1. Do It for the Right Reasons. Before beginning your weight-loss venture, ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Is it because your class reunion looms on the horizon or your spouse wants you to? The best reason to lose weight is an internal one such as wanting to feel more energetic so you can live life to the fullest.
2. Take the Slow Road. Make only a change or two at a time to your eating and activity habits, rather than attempting a complete lifestyle overhaul. You're more likely to stick with new habits when you take the slow approach.
3. Do It Your Way. Many weight loss-diets are one size-fits-all prescriptions that tell you exactly what and when to eat, and seldom take into account your likes, dislikes, and lifestyle. No wonder diets don't work! Plan meals and snacks according to your own preferences. But don't skip meals, which will zap your energy.
4. Don't Expect Perfection. Use your daily calorie level as a guide, not a rule you must follow. This is true of physical activity, too. Don't feel guilty if you miss a day or two. It's progress made over time that counts.
5. Look at the Long and Short of It. Establish short-term weight goals as well as a long-term goal. You'll feel good tracking your progress and reaching one weight-loss goal after another.
6. Raise Your Food IQ. Learning about the calories, fat, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the foods helps you follow your daily calorie level and make informed, healthful food choices. Read food labels to learn how foods fit into your eating plan. Note serving sizes and calories and fat in each serving. Weigh and measure foods a few times to learn what a serving looks like.
7. Tune In to Your Inner Signals. Listen and trust your body's signals of hunger and fullness. These are keys to achieving your best weight. Tuning in also helps you avoid eating for emotional reasons -- boredom, anxiety, anger, or loneliness, for instance -- rather than hunger.
8. Enjoy Favorite Foods. An eating plan you enjoy is an eating plan you'll stick with. Trying to squelch cravings for favorite goodies can backfire into an all-out binge. Allow for an occasional treat in a reasonable portion -- and savor every bit!
9. Put It in Writing. Keep a journal to track your progress, monitor your feelings, plan eating strategies for special occasions, and even log in compliments you receive as you lose weight.
10. Plan on It. If you're going to a birthday bash or out for a special meal, work in extra physical activity and bank some calories for a few days before and after. That way, you can splurge a little at the event.
11. Don't Be a Slave to the Scale. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the needle on the scale won't budge, or may inch upward. Your body may be adjusting to a lower calorie level. Focus on how good you feel -- over time your weight will come down.
12. Celebrate Your Successes. Reward your progress, but not with food. Instead, buy yourself flowers, a new pair of walking shoes, or go to a movie when you reach a short-term goal. Splurge on a new outfit or a complete makeover when you reach a long-term goal.
13. Make It a Family Affair. Enlist your friends, mate, or children as cheerleaders in your weight-loss effort. Involve them in choosing and preparing recipes, then go for a group walk after dinner. It's good for them, too!