Weight loss: Strategies for success

Make your weight-loss goals a reality. Follow these proven strategies.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Hundreds of fad diets, weight-loss programs and outright scams promise quick and easy weight loss. However, the foundation of successful weight loss remains a healthy, calorie-controlled diet combined with exercise. For successful, long-term weight loss, you must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits.

How do you make those permanent changes? Consider following these six strategies for weight-loss success.

1. Make a commitment

Permanent weight loss takes time and effort — and a lifelong commitment. Make sure that you're ready to make permanent changes and that you do so for the right reasons.

To stay committed to your weight loss, you need to be focused. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change your habits. So as you're planning new weight-loss-related lifestyle changes, make a plan to address other stresses in your life first, such as financial problems or relationship conflicts. While these stresses may never go away completely, managing them better should improve your ability to focus on achieving a healthier lifestyle. Then, once you're ready to launch your weight-loss plan, set a start date and then — start.

2. Find your inner motivation

No one else can make you lose weight. You must undertake diet and exercise changes to please yourself. What's going to give you the burning drive to stick to your weight-loss plan?

Make a list of what's important to you to help stay motivated and focused, whether it's an upcoming beach vacation or better overall health. Then find a way to make sure that you can call on your motivational factors during moments of temptation. Perhaps you want to post an encouraging note to yourself on the pantry door, for instance.

While you have to take responsibility for your own behavior for successful weight loss, it helps to have support — of the right kind. Pick people to support you who will encourage you in positive ways, without shame, embarrassment or sabotage. Ideally, find people who will listen to your concerns and feelings, spend time exercising with you or creating healthy menus, and who will share the priority you've placed on developing a healthier lifestyle. Your support group can also offer accountability, which can be a strong motivation to stick to your weight-loss goals.

If you prefer to keep your weight-loss plans private, be accountable to yourself by having regular weigh-ins and recording your diet and exercise progress in a journal.

3. Set realistic goals

It may seem obvious to set realistic weight-loss goals. But do you really know what's realistic? Over the long term, it's best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Generally to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day, through a lower calorie diet and regular exercise.

When you're setting goals, think about both process and outcome goals. "Exercise every day" is an example of a process goal. "Lose 30 pounds" is an example of an outcome goal. It isn't essential that you have an outcome goal, but you should set process goals because changing your your habits is a key to weight loss.

Feb. 26, 2014 See more In-depth