How to Start a Weight loss Program

I was reading this article the other day and thought it would be a GREAT one to share (link source at bottom).. If you are ready to start your journey check this out! Here is what you will learn:

  • Debunking Common Weight-loss Myths
  • How to Assess Your Body Image
  • How to Assess Your Weight
  • Preparing to Lose Weight
  • How to Stay Positive About Weight Loss
  • How to Fight the Urge to Snack
  • How to Set Realistic Weight-loss Goals
  • How to Use a Diet Diary
  • How to Eat Less by Eating Slower
  • How to Use a Support Group to Lose Weight (I have one, hit me up for more info!)

How many times have you tried to lose weight, only to gain it all back again? If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Lasting weight control doesn't come easy. The problem is, many people try to change too much, too fast. They go "on" a diet, which means that they'll go "off" at some point.

There are many misconceptions people have about weight loss. Many of the habits you might want to adopt to lose weight may actually be worse for your health. On this page, we will list these common misconceptions and explain why they are incorrect. For instance, you might believe if you skip a meal it will help you lose weight. Actually, skipping meals will lower your metabolism and train the body to retain weight. We will also show you why fat-free foods are not so great for you, and the various motivational mistakes that will derail your weight-loss program. 

What you need is to pick a plan that is right for you and then get off on the right foot as you begin. In this article, we will teach you the correct way to being a weight-loss program over the course of the following sections: 
  • Debunking Common Weight-Loss Myths- There are many misconceptions people have about weight loss. Many of the habits you might want to adopt to lose weight may actually be worse for your health. On this page, we will list these common misconceptions and explain why they are incorrect. For instance, you might believe if you skip a meal it will help you lose weight. Actually, skipping meals will lower your metabolism and train the body to retain weight. We will also show you why fat-free foods are not so great for you, and the various motivational mistakes that will derail your weight-loss program. 
  • How to Assess Your Body Image- To efficiently begin losing weight, you need to understand how you view your own body. For instance, if you have a negative body image you may believe that you need to lose much more weight than would be even healthy for you. Consequently, you could be disappointed if you do not lose weight as quickly as you'd like. Conversely, a realistic body image can help you realize how much weight you need to lose, and motivate you to begin a weight-loss program. In this section, we will help you assess your own body image. 
  • How to Assess Your Weight- Because people perceptions of themselves can be so distorted, it is often difficult to determine if we need to lose weight. On this page, we will help you determine if you are happy with your weight. After all, realizing that your current weight does not please you is the greatest motivation to get started trying to take control of your health. In this section, you will find a questionnaire that you can download and fill out to discover if you are satisfied with your current weight. 
  • Preparing to Lose Weight -Sticking to a weight-loss program is very difficult and requires a lot of sacrifice on your part. You will most likely have to change the way you eat, the way you feel about food, and they way you exercise. If you are unwilling to make these types of changes, your weight-loss program will most likely not succeed. In this section, we will provide a short, true-or-false, test you can take to find out your willingness to make sweeping changes. 
  • How to Stay Positive About Weight Loss -Because changing your eating and exercise habits does not come easily, it is only too easy to convince yourself that it is not worth the trouble and quickly backslide into bad habits. In fact, your negative thinking is probably your biggest enemy when you are trying to lose weight. On this page, we will show you how to stay positive in the midst of weight-loss turmoil. We will also give you some typical examples of negative thinking and show you how you can turn those pesky thoughts into positive affirmations. 
  • How to Fight the Urge to Snack- Snacking is a habit that most of us have fostered over a lifetime. When it's finally time to start losing weight, that urge to snack doesn't just go away. Between meals, when you're bored, or when you're watching television, most of us regimented times when we snack. Unfortunately, snacking can foil our best-laid weight-loss plans. In this section, we will offer some replacement activities that can occupy your mind while you wait for the urge to snack to pass you by. 
  • How to Set Realistic Weight-Loss Goals- Losing weight is hard enough as it is. The last thing we should do is set some outrageously unattainable goal that we cannot possibly achieve and will only result failure and the abandonment of our weight-loss aspirations. In this section, we will show you how to set realistic weight-loss goals that will be challenging, but also within your reach. It's important not to make ultimatums for yourself or have long-term, abstract goals that won't mean much to you during your day-to-day struggle to lose weight. 
  • How to Use a Diet Diary- An integral part of sticking to your weight-loss program is feeling that you are making progress and being successful. Unless you can see some rewards, it's highly unlikely that you will stick to your weight-loss program. However, it's hard to notice minute changes from one day to the next. A good way to keep track of your progress is by using a diet diary. On this page, we will teach how to use a diet diary and even offer you a sample diary page that you can download and use to fulfill your own weight-loss plans. 
  • How to Eat Less by Eating Slower- Regardless of how you decide to lose weight, there are some general practices that you can follow to make your diet easier. Perhaps this simplest thing anyone can do to eat less and feel fuller is to simply slow down. If you slow down while you eat your body sends messages to your brain that you have had enough food and you will stop before you overeat. We will offer you some tips on how to follow this advice on this page. 
  • How to Use a Support Group to Lose Weight- The final piece you need in place before you start down your path to weight loss is a good support system. Whether you begin to diet and exercise with a friend or you just have a group of friends you can turn to when you feel for resolve slipping, a good cheering section can help you achieve your weight-loss goals. On this page, we will show you how to build the perfect support system around you. 

