If you’ve set out to lose weight and get healthy in 2013, but are not sure how to keep going another month, much less the rest of the year, take advice from Registered Dietitian Anika DeCoster, program manager of the 90-Day Challenge for Life Time Fitness, The Healthy Way of Life Company. In its third year the national weight loss contest has helped a total of 58,000 people lose a cumulative 145,000 pounds.
“A great weight loss program provides a combination of the right exercise, nutrition and lifestyle factors, including stress management and good sleep,” DeCoster says. “In addition, I’ve noticed that those who succeed in losing the most weight take their efforts further in order to win the competition.”
She says adopting these five strategies can improve your chances of winning at weight loss.
1. Find your motivation.
You can’t lose weight because your doctor said to, or your spouse hinted you should, or a close friend passive-aggressively suggested it. “Real winners spend time thinking about and identifying their own motive for losing weight,” DeCoster says. “The more emotion you put into something, the more likely you’ll commit for the long term. Spend time reflecting and understanding why you’ll stop at nothing to achieve your overall goal.” This doesn’t mean you have to face your weight loss challenge alone, DeCoster adds. “But acknowledge that you are the only one to actively change your behavior.”
2. Learn how and make it a habit.
“As the saying goes, ‘motivation is what gets you started, but habits are what keep you going,’” DeCoster says. Forming healthy lifestyle habits will lead to long-term weight loss success. But making changes takes work and time. “Most people know what they need to do but often prevent their own success because they never take the time to learn how,” DeCoster says. “For example, you might want to eat healthier and know that you should eat more vegetables, but if you don’t know strategies to add more vegetables to your diet, your success will be limited.” Do your research or hire a coach to help you learn about sound nutrition and exercise.
3. Write your goal down, and publicize it.
A 2007 study from Dominican University in California reported that people who put their goals in writing are more successful than those who think about them. Success rate increases further by making those goals public. Participants in the study who merely considered their goals succeeded 43 percent of the time, whereas those who wrote goals down increased their success rate to 64 percent. Those who wrote down their goals and reported their progress weekly to a friend succeeded an average of 76 percent. Thanks to the Internet, you can share your progress via social media. In fact, a study published this month in Translational Behavioral Medicine revealed that participants in a weight loss program who also used Twitter as a support tool lost more weight.
4. Take a “before photo.”
You might want to skip this step, but don’t; real winners take before photos seriously. A before photo is the starting line, the benchmark to stay motivated and be reminded of how far you’ve come. DeCoster says photos should show as much skin as you would in a swimsuit and should capture front, back and side views. “When you are the one losing weight, it can be hard to see the daily metabolic change that is going inside of your body,” DeCoster says, adding that along with the photo make sure you jot down starting weight and measurements.
5. Focus on good behaviors to master, not bad behaviors to stop.
Make your weight loss journey a positive one. “Instead of telling yourself you really need to stop eating fast food for lunch, focus more on planning and packing lunches instead. Instead of telling yourself you can’t have any sweets, remind yourself you’re choosing healthier rewards,” DeCoster explains. The shift may seem subtle, but the payoff to the approach results in long-term lifestyle changes.
If these tips from competitive weight loss winners aren’t enough, entering a weight loss competition yourself could fortify your resolve. A 2009 study published in the journal Obesity concluded that team-based competitions can successfully reduce BMI and obesity rates within participating groups.
“Group dynamics can boost weight loss success,” says DeCoster, whose 90 Day Challenge kicks off Feb. 9 (www.lifetime-weightloss.com/90day). “Sharing your expectations with teammates and having a team hold you accountable, while supporting you at the same time fosters a no-fail atmosphere and inspires you to achieve a healthy way of life.”