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How to Start a Weight-Loss Program

How to Set Realistic Weight-loss Goals

How many times have you started a new year or a Monday morning with a resolution like one of these:

"I'm going to exercise every day, no matter what."
"I will never eat chocolate or desserts again!"

"I have to lose ten pounds in the next two weeks."

Often, dieters set up "no-win" situations for themselves by having unrealistic expectations about how "perfect" they can be and how much weight they can lose. These statements may seem innocent, but if they form the foundation of the way you approach goals, you are in store for serious disappointment.

The best way to avoid disappointment is to learn how to set goals you can attain. When learning this skill, there are two common pitfalls most dieters encounter: Insistent Imperative Syndrome and Mount Everest Syndrome. By knowing these pitfalls, you can be prepared to sidestep them.

Insistent Imperative Syndrome

Many dieters have goals filled with imperative words that leave no room for error and imply demand, such as "always," "never," "every," and "must." Despite what many of us like to think, nobody's perfect. So every time you vow never to touch a doughnut again or swear that you'll lose weight every week or promise that you'll always control your eating -- you're setting yourself up to fail by insisting on perfection. To make matters worse, if you violate your own rigid standards, you will be disappointed in yourself and may eat even more because you feel so frustrated.

Remember that to err is human -- everyone has setbacks. So, strike imperatives from your vocabulary. If you bring your standards in line with reality, you'll be regularly rewarded instead of frustrated.

Mount Everest Syndrome

The second trap dieters fall into is creating goals that are way too high, or as out of reach as the top of Mount Everest -- "I have to lose 50 pounds" or "I'm going to walk ten miles." Giant goals like these are overwhelming because of the size of the job and the time it will take to do it. Even worse, this type of thinking can lead to despair because it sets up success as an endpoint that happens only when the goal is achieved rather than as a continuing process.

Granted, your goals should be challenging, but giant goals are an invitation to failure. That's why it's so important to break goals down into smaller tasks that you can accomplish one day or one week at a time so you won't feel defeated before you start.

Steps for Setting Goals

Goals are important because they help you focus your time and energy on the areas that count. To set yourself up to succeed, your goals should be:

Short term and specific. Specify exactly what you plan to do by tomorrow or next week. Say "I'm going to walk 25 minutes after dinner every evening this week," rather than "I'm going to exercise."

Trackable. Use a diary to track your progress in a visible way.

Positive. Say "I will" rather than "I won't." Negative goals make you feel deprived instead of making you feel good about your successes.

Personal. Don't try to lose weight to please or impress others. Learn to be the center of your own life.

Rewarding. Recognize each small victory. They are your building blocks for long-term success.

Realistic. In order to achieve long-term success, you have to find goals you can live with and incorporate into your daily schedule. Here are some examples of unrealistic goals that can sabotage your weight-loss efforts, as well as sample realistic goals that can fuel your weight-loss efforts.

Unrealistic Goals
Realistic Goals
I'll never eat more than 1,000 calories every day. My average daily intake will be 1,500 calories this week.
Starting tomorrow, I'm going to begin walking two hours every day. I'll walk for 20 minutes four times this week.
I'm going to bake cookies for the bake sale, and I won't eat or taste any. I'll buy cookies for the bake sale and drop them off at the school on my way home from the grocery store.
I'm going to lose ten pounds before my class reunion next month. I'm going to eat small portions and take a 15-minute walk four times a week so that I'll feel healthier, more fit, and confident at the class reunion.

Be sure to write your goals down. Then read them over to be sure they fit the description of realistic goals. If you catch yourself using imperatives, asking yourself to be perfect, or aiming for targets that are unreasonable, revise your thinking and your goals. For a full explanation on how to use a dieter's diary, read the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.