Debunking Common Weight-loss Myths

Are your thoughts and habits keeping you fat? Believe it or not, the biggest obstacle to losing weight can be your own misconceptions about dieting. To see if your beliefs may be holding you back, read the following statements and decide which ones you believe are true. Then read the brief discussion after each statement to learn the facts, so you'll know what works and what doesn't. 

If I skip breakfast or lunch, I will lose weight faster. 
Eating fewer meals can actually lead to weight gain and added body fat. In fact, one study showed that people who skip breakfast have a four to five percent lower metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories to maintain vital functions when at rest) than those who do not. When you skip meals, your body fights back by slowing down the rate at which you burn calories. Believe it or not, you will lose weight more efficiently if you eat several small meals a day rather than one or two large meals. 

As long as a food is fat-free, I can eat as much of it as I want without gaining weight. 
Fat is indeed the most concentrated source of calories in our diet: A gram of fat provides nine calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein provides only four. So cutting down on the amount of fat you consume can be an efficient way to lower your calorie intake as well. However, just because a food is fat-free doesn't guarantee that it's low in calories. 

As a matter of fact, when manufacturers remove the fat from a food product, they sometimes replace it with so much sugar that the fat-free product ends up providing more calories than the original product. And consuming more calories than you need -- no matter where they come from -- will cause you to gain weight. So while limiting dietary fat can be beneficial to your health and can be a simple way to trim excess calories from your diet, you must also keep tabs on-and reign in -- the number of calories you consume at the same time. 

I want to lose weight, but unless I lose it fast and see results right away, I know I won't stick with the program. 
If you lose weight fast (more than a pound or two a week), you are more likely to lose some muscle. Think of muscle as your body's engine. The larger the engine, the more gas it burns. If you lose too much muscle during weight loss, your engine becomes smaller and you need less "gas," or fewer calories, to keep it running. As a result, you'll actually gain weight if you eat the same number of calories that you previously consumed to maintain your old weight. Losing weight fast makes it harder for you to keep the weight off in the long run. Keep that in mind if you get tempted to switch to a fast-weight-loss fad diet or feel like abandoning your weight-loss efforts altogether. 

I know that I can't eat at my favorite restaurants and still lose weight. 
It's possible dine at any kind of restaurant today -- from fast food to five star-without compromising your weight-loss efforts. Granted, when you eat away from home, you may have less control over how the foods are prepared and which ingredients are used, but you can control which foods you choose and how much of them you consume. The secret is to know how to approach the restaurant challenge. 

