Are you ready to go on a diet? Summer is a time when lots of people think about shedding a few pounds. But before you go to a gym, buy a diet book, or purge your kitchen of junk food, put yourself on a pre-diet.
Lots of people start a diet plan without fully preparing for it. In what I call the "pre-planning stage," you can ask the important questions and set yourself up for a successful road to weight loss.
Most people decide that they're ready to start losing weight and jump into a diet that focuses solely on the physical aspects of the plan: what you will eat, what you won't eat, and how much you'll need to exercise.
Few people take the time to do think through and plan for something as important and life-changing as losing weight.
If you want to start the weight loss process, ask yourself these questions first:
1. Why do I want to lose weight? A strong "why" will keep you going when your motivation begins to wane. If your motivation is rooted in "shoulds" and "supposed tos," it might be hard to stick with it. If your "why" is that you want to have the energy and stamina to play with your children and live a long, healthy life so you can see your children grow up, that's a very strong "why." That's the kind of "why" that's stronger than your urge to scarf down a sleeve of Oreos at midnight.
2. Is this the right time for me to embark on a weight loss journey? If you feel compelled to lose weight and get healthy, that's great, but you need to ask yourself, "Is this the right time for me?" If you're about to move across the country, quit your job, get married, or if you're taking care of an aging parent, this might not be the right time for you. Surely, if your health is at immediate risk, you may not have the luxury of going through this step. But trying to start your weight loss journey while managing all the other stresses in life, may be setting yourself up for failure.
One caveat here: If you are going through an especially stressful time in your life, it's even more important to take extra care of yourself. You'll want to eat well, get some exercise, and get plenty of rest. These things are always important, but especially when you are dealing with stressful situations in life. However, you may want to hold off on trying to start a weight loss journey, if doing so will only feel like another form of stress!
3. What am I hoping for after I reach my goal? Some people start off their weight loss journey with an idea in their mind of how they expect to feel when they've reached their goal. Some people expect to have more energy, they are excited about the new clothes they will be able to wear, and some people look forward to ditching maintenance medicines like ones for high blood pressure and cholesterol. But it's important to remember that once you reach your goal, you are still going to be the same person -- just in a smaller body.
Many of my weight loss clients report having increased confidence as a result of their weight loss. Some people say that they feel more outgoing or more spontaneous; however, your life is still going to be your life. If you're in a crappy relationship, are in a dead-end job, or have financial difficulties, those things may still be there. Few people lose weight and suddenly begin living their lives like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Be realistic about what you hope to have as a result of your weight loss (besides the actual weight loss).
4. What am I willing to sacrifice in order to make my weight loss journey a success? If your social life revolves mainly around food, you'll need to think about whether or not you're willing to give up ice cream with the kids or happy hour with your co-workers. If your best friend's idea of quality time together is lying around on the beach sipping cocktails, will you be able to break out of that routine?
Change is hard for most of us; there's a reason why it's called the "comfort zone." If you aren't willing to make some changes to your life, then you might not be at the right time to start. You may need to go back to question number one to see if your "why" is strong enough to stand up to pizza and ice cream night with the family.
None of this is meant to discourage you from taking the necessary steps to lose weight if that's your goal. It's meant to help set you up for success! Wouldn't it be nice to get on a healthy eating plan, lose the weight you'd like to lose, and have this be your last diet ever?
Most people go around and around on the diet merry-go-round. They get all excited about a diet, lose some weight straight away, then plateau, get discouraged, and give up until the next time when they get all excited, lose some weight straight away, etc.
Instead of replaying the scenario above, try sitting down and going through the pre-diet plan first. Give yourself the best possible chance of success by taking your endeavor seriously and giving yourself a fighting chance to reach your weight loss goals. The planning will be worth it in the end.