Are You Really Ready To Diet?

Losing weight is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. And it takes time - there's no such thing as a quick fix. But if you are looking to launch a healthier lifestyle, exercise physiologist and clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller has come up with some hard questions to ask yourself - and some helpful tips to get you on the right track.

Heller visited The Saturday Early Show to outline the steps she'd take to launch a new diet and exercise program. She spoke with a producer prior to her appearance:

The Saturday Early Show: So what's the first step?
First, you need to determine how motivated you are to do what it takes to adopt a new, healthier lifestyle. On a scale from one to ten, one being "Fuhgedaboutit" and ten being "YES - 1000 percent motivated," where does your motivation fall?

If it's below about 8, then perhaps this is not the best time for you to begin a weight-loss program.

If you lack that strong motivation, what do you do?
Ask yourself, why? What's getting in the way? Is it a fear of deprivation, hunger, not knowing what needs to be done? All that can all contribute to a lack of motivation.

Let's talk about ways to get motivated. Obviously, losing weight is good for our health, but face it, for a lot of people the big motivation is how we look. Isn't that right?
Yes. Lots of people put pictures of themselves on their refrigerators as reminders to stay on the straight and narrow, or pictures of how they'd like to look - usually of movie stars and models. But for most of us that's just unrealistic, even counter-productive. And anyway, after a while most people just stop noticing pictures like that.

There's a free Web site that offers an alternative to this - it's called WeightView.com, and you can upload a digital picture of yourself. Then they run it through an imaging process that supposedly shows what you'd look like if you lost up to 20 pounds. The idea is, you can print both pictures and this will give you a more realistic motivation to shed those pounds.

This kind of thing may help some people - others, maybe not. It's up to you.

Okay, say you're sufficiently motivated to lose weight. Does having a kind of game plan help you stay that way?
Yes. It's very important to create a specific game plan. Write down a meal-by-meal plan to help you get organized. Take into account where you live and work and what is realistic in terms of your daily life. If you need help, see a registered dietitian.

So having clear goals are important.
Yes. Set goals, but make them achievable. Size may matter in some things, but success versus failure is more important here. If you set a goal of excercising four times a week but only manage three, it feels like failure. Better to go for success with three. Attaining that goal gives you motivational momentum and makes it easier to achieve the next one.

Another thing: write down your goals, and share them with friends and family. Having a motivational support group can be very helpful.

Let's talk about practical matters. Lots of dieters skip meals to save calories. Does that work?
Do NOT skip meals or starve yourself. Getting overly hungry is a set-up for dietary disaster. But don't eat after dinner, either.

Also, keep a food record. Writing down what you eat every day can seem like a pain in the neck, but it helps increase your awareness of what and how much you are eating. A food record can also help you see how varying situations effect your food choices and portions sizes. For example, parties, meetings, eating alone, traveling, and so on.

Motivation and determination are obviously important, but how about attitude?
Be positive. Give yourself a pat on the back for making healthy choices and decisions. But don't berate yourself if you fall off the wagon. Look at the event as a learning experience - then get it back together and move forward.

How about some tips for helping your motivated self attain your weight-loss goals.
  • Walk 10,000 steps a day. Buy a pedometer and start walking. There is nothing better to kick-start your weight loss.

  • Skip cheese for two weeks, then start back with low or non-fat cheeses. One ounce of regular cheese - about the size of a matchbook - will cost you about 100 calories, plus 6 grams of artery-clogging fat.

  • Have lentil, split pea or other bean soups for lunch. These healthy, high-fiber soups help curb appetite. Go for low-sodium versions if you can.

  • At lunch and dinner, make half your plate vegetables. High in healthy stuff and low in calories, vegetables can help fill you up without packing on the pounds.

  • Drink only non-caloric beverages like seltzer or herbal teas.
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