Pep Talk

You’re Facing a big challenge now, and it’s time to whip up your enthusiasm. There is no question that getting ready psychologically is an important key to weight-loss success. You know you should lose weight, you know how much you want to lose, and you know how you’re going to go about doing it. All you need now is the will to win.


Thomas edison called genius “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” When it comes to weight loss, I’d add motivation to that equation. I hope you’ll be perspiring as well as eating more Wisely, but what you’ll need to keep going is to keep yourself motivated. The big question is “Why are you doing this?

Everyone has different reasons for wanting to lose weight. Knowing your personal reasons will help you keep your eyes on the prize.

Ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Are you doing it:

  • For your self-esteem?
  • For your health?
  • For your loved ones?
  • To improve your social life ?
  • To improve your appearance?

You may want to lose weight for one or more of these reasons or for others I have not listed. Think about it and then take out your weight-loss notebook. On a new page, write down your reasons for wanting to weigh less than you do now.

Long-range and short-range motivators.

The reasons I have listed fall into the category of long-range motivators. They are life changes that losing weight will help accomplish. If you are the sort of person who inspired by long-range goals, this may be all you need.

Most of us, however, need to be reminded on a daily basis why we are working hard on a long project. That’s where short-range motivators come in.

Try to break your reasons into small pieces. For example, if improving your self-esteem is an aim, a good place to start us by keeping a promise you make to yourself 3 days out of 7. If your health is an issue, a reasonable short-range goal would be exercising in your target heart rate zone twice a week.

Jot down as many motivators as you can think of, but be sure they are the ones that work for you. Think of your list of motivators as a work in progress. As you achieve some of your goals, you may want to add new ones. And the more success you have, the more motivated you will find you become.

Post your list of motivators on your mirror or somewhere else you’re likely to see it often. Or slip them in your wallet or engagement calendar, or wherever else you will run across them when you could use a boost.

What about willpower?

Willpower is a buzzword often used when it comes to diet. Surely you’ve heard this one: “The most effective exercise is to push yourself away from the dinner table.” The failure of willpower is often used as an insult to those who are overweight. The simple fact is that this negative label hurts more than it helps.

Many weight-loss experts reject the idea of willpower and doubt that it is a valid feature of human psychology.

Experts dispute that willpower is something some people “have” and other do not. Instead, they recommend strategies for changing behavior. These include:

  1. Keeping a food diary
  2. Eating purposefully and mindfully
  3. Being aware of the connection between moods and behaviors
  4. Distracting yourself from eating with other activities

Reward yourself

Virtue may be its own reward, but most of us like to have something a bit more tangible. So don’t forget to reward yourself whenever you achieve one of your goals.

Rewards can be as simple and symbolic as a gold star or a smiley face in your notebook or calendar. They can be a special treat that has nothing to do with losing weight, like an evening out or a new book or CD. You could decide on something really big – a weekend getaway, perhaps – and put away a bit of money each time you achieve a short-range goal. Or give yourself a present that will add enjoyment to your new way of life. No, not a banana spilt when you lose a pound!

Maybe you’d feel rewarded by buying an article of clothing you never thought you’d be able to wear. How about a new workout outfit? A pair of shiny spandex leggings or a biceps-revealing tank top might be just the ticket. If you’re not ready for a new look, how about a massage or a facial? You know best what turns you on and what feels like a treat. Make a list of some small and big rewards you can look forward to when you’ve passed a weight-loss milestone.


Without a plan, motivation is little more than pie in the sky. That pie might not pack as many calories as the deep-dish apple kind, but it won’t help you lose weight either. You need to match your aims to your abilities.

Making changes

Losing weight in a healthy and sensible way means making big changes in your daily habits. It requires a new attitude toward eating and exercise. A survey conducted by the Calorie Control Council covered the reasons why people fail to achieve and maintain their desired weight. In a Calorie Control Council survey, more than half the people who responded said they couldn’t obtain their desired weight because of lack of exercise.

Manu of the reasons had to do with food and eating behavior:

  • Snacking too much
  • Eating too many high-fat foods
  • Bingeing
  • Overeating at mealtimes
  • Eating for emotional reasons
  • Having trouble eating properly at restaurants
  • Reducing fat, but not calories
  • Reducing calories, but not fat

Does one or more of these reasons apply to you? Will making changes in these areas get you in the weight-loss frame of mind? Start a new page in your weight-loss notebook. Write “Changes” across the top and divide the page into two columns. Call one column “Small Changes” and the other “Big Changes.”

Make a list of things you know you have to do differently. Be specific. “Eat less” is a change, but not one you can measure. Same with “Exercise more.” Attach some numbers to those concepts and you’ll give yourself a yardstick to measure by. Be positive. That is, go heavy on the “do’s” and light on the “don’ts.”

Your list of small changes might include:

  • Drink eight to ten glasses of water a day
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way home every other day
  • Make menus for every day
  • Limit restaurant meals to once a week
  • Snack on pretzels instead of Chips.
  • Eliminate 50 calories from each mea every day.
  • Ride bike for a half hour on the weekend.

Your list of big changes might include:

  • The kitchen closes at 9 p.m.
  • Join a gym
  • Save french fries for special occasions: one serving no more than once a month
  • Eat one serving only of every food
  • Eat only from my menu-no unplanned noshing
  • Eliminate 2,000 calories from each week
  • Learn salsa dancing

These are just a few suggestions. Some of my small changes may feel like big changes to you, and vice versa. Or the things you need to change may be very different, So make your own list by thinking about the places that food and activity occupy in your life, Use your sample food and exercise diaries to see where some of the problems lie and where there is room for improvement.

The small changes to your daily routine should be things you know you can do; all that’s required is that you make a list. The big changes are more challenging. There may be practical and psychological barriers to surmount, and you may have to try more than once before you succeed.

You may find it helpful to put the big changes in some sort of order – from easiest to most difficult, from least to most important to you, from the ones you want to try first to those you’ll put off for a while.

This is a stick-up

Buy a pack of index cards or a pad of stick-up notes and write one of the changes on each. You might find it helpful to write the change on one side and keep a record of your progress toward this change on the other. Post the cards or stick -up notes on a bulletin board, a mirror, or the door of your refrigerator – anywhere you are likely to see them. You might even want to put some inside your refrigerator or stick one or two on particularly dangerous foods. There’s nothing like finding some serious reading matter on a box of chocolates to give you pause!

Another idea that might work better for you is to write your changes on a calendar. It can be a wall calendar or one you carry with you. Each time you make one of these change, check it off or stick a gold star on it!

Give yourself some choices

Experts call making changes “behavior modification,” and they believe it is the to permanent weight loss and improved fitness. They also know that you can’t “just say no “and expect it to work all the time or even most of the time.

The best thing to do is give yourself alternatives.

If you spend your evenings watching television, think about some more active things you can do instead. If your favorite leisure-time activity is watching sports, how about becoming a player rather than a spectator, at least some of the time? If you get together with friends for coffee and donuts, how about meeting for an hour of dancing instead? If you lie on the beach with a book, why not join the beach volleyball game or toss a Frisbee with your friends? If your normal bedtime snack is milk and cookies, allow yourself an apple and say goodnight.

Make a list of eating and leisure-time behaviors you regularly engage in. Circle the ones that are positive and cross out the ones that are not. Replace those you’ve crossed out with satisfying alternatives. Make yourself some cards or stick-up notes that read “Instead of (bad habit), try (good habit)” and post them around the house or office.

Your hopes and fears

Back in Chapter what-does-food-mean-to-you when you were exploring what food means to you, you wrote about your hopes and fears about losing weight. Now that you are closer to doing that, you may want to reread and reevaluate what you wrote. Have your hopes become more realistic or more ambitious? Are your fears diminished or have you added new ones?

Try to turn each hope and fear into a positive, motivating statement. For example, if you wrote that you are afraid that losing weight will be too difficult, write something like “Losing weight may be difficult, but I am ready to face the challenge.” If you wrote that being slimmer will mean you can wear a bathing suit without embarrassment, write something like “Bathing suit season is just 10 weeks away, and I’ll be ready for it.”

Write each of these positive statements on an index card and post them in prominent places in your home or office. Or make each one of them a motto of the day and write it on your calendar.

Get support

Now’s the time to gather the members of your team. Check the “friends of My Diet” list you made in Chapter are-you-overweight and tell them that you are beginning your weight-loss plan. Ask them to give you as much encouragement as they can in the days ahead. You may want to let them know the details of your plan and tell them what they can do to help.

  • If you’d like them to hold off on food-based gatherings, tell them
  • If you have special food requests when they are preparing meals, give them a list
  • If you want a witness at your weigh-ins, arrange a time and place
  • If you want someone to take your measurements, hand over the tape measure
  • If you want company while you walk, run, bike, or dance, make a date
  • If you want them to ask you how you’re doing, let them know
  • If you want to make time for exercise, ask them to take over some of your tasks or responsibilities

Look into an online chat. You may wish to “lurk” for the first few days, but when you have the courage, take the plunge and join in the discussion. Virtual diet buddies can be as helpful as people you see every day, and maybe even more so.

Do not let anyone discourage you from your weight-loss plans.

If you have friends or family who are skeptical of your plan or who seem to enjoy undermining your efforts, don’t share your hopes and plans with them. Let them be surprised by the change they will surely notice in the future. Remember the words of my aerobics instructor: “Stay away from negative people. You know who they are.”

Give it time to work

Once you get started, try to balance determination with patience. That’s the best way to get over the rough spots.

Most likely, you will quickly shed a few pounds, maybe even in the first week.

Much of this will be water, as your body adjusts to your new way of eating. Still, a good portion will be true weight loss, as your body draws on stored fat to make up for the fact that you’re taking in fewer calories than you need to function. You may not see a difference for a while, but the scale will tell the story.

It usually takes time for your shape to catch up to your weight loss. You to notice that your clothes are a bit looser or someone may ask if you’ve ray begin because your face seems thinner. But don’t expect to notice any of these change in the first week or two.

The flip side of the coin

The good news about this rapid initial weight loss is that it will cheer you on, providing some instant motivation. The bad news is that it won’t last for long. In a short while your metabolism will gear down to compensate for the lower calorie intake. The rate of your weight loss will slow and eventually stop, unless you “fool” your body by increasing your level of activity.

How quickly people arrive at a weight-loss plateau varies. Typically, it comes after about 10 pounds are lost, though the more you have to lose, the longer it will take before you hit a plateau.

The important thing is not to get discouraged.

Stick to your plan and be patient. Remember you are making big changes meant to last a lifetime. The main task of the first few weeks of your weight-loss plan is to learn how to live with it, to figure out what works and what does not, and to observe how well you are able to meet the commitment you have made. If you find yourself getting discouraged, call on your pep squad. Talk to a friend, seek out advice, or vent your frustration in an online chat or in-person support group.

Expect lapses

No matter how motivated you are, no matter how determined you are, you may sometimes do something you know you shouldn’t, or fail to do what you have planned. You might miss an exercise session or help yourself to seconds out of habit rather than hunger. You might give in to a temptation or say “yes” when you should have said “no.” You are, after all, only human.

The worst thing you can do is treat a lapse as a failure and give up your weight-loss plan entirely. Instead, treat it as a minor transgression. Try to make up for it by eating less at the next meal or the next day, exercising harder or longer at the next session, or readjusting one of your short­term goals.

Above all, forgive yourself and keep going. If you can learn something from the lapse, all the better. Maybe an after-work exercise session isn’t right for you. Would it be better to get your activity in at lunchtime or in the morning? Maybe working out every day is too ambitious right now. Maybe having lunch with your coworkers every day is just too tempting. Maybe there are too many snack foods in your cupboard and it’s time to clear them out.

Remember that an explanation is not an excuse.

It’s a good idea to try to understand what went wrong. It’s a good idea to forgive yourself. But it is not a good idea to blame the lapse on outside factors and do nothing to avoid it in future.

Monitor your progress

Keeping a weight-loss journal is the simplest and most effective way to stay on track. A daily food and activity diary is a must. Periodically updating your personal database is also a good idea.

Continue to use your weight-loss notebook for your daily diaries or do it on index cards or make photocopies of the journal blanks in the back of this book. If you prefer, you can make up your own forms. Whatever you do, make sure your diary is portable, easy to use, and suited to your own plan.

Choose your time frame

When it comes to your personal database, you can decide whether to track your progress week-by-week or month-by-month.

Don’t track your progress day-by-day.

Weighing and measuring yourself every day will not give you the boost you need. Your weight can fluctuate by a pound or more on a daily basis. Significant and realistic loss will begin showing up from week to week, and will probably be most dramatic from month to month.

Weigh yourself on the first day of your weight-loss campaign and write the date. If you want, take your measurements and date those too. Other baseline figures should include your

  • BMI
  • RHR (resting heart rate)
  • MHR (maximum heart rate)
  • THR (target heart rate)

Allow space for updates, weekly or monthly, as you choose. Every time you take a new measurement, date it. You might also want to buy some highlighters and designate one color for improvement, one for no change, and a third for movement in the opposite direction. Ideally, you’ll see nothing but improvement, but you will in any event be able to tell at a glance how your campaign is going.


Make space for comments, either on your daily diary or on a separate page in your notebook. Jot down what works and what does not, moods that explain (but don’t excuse) lapses, triggers that cause you to break your rules, things that will help you follow them.

It’s a good idea to reevaluate your plan from time to time. Your comments and your colorful personal database will help you decide if revision is needed, and if so, what to revise.

After you’ve lived with your weight-loss plan for a month, you may want to reset your milestones. Maybe the weight is coming off faster than you expected. Maybe your improved fitness level makes it possible for you to exercise more vigorously. Or maybe you were unrealistic in your goals. The only way to know for sure is to do it.

On your mark, get set

Now the timeAre you ready? Choose whatever it takes to get you started.

  • Make it a New Year’s resolution.
  • Give yourself a birthday, anniversary, or graduation present.
  • Begin it with the new day, week, month, or season.

But remember, there’s no time like the present. If you find yourself putting off your weight-loss plan, ask yourself why it’s always tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Take out the contract you made back in Chapter setting-goals and reread it. Do you want to make any changes? If so, the time is now. Then sign it and date it, and get a witness.

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