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Successful Programs are for Life - Take it One Step at a Time

By Chad Tackett

A safe and effective weight management program is not a plan that you go on and start over when you've been "bad." You must become flexible enough to allow it to become a comfortable, enjoyable way of life. Then these healthier habits will work with you and for you rather than against you. As you experiment, you will discover what works best for you.

Diets teach us that changing our exercise and eating habits are short-term projects rather an improved lifestyle. Headlines and advertisements everywhere read "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days," and most people believe them. They go on and off diets, start and stop exercise programs, and their weight--and self-esteem--go up and down. Unfortunately, most people don't realize that there is a real alternative to diets, so they jump back on the diet roller coaster when their weight goes back up or a new miracle diet comes on the market.

In order to break free from the diet mentality, you need to view these healthier changes you're making as part of a permanent lifestyle transformation. To gain the lasting benefits of this program, it is important to re-orient short-term thinking towards realistic goals.

Goal setting is a great way to stay motivated and achieve the results you deserve. Unfortunately, many people set goals simply to look better in the short run and not for the other many benefits a healthy lifestyle offers us in the long run. For example, setting a short-term goal of losing 10 pounds for a class reunion isn't helpful. Once the reunion is over, most people will either revert to their previous habits because the special event is over or simply quit all together because the goal they set was unrealistic.

Living a low-fat lifestyle and decreasing your body fat takes a long-term commitment. Trying to do it all at once, however, only makes you frustrated and discouraged. Instead, set a realistic long-term goal; then achieve it by reaching smaller, short-term goals. For example, if your goal is to decrease your body fat by 10 percent, shoot for modest goals, such as decreasing your body fat by one percent each month. Decreasing body fat slowly is not only the safest and most effective way, it is also the most realistic. Every goal, short-term or long-term, should be one that is truly attainable.

Every goal should also be one that you are in charge of. Setting a short-term goal where you are in charge, such as exercising four times a week, will help you achieve your long-term goal. Remember--and remind yourself: each time you reach a short-term goal, you are one step closer to achieving what you really want: a healthier, more attractive body.

Focusing on how you're going to look and feel at some time in the future prevents you from enjoying the way you look and feel today. Focusing instead on the day-to-day process rather than the end result paradoxically brings about a better end result. Thinking only about the future reminds you of how far you still have to go rather than focusing on what you should do today.

If you happen to overeat, or eat a high-fat meal, or skip a workout, enjoy it; don't worry about it ruining your program or your future. Shift instead to living low-fat and healthy the rest of the day. By taking it one day at a time, you can do a better job of concentrating on what's working for you and what's not, how you're feeling and what you're thinking.

For example, perhaps you've just enjoyed a low-fat version of your favorite pizza, using healthy cooking techniques you recently discovered. You can't believe how great it tasted and how easy it was to prepare. Focusing on this present moment, when you're feeling satisfied, energized, and confident, helps you stay more balanced in your decision-making about food and exercise. On the other hand, reflecting on this scenario from a future focus might leave you feeling overwhelmed: "Boy, do I have a lot still to learn about healthy cooking. I'll have to experiment with my favorite foods for the rest of my life!"

Setting small goals and acknowledging all the small achievements on your path are essential to successful change. Remember, successful programs are for life--take it one day at a time. Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the many great benefits of a succussful weight management program.



- Bio: Chad Tackett has degrees in Exercise and Heath Science and Nutrition, is a Certified Personal Trainer, and is a regular guest lecturer to both professional and lay audiences on the principles of effective exercise and good nutrition.




last update: February 2009



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