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Getting started with weight loss

In a recent survey, HBF members identified lack of true commitment and waning motivation as the biggest barriers to achieving their weight loss goals. In this post, HBF nutritionist Mary Du Heaume explains how to overcome these obstacles and make small changes that produce lasting weight loss results.

Getting started with weight loss

Clothes shopping is more fun when we're in shape

Playing with kids, going on holidays and shopping for new clothes are all a whole lot easier and more fun if we’re a healthy weight, right? 

But wanting to shed some kilos and committing to weight loss aren’t the same. 

In a recent survey, our members told us that waning motivation and a lack of true commitment in the first place were their main barriers to achieving their weight loss goals. Yes, losing weight is a challenge and it can take multiple attempts. If it was easy, more than 60% of Australian adults wouldn’t currently be overweight. 

The good news is that the upside of becoming a healthy weight far outweighs the effort required to get there. Nothing tastes as good as a healthy body feels. It’s also hands-down one of the best things we can do to avoid or postpone health problems like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. These conditions can not only cut our lives short, but inhibit us from doing many of the enjoyable activities make our lives worth living. 

So where to begin? 

Lose weight the healthy way

Getting a health check is a smart way to start your weight loss journey. It only takes about 20 minutes and can be done at your local pharmacy. 

Health checks measure more than just your weight. They usually record your height, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose level as well as gauge your current level of physical fitness. It’s these measures combined (not just your weight) that indicate your overall health. 

The results can alert you of potential health problems you may be facing in the short term and further down the track. They can also be used as a benchmark against which you can measure your progress - an important part of weight loss goal setting.

Weight loss goal setting

Setting goals and mapping out a practical plan to achieve them is half the battle with weight loss. Remember, our members told us that not being truly committed from the outset was the biggest obstacle to achieving their weight loss goals.

The trick to staying motivated and achieving your target weight is to make sure your goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Precisely how much weight do you want to lose and by when? Pick a weight that you feel is attainable and a date by which achieving it is realistic. 

Next, break the goal down into mini goals or quotas. For example, if you want to lose twenty kilos in 2015, first set your sights on five. Pick a date ten weeks from now and determine to lose 0.5 kilos every week until that date is reached. 

But 0.5 kilos a week is easier said than done you say. How exactly do I go about it? 

That’s the great thing about starting out with a health check - your pharmacist can use your results to set you on a personalised pathway! They can also refer you on to appropriate nutrition and exercise programs or professionals if you feel you could use the extra help.

After 6 months, 12 months (or any time frame, for that matter) you’ll be able to track your progress against the baseline measurements from your original health check and see not just how much weight you have lost, but how much your overall health has improved. 

Weight loss tips for success

Once you know where you stand with your current health and have a plan to achieve your target weight, you are ready to get started. But first, read through these three last minute tips for weight loss success:

1. Seek support. Sharing your weight loss goals with people close to you is great for staying accountable and keeping on track. You might even spur them on to join you! Setting goals and celebrating success with someone else is much more enjoyable than going it alone. 

Sharing your weight loss goal on social media (if you’re comfortable with it) really puts your goal out there too. You’ll be surprised how many people offer encouragement and support, and how much that can help motivate and perk you up on a low day.

If you have tried to lose weight in the past and it hasn’t worked, making an appointment with a dietitian can help you to develop practical meal and exercise plans that suit your individual circumstances.

2. Celebrate individual successes - no matter how small they are. Never underestimate the strength it takes to decline a party pie at the office morning tea! It will seem like a hard decision at the time, but it’s the accumulation of small decisions like these that lead to larger, lasting results.

3. Be kind to yourself. As you congratulate yourself for the good decisions, it’s important to go easy on yourself for the bad ones too, because we all make them. Maybe you ate a chocolate at 2 pm because you were hungry and didn’t bring a healthy afternoon snack. That’s okay, provided you learn from it and remember to bring some chopped strawberries tomorrow or to keep a stash of wholegrain muesli bars in your drawer for next time. 

Remember that in any journey of change you’ll have setbacks, but each day presents another chance to make better choices, and healthy habits are just an accumulation of good decisions.

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