It can be hard to keep up the weight-loss motivation. We've got five easy tips so that you can believe in you all the way to your weight-loss goal.

April 24, 2009

Want to shed excess fat once and for all? Instead of living on diet products, try changing the way you think. Research shows that many people who lose weight end up regaining it; but to understand how those who beat the odds do it, scientists have started to explore the mind-sets of so-called "successful losers." While the National Weight Control Registry reports that eating right and exercising are paramount to lasting weight loss, a recent study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, zeroed in on the critical role of psychological factors. Lead researcher Jane Ogden, Ph.D., looked at 44 men and women who maintained a significant weight loss for a minimum of three years, and says, "According to my research, people who successfully lose weight strongly believe that weight loss is possible. They also recognize that psychological factors such as attitude toward food are crucial to their success."

"For many people, 'mind' is the missing piece of the puzzle," agrees Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. "That's why scientists are now asking us to look at the psychological land mines that are keeping us from getting healthy and fit." So, before you head to Spinning class or start slashing calories, you must get your head in the fat-loss game. Here are seven research-based, tried-and-true tips for doing so:

Believe you can succeed. In Ogden's study, people who lost weight and kept it off actually visualized -- and realized they could accomplish -- their fat-loss goals. "If you're going to lose weight, you have to believe that you can make it happen," Ogden says.

Be realistic. Many women set near-impossible goals, which can set them up for failure and disappointment, reports Leslie Womble, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who recently presented her study to the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. So set your sights on an attainable amount of weight and a sensible time frame. (One to 2 pounds per week, max!)

Focus on tangible results. Think about the immediate psychological and physical benefits of getting in better shape. "In my study, short-term goals such as feeling more confident, boosting energy or eating more healthfully were more effective than long-term, less specific goals," Ogden says.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Clinical research has shown that a feeling of deprