consume in a lifetime without feeling physically repulsed by them.

So I say let's change our way of thinking a little. Let's think healthy, vitalising, fulfilling. None of which words I'm afraid describe the plethora of fad diets we are bombarded with nowadays. However, what they do describe is a change in lifestyle in which, for instance, we look closely at what we eat and when; think carefully about what is in our food; consider the number of calories we consume, monitor the amounts of the different fats and simple carbohydrates. We consider closely our fitness and improve it within our own safe limits. We tackle the stresses and boredom that drive us to find comfort in food and adopt healthier eating habits. In short we set out on a new lifestyle which will stay with us for the rest of our lives and which will maintain our health into old age.

If you have no other motivation for continuing your weight loss journey then at least consider its importance to your future long and health-filled life. It will be well worth I guarantee.

Don't Rush Things

One of the big traps many people fall into is trying to rush weight loss along. Believe me, the key to success is to take things nice and easy. Think about it for a second or two. It may have taken you years to accumulate that excess weight so it really shouldn't be a surprise that it is going to take a considerable time to lose it again - if you want to ensure it's healthy weight loss, that is.

Furthermore, taking things steady ensures that the weight you lose is due to fat loss and not essential muscle weight. Did you know that it is virtually impossible, both biochemically and physiologically, to lose more than one pound of fat weight per week?

What I suggest is that you try to lose weight at a steady rate of one or two pounds per week. You will feel comfortable achieving this and when you have reached your healthier weight you will find that it is much easier to maintain it for life.

Set Small Goals

Setting unrealistic goals for weight loss is sure-fire way of demotivating yourself. Sadly, many of us expect too much. When we fail to achieve our aims, we so often lose heart.

Set yourself small steps to your ultimate goal. Steps that you know with all confidence that you can achieve. Go easy on yourself and make your goals easy. For instance, as mentioned above, aim for one or two pounds weight reduction per week or, if you like, 5% of your weight in three months. Each small step will lead you further along the path to your ultimate goal of a healthier weight. And what's more you will find that the path is a far less arduous one than your ever expected it to be.

Visualize The End Goal

Never lose sight of your ultimate goal. I think this is true for anything in life.

Before starting out on a weight loss programme try to sit down and visualize your new life as a slimmer, healthier you. Find somewhere quiet, where you cannot be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. In your mind's eye see yourself as the slimmer you. How does it feel? How much more confident are you? What will you be doing in your new life? See yourself not only achieving a new healthier weight but also achieving all those ambitions which you have been storing up but have not felt confident enough to attempt.

Hold onto this image of the new you and as you continue on your path to losing weight take time to revisit it at regular intervals. The image helps you to stay focused and to boost your determination when things may not be going as well as you might hope.

Have A Good Breakfast

The maxim "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper" holds more than a element of truth - particularly when it comes to healthy weight loss. Breakfast really does set you up for the day, setting your metabolism. And maintaining energy levels is so very important at a time when you are trying to lose weight and probably eating less than before.

Many people make the mistake of believing that the best way to lose weight is to reduce the number of meals they eat. They miss breakfast, maybe have a very light lunch, if at all, and then return home from work completely ravenous. In this ravenous state they are just about ready to empty all the food cupboards in the kitchen. They have therefore deprived their bodies of vital energy and nutrients for nearly 24 hours and the body's response is to slow all its metabolic processes because it perceives a state of starvation.

So what happens when you eat a big meal and the end of a day when you have starved yourself? Your body reacts by grabbing as much of the energy in your meal as possible and storing it as even more fat just in case it has to endure starvation yet again the next day. You have in fact unwittingly entered a very big trap.

The take home message is, therefore, never miss breakfast - to do so is a sure way of blowing all those good weight loss intentions and leaving you completely demoralised.

Involve Family

It always surprises me how few dieters involve their families in their healthier eating plans. I often think it must be an incredible strain having to prepare separate meals at mealtimes - one meal for yourself and another for the rest of the family- and especially if they are scoffing all those "naughties" that you are trying to cut back on. So, a solution, save yourself the hassle and the guilt and get them all in on your new lifestyle. There is nothing to beat the solidarity of family involvement for helping to maintain your motivation when you are trying to lose weight - it really is a case of "All for one, and one for all!"

And, heh, even if your other half or your little ones don't need to lose weight, they can still benefit from changing to healthier eating habits - so that can't be bad.

Lose Weight With Friends Or Colleagues

Another great way to keep motivation from flagging is to band together with friends or work colleagues. Forming a weight loss group provides much needed support and a strong feeling of shared endeavour. So much more fun than struggling along on your own, and wonderful for morale. So why not ask around and find out who's ready to join you for a slice of the action (no pun intended) on your path to a healthier more fulfilling life.

Never Punish Yourself……

This is something I see far too much of and it always saddens me. Very often there seems to be a misconception that to lose weight effectively it is important to deny yourself forever all those "goodies" you enjoyed so much before. Unfortunately, denial only turns into a terrible feeling of deprivation and then a sense of self-loathing when your urges get the better of you and you are tempted by the "forbidden fruit". There is nothing worse for destroying all that motivation for losing weight.

The answer is to never deny yourself the foods you enjoy, but instead to try to reduce the quantity you eat as much as possible. Ensure your diet is essentially a healthy one and with this as your basis allow yourself regular small treats - a little of what you like, as they say. Indeed, as treats you'll enjoy them all the more.

…..Reward Yourself Instead

Last but not least. We have spoken about allowing yourself treats. I think it's also important to reward yourself with something special every time you complete one of those small steps on route to your ultimate weight loss goal. I don't just mean an imaginary congratulatory slap on the back. You deserve far more than that. Reward yourself with something which makes you feel happy and is a fitting mark of your achievement so far.

Rewards make you realise how wonderful you are. And you really are wonderful!

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Biography: Dr Jeremy Sims is a GP and public health nutritionist. He specialises in medical nutrition and weight management and runs his own integrated weight management consultancy - www.healthguider.com.

He has extensive experience in the nutrition and health promotion fields and has been a regular contributor of articles to leading web sites and popular health magazines.

Dr Sims is a member of the Nutrition Society and the National Obesity Forum. He is a Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a Fellow of both the Royal Institute of Public Health and The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. In 2000 he was awarded the William Latimer Cleave Memorial Prize for excellence in nutrition and health.

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