I have to give up "real desserts" to reach my goal weight. 
You don't have to forgo your favorite foods or "goodies" to lose weight. Most people eat for pleasure as well as nutrition. If you love pie รก la mode, just eat it less often and/or in smaller portions. Better yet, think substitution, not elimination. 

I know the best way to lose my flabby stomach and thighs is to do sit-ups and leg lifts
Actually, spot reducing doesn't work. When you lose fat, it comes from your total fat reserves, and you have no control over what part of the body those fat reserves will come from. Spot exercises can tone and strengthen muscles in specific areas. But, aerobic exercise -- such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or aerobic dance, for example -- is the best way to burn fat. The bottom line: You'll burn more fat from around your middle (as well as from other fat-laden areas) if you take a brisk 20-minute walk than if you do 100 sit-ups. 

I would rather jump in the sauna and sweat off a few pounds than exercise. 
You can't bake, sweat, or steam pounds off. Sweating without exertion causes only a temporary water loss, not a fat loss. The water lost will be quickly regained as soon as you have anything to eat or drink. And remember, sauna suits, rubber belts, and nylon clothes designed to make you sweat during exercise can actually damage your health. To avoid potentially deadly dehydration and heatstroke, it's important to replace fluids lost during exercise and allow your body's natural thermostat to regulate your temperature. 

I will only feel successful if I reach my target weight. 
Success means more than a number on the scale. It is an ongoing process that is rewarded each time you make a positive lifestyle change. So, don't be a slave to your bathroom scale. Put your time and effort into what really counts: keeping accurate records, and increasing your daily activity. Habits, not the daily fluctuations on the scale, will determine whether or not you achieve long-term success. 

If I can't exercise strenuously for hours at a time, it really won't help me lose weight
In general, experts agree that what's most important for improving health and controlling weight is replacing sedentary habits (like sitting in front of the television or computer) with activities that involve movement. All physical activity-whether it's running a track or a vacuum cleaner -- counts. 

According to the government's latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005), it's the total amount of time spent in active pursuits that's most important when it comes to weight control. Although 30 minutes a day can help lower risk of chronic disease, to really manage your weight, the guidelines say you'll probably need to gradually work up to getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week (coupled with a calorie intake that doesn't surpass your needs). 

But you don't have to get that 60 minutes of activity all at one time. Putting in a few 10- to 15-minute bouts of physical activity throughout the day-such as before work, during your lunch hour, and after dinner -- will work just fine. 

And what about intensity? Although vigorous exercise (fast-paced aerobic activities such as jogging that really get your heart pumping) will burn the most calories, you'll still lose pounds if you couple moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) with sensible eating. Even housework and gardening chores that get you working up a sweat-such as raking the lawn, scrubbing the bathtub, or washing the windows-count. 

I just don't have the willpower it takes to lose weight and keep it off for good. 
Lasting weight control is a process that takes "skillpower," not willpower. By identifying your eating habits, using the remedies in this book, and thinking positively, you can tackle your weight and win. 

In the same way you can have misconceptions about weight loss, you may also have misconceptions about your own body image. 

How to Assess Your Body Image

Close your eyes and picture yourself as you look today -- from head to toe. Pay particular attention to the size and shape of your body. That picture, what we sometimes refer to as our "body image," has a powerful influence over our weight-control efforts. 

With the mental image of your body firmly in place, answer the questions that follow: 
If your best friend were to be totally honest with you, would they concur with the image you've made? 
  • What body image would you most like to look like? 
  • What would your body weight be if you looked like the image you'd prefer? 
  • Have you ever been at this weight before?
Sometimes, you may perceive your body as appearing much heavier than others perceive it. Many women experience this phenomenon. If so, it's possible that you may continue to see yourself as heavy even after losing weight. You may also have difficulty noticing changes and giving yourself credit for the progress you've made. 

