Before Starting Weight Loss plan: Weight loss is a common goal for many people. It can be hard to know where to start with your weight-loss plan, however.

A few questions will help you get started on the right foot and ensure that your weight-loss program is tailored specifically to your goals and needs.

It’s important to ask yourself some of these key questions before starting any diet or exercise regimen, so you’ll have a clear idea of what it takes–and how long it might take–to reach your weight-loss goal. What are my ideal weight-loss goals–and how much weight do I want to lose?

Your first step in creating a weight loss plan is to set a goal. If you’re unsure of your healthy, realistic goal, talk with your doctor or other health care provider about the most appropriate body mass index (BMI) range for you based on your height and gender.

Your doctor will also consider any medical conditions that might affect achieving and maintaining a healthy BMI for you.

When does the holiday season start for me?

It’s important to acknowledge when holidays and special occasions begin or end so that they won’t disrupt your long-term plans for exercise and healthy eating habits. Holidays and special occasions might be less stressful for you if you have a plan in place.

If they aren’t already part of your daily routine, introduce exercise into your schedule (such as walking after dinner) and make time to prepare healthy meals in advance so that the holiday season won’t sidetrack from progress towards reaching your weight-loss goals.

When do I want to reach my weight-loss goal?

Your timeframe will depend on how much weight you want to lose and how quickly you’d like to achieve your goal. Many people set their goals by the start of a new year (January 1), making it easy to develop an approach that includes weekly or monthly behavior changes based on achieving small steps toward your ultimate goal.

How will I track my progress?

Studies show that people who keep a weight-loss journal or food diary tend to be more successful at losing weight than those who don’t write down what they eat and how much exercise they are getting every day.

What will I do if I reach my goal before the time is up (or if it’s not realistic)?

If you lose your motivation to continue with a specific diet or program, ask yourself what might affect your motivation–and how you can get back on track. If temptations like birthday cake seem too difficult to resist, plan for times when you’ll be less likely to succumb, such as attending afternoon teas rather than dinner parties where there might be an unlimited supply of desserts.

What is realistic exercise and workout time for me?

Begin your weight-loss program by setting a goal to begin exercising more. Make it easy on yourself by choosing activities you enjoy and that are convenient, such as walking in local parks or playing with your kids after dinner instead of sitting in front of the television late into the evening. Work out in short bursts throughout the day whenever possible so that if you miss one activity, you can do another one later during the day when time permits.

What other commitments do I have in my life right now–and what might change over time?

Your weight-loss plan shouldn’t interfere with your daily responsibilities: If your plan requires you to skip exercise because of work or social obligations, then your goal might be too ambitious. If you’re having trouble sticking with a healthy diet plan because it keeps your family from eating meals together, consider joining a support group where you can trade suggestions with other members who are on the same journey.

What habits will help me reach my goal more effectively?

If certain emotions trigger your overeating, think about the circumstances that lead you to eat: Stress at work or home might cause you to reach for sugary snacks when you need comfort and reassurance. If a friend doesn’t support your diet efforts, it might be helpful to find another person who will cheer you on during your weight-loss journey.

What other skills do I need to acquire–and what will help me develop them?

Do you need time for yourself at the end of a busy day or week (such as by reading a book in the evening before going to bed?) If you don’t have enough motivation, can you find an exercise buddy who might encourage you to work out more regularly?

How much are my weight-loss behaviours costing me financially?

If you’re continuing your existing weight loss program, take note of how much it costs you so that you can evaluate whether changes are necessary: Is there anything that could be eliminated from your plan while still achieving your goals for healthy living behaviour?

How do I prepare for future changes in my life or future circumstances that could create obstacles?

If you’re planning to lose weight so that you will fit into a particular outfit and then have a wedding, vacation or other event coming up, your weight loss is unlikely to last once the event has passed: Plan by keeping healthy snacks handy at work and deciding how much of each food you’ll allow yourself during celebrations (such as by skipping desserts during restaurant meals).

If your holidays are particularly food-focused, prepare recipes or entire meals that don’t require many trips back into the kitchen after dinner so that you won’t be tempted to eat more than you need.

What can I do if–despite my best efforts–I encounter obstacles or decide that I’d like to change my goal?

Set a weekly weight-loss target and look for small changes in your body (such as inches lost, less jiggling around the hips) rather than focusing on the scale. If you’re unhappy with any part of your plan, ask yourself whether you can make changes without feeling deprived: For example, if you don’t feel successful after eliminating certain foods from your diet–does it help to cut back on portions or switch to healthier snacks instead?

If you find that your willpower is waning, consider how long it has been since you last achieved an important milestone: Whether it’s reaching a new weight loss goal or developing new healthy living habits like going to the gym frequently or eating a healthier diet, you might need to give yourself extra incentives so that you can stay committed.

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