On the other hand, you may still hold your high-school yearbook picture in your mind as your current body shape. If a realistic assessment moves you several silhouettes larger, you may not realize how much excess weight you have to lose. Procrastination may delay you from beginning your weight-loss efforts. 

It's very important to begin any weight-loss process with a realistic body image. To promote change, you must clearly visualize yourself becoming more and more like your ideal image. Get in touch with your body as you embark on your weight-loss journey with these few simple tips for helping you make the mind-body connection: 
  • Mirrors: Spend time looking in full-length or three-way mirrors, preferably without clothes on. Be fully aware of how your body currently looks, and congratulate yourself on all progress as it occurs. 
  • Clothing: Alter large or loose-fitting clothes to stay connected to your body. Try clothes that are more form-fitting to help you adjust to your changing image. Don't save your "fat clothes" -- it's like making a commitment to fail. Save one item of larger clothing to remind you of your progress. 
  • Photographs: Take several photographs of yourself every four to eight weeks. Create a photo journal of your progress toward your weight-loss goals. 
Assessing your body image is only part of the problem. Next you have to decide if you are happy with your current weight or if you would like to lose a few pounds. 

How to Assess Your Weight

We often hear about the high cost of shedding excess weight. But how often do we consider the cost of not shedding those unwanted, extra pounds? As health-care reformists add up the billions of dollars it costs to treat diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, some researchers have been calculating the toll overweight takes on our overall quality of life. 

What price would you pay for increased self-confidence, an improved self-image, a better love life, improved relationships at work and home?  The good news is that even small reductions in excess body weight net big returns when it comes to improved quality of life. 

Try this on yourself: For the next four weeks, follow the tips in this article that target areas of your lifestyle and behavior that you'd most like to improve. Then come back to this survey and answer these questions again. Note how your responses have changed. Recognize and give yourself a pat on the back for those areas in which you've improved. Remember, not all of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are measured by the number that pops up on your scale each week. 

We have one final test for you to take to determine if you are ready to lose weight. A true-or-false-test designed to rate your readiness to change your lifestyle. 

Preparing to Lose Weight

Change can be exhilarating and exciting; it can also be frightening and stressful. As you consider making changes toward a new, healthier lifestyle, it's important to assess your attitude toward change. We'll define attitudes as "consciously held beliefs." Before beginning any process of change, it's particularly important to understand whether your attitudes will move you toward, or away from, the goals you set. To help assess your attitudes, honestly answer the following true-or-false questions: 
  • Losing enough weight to reach my goal weight would guarantee me everlasting happiness. 
  • It's a good idea to save my larger-size clothes just in case I need them again. 
  • I find myself hating people I see in exercise classes or jogging down the street. 
  • When I'm exercising and eating right, I get angry and frustrated when the scale doesn't show immediate results. 
  • I feel deprived when I'm dieting and can't wait until I'm off the diet so that I can have my favorite foods again. 
  • Once I lose weight, I'll look so good that I won't have to exercise anymore. 
  • It's not fair that other people eat more than I do and don't have a weight problem. 
  • In order to stay at my goal weight, I need to deprive myself and miss out on life's fun. 
  • Someday I'll be able to take a pill that will allow me to eat all I want and still lose weight. 
  • I view exercise as torture or punishment. 
  • Unless I lose five pounds per week, I feel discouraged and want to go off my diet. 
  • It's impossible to have an active social life and still lose weight. 
  • Keeping a food diary is childish and embarrassing. 
  • Food is my best friend. 
  • I feel panicky if food is not available when I want it. 
  • It's impossible for me to lose weight because of my family history. 
  • Once I begin exercising, if I miss more than a day or two, I feel I've blown it, so I quit. 
  • It's impossible for me to deal with life's stresses without turning to food.
If you answered "true" to more than four of these questions, you have some attitudes that may not move you toward your goals. It's important to identify and change these attitudes in order to lose weight permanently. If you answered "true" to ten or more of these questions, failure to change these destructive attitudes is likely to result in your being unsuccessful at keeping weight off once you've lost it. You may want to seek the assistance of a support group or of a mental-health professional. 

Hopefully now you are ready to choose a weight loss program. While there are endless programs to choose from, for whichever one you select, you will need a positive attitude. . 

How to Stay Positive About Weight Loss

What do your thoughts have to do with weight loss? Plenty. We talk to ourselves all the time. We call this silent conversation that we have with ourselves "self-talk." And what we say influences what we do...including whether or not we lose weight. 

Self-talk is very powerful. By repeating the same thoughts over and over, the mind actually comes to believe they're true. We tend to act in ways consistent with our deepest internal beliefs. So, frequently, the statements become self-fulfilling. For example, if you tell yourself every day that losing weight is hopeless, eventually you will feel powerless to make changes. Simply put, you can talk yourself into doing something -- such as losing weight -- or talk yourself out of it. 

How's your self-talk? Listen to that voice in the back of your head. Is it positive and moving you toward your goals? Or is it destructive and undermining your weight-control efforts? Remember, even negative self-talk can be changed by positive thinking. 

Here are a few examples of how you can change your self-talk so that it works for, not against, your weight-control efforts. 

As you can see, positive self-talk is a valuable skill that will enhance your self-image and lower the barriers between you and your goals. While you're learning this skill, write down your self-talk. It will help you to think more objectively about yourself and your weight-loss efforts. 

You can also use a diary to record a mental inventory of your successes at the end of each day. What did you do well? Focus on the positive ("I went for a walk three times this week and felt great!"), not on the negative ("I missed walking one day.") And think about how you can make tomorrow better. Be sure to praise yourself for every one of your successes, even if it seems small. 

Remember, weight control is much easier if you believe you can do it. Many of us have some doubts about reaching our goals, and this is natural. But by replacing our doubts with positive thoughts, we build belief in ourselves. And that belief can help us achieve our goals. 

You cannot suppress the urge to snack even if you are trying to lose weight. You can, however, fight off the urge with another activity.  

How to Fight the Urge to Snack

A mouthful of chocolate candy, a sliver of cake, a chunk of cheese...give into those insistent urges, and before you know it, you've eaten everything but the kitchen sink. Even worse, those little urges can also add up to a large weight gain. For example, if you take in just 100 extra calories per day -- that's one ounce of rich cheese or a fistful of potato chips -- you can put on ten pounds in one year. 

So, when the urge to eat strikes, stop and ask yourself if you're really hungry. If not, then you're merely eating out of habit, and the urge will usually pass if you can wait it out. 

Overcoming the eating urge can be compared to riding a bucking bronco. You can fight the horse and be thrown or maintain your balance and "ride" the horse until it settles down. Being a good "urge rider" involves identifying your urges early and using skills to ride them through. 

One skill to "ride out" your urges is to distract yourself for at least ten minutes with an activity that is incompatible with eating. The goal is to "buy time" and choose an activity that meets several criteria: It must involve you, be readily available, and give you pleasure or fill you with a sense of accomplishment. Here are some activity suggestions to get you started, but it's important to create your own list of personalized options: 
  • Call a friend (don't use the phone in the kitchen) 
  • Chew a wad of sugarless gum 
  • Brush your teeth 
  • Take a shower 
  • Paint your nails 
  • Water your plants 
  • Ride your exercise bike 
  • Organize your closet 
  • Meditate, pray, or think pleasant thoughts (but not about food) 
  • File papers or balance your checkbook 
  • Grab your mate, not your plate 
  • Work on a crossword puzzle or a jigsaw puzzle
Do not use television as your alternate activity. Studies show that obesity is almost twice as common in people who watch three to four hours of television daily as in those who watch less than one hour. This fatty connection may be due to the decrease in activity and the mindless snacking that tends to go hand in hand with watching television. If you watch four hours of television every day, that adds up to 1,460 hours each year. Just think of all the useful or enjoyable things you could do with those hours-or all the calories you could burn through more physical activities -- instead. 

Another way to ride out your urges is to change your environment. If you're alone, visit a friend (who won't offer you food.) If you're working overtime, take "seventh-inning stretches" in hallways. If you're in the kitchen, go to the bedroom or living room with a good book. Once you leave the environment, especially if it contained food, your desire to eat will eventually weaken. 

When you just can't resist an urge to eat, simply satisfy it with a low-calorie food or beverage. This is easy to do if you have an emergency stash of low-calorie items on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, and air-popped popcorn. 

Finally, ask yourself if your urges are simply a sign of fatigue. Many people feel like eating when they are tired, run-down, or sick. Once you recognize when you're tired, you can take a time-out and give your body what it really wants -- a little break. And don't feel guilty taking the extra time. If you ride out urges productively, you'll be surprised at the free time you have that once was filled with mindless eating. 

As your losing weight, or even before you begin, you should set up realistic goals for yourself to stay motivated. 

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. 

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.

How to Use a Diet Diary

Losing weight is the easy part when we consider lifestyle change. Keeping lost weight from finding you again is the single biggest challenge facing today's dieter. Does anything help? The answer from researchers at the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center is a resounding yes. Studies of successful "losers" show that they developed a habit of keeping a daily diary.

Diary keeping seems to aid weight control in three ways by facilitating: 

  • Focus: Daily diary keeping helps individuals remind themselves of, and focus on, the importance of their personal health goals. 
  • Planning: Failure to plan regular meals and daily physical activity is the single biggest pitfall dieters face when attempting to make lifestyle changes. A goal without a plan is just a wish...and we all know that wishing doesn't make it so. Plan meals and fitness activity at least a day, preferably a week, ahead of time. Make your plan a realistic one that considers your other activities and responsibilities. Once you have a plan, stick to it. If you do deviate from your plan, write it down. Include things like when and where it happened and who you were with. Later, you can use such information to help you identify and prepare for high-risk situations. 
  • Reflection: Keeping a daily diary is an extremely important tool for self-monitoring. Your diary will help you see patterns in your behavior that are moving you toward or away from your goals. Remember, it's important to monitor and praise yourself for progress in areas other than just weight.

How to Eat Less by Eating Slower

Eating slower can actually help you eat less and lose weight.

During a meal, your brain receives signals from your stomach and intestines that tell it when you're full. But it takes about 20 minutes for those signals to travel from your gut to your noggin. So if you're a speed eater, wolfing down bite after bite in rapid succession, you can pack in a lot of extra mouthfuls -- and calories -- during that lag time.

By slowing down, you give those natural signals of fullness a chance to register--so you can stop eating -- before you've polished off way more food than your body needs. Eating more slowly also allows you to savor the tastes, smells, and textures of your foods, which contribute to your sense of satisfaction.

If you're breaking speed records at meals, consider these techniques to slow down:

  • Put your fork or spoon down after every bite. For many people, eating is a nonstop motion: The fork or spoon is racing from plate to mouth. The trick is to take a spoonful of food, put the spoon down beside your plate, chew, swallow, then pick up the spoon again. At first, this will feel awkward and tedious. But you'll be surprised how much sooner you'll feel full. 
  • Swallow what is in your mouth before preparing the next bite. Many people are busy loading up their utensils while their mouth teeth are still chomping away. 
  • If you're eating hand-held food -- such as pizza, sandwiches, bagels, or cookies -- take one bite, then put the rest of your food down while you chew. 
  • Relax before you start eating. If you're upset over a problem at work or if the kids are fighting, do some deep breathing or read the paper to settle down. The key is to calm down first and then start eating at a leisurely pace. 
  • Eat your meal in courses, rather than family style where all the foods are on the table at the same time. 
  • Time your meals with a watch or kitchen timer until you get used to the slower pace. 
  • Take a brief break for a minute once or twice during the meal. Talk, sip a beverage, or fold your hands in your lap. 
  • Play slow background music. Studies have shown that people eat more slowly when they listen to slow, soft music. 
  • When it's time to eat, do nothing but eat. Devote your full attention to the meal. Make it a habit to turn off the television and take the phone off the hook. If you're distracted by other activities, you may not notice how fast -- or how much -- you are eating. 
  • Use chopsticks for all cuisines. They automatically slow down your rate of eating and the amount of food you're going to eat. If you're a pro with chopsticks, however, use them in the opposite hand! As an added bonus, chopsticks allow the fatty sauces to fall through the cracks and stay on the plate where they belong. 
  • Sit down when you eat. This helps you relax and focus on eating. A lot of people simply don't count what they eat when they are standing up. 
  • Dine -- don't just "inhale" your food. For example, you can savor each delicious bite of tuna salad on a fresh bed of leafy greens, or you can "wolf" your tuna fish right out of the can. Why not make mealtime a pleasurable event? 
  • Be creative, and develop your own tricks for slowing down your eating. 

How to Use a Support Group to Lose Weight

Losing weight is much easier if you build a team of people you can turn to for support, comfort, understanding, or helpful ideas. Here are some effective strategies for evaluating and building the social support in your life:

Step 1: Evaluate your social network.

Identify your allies -- people who'll support your weight-loss efforts -- and your saboteurs -- those who might undermine your efforts. The most obvious place to start looking for your allies is in your family, but friends and coworkers can also be allies.

Spend time with those who'll help, not hinder, your efforts. For example, if you're trying to cut back on calories, don't meet Jane the food-pusher or your drinking buddies after work. Meet with people who'll exercise with you and reinforce your efforts.

Step 2: Tell allies how to help. 

Other people can't read your mind. The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. So be clear about how you want others to support you. Requests such as "Help me out more" or "You're making it impossible for me to lose weight" are too vague.

Here are a few examples of specific things that you might ask your allies to do: 

  • To provide daily encouragement and support: Ask them to praise beneficial behavior changes, not the weight loss itself. Positive feedback shouldn't depend on how many pounds you've dropped, because weight loss may be slow at times. Positive behavior changes, such as eating slowly or revising recipes, can occur at any time and deserve support. 
  • Ask them to avoid criticizing your efforts even if you fall off your plan. 
  • Ask them to call or talk to you and explore solutions with you when you're having trouble with your plan. 
  • Ask them to walk or exercise with you. Sharing an activity can replace the usual eating ritual of so many social get-togethers.
To reduce your exposure to food: 
  • Ask them to avoid offering you food or giving you food as a gift. Assure them you'll ask for what you want to eat. 
  • Ask them to avoid eating "problem" foods in your presence. 
  • Ask them to clear the table and put food away as soon as the meal is over. 
  • Ask them to store food out of sight in the kitchen.
  • To reduce the importance of food: 
  • Ask them to minimize "food talk" with you. 
  • Ask them to demonstrate affection with hugs, kisses, or words -- not food. 
  • Ask them to invite you to activities that don't revolve around eating -- such as movies, plays, or sporting events. 
  • Ask them to entertain with lower-fat, reduced calorie foods. With such clear-cut suggestions, people close to you will know how to support you. In the past, they may have felt left out or didn't think you wanted their help, because you never told them exactly what you needed. 

When people help you, don't just thank them. Acknowledge the specific behavior you would like repeated, as well. For example, you might say something like "Thanks for not buying ice cream. It really helps when it's not in the house." Don't be too general and say, "Thanks for being so helpful." And be sure to ask what you can do for them in return -- helping is a two-way street.

Losing weight is very difficult and takes a lot of will power. To achieve your weight-loss goals, you need to put yourself in the best possible position for success. By following the suggestions in this article, you should be well on your way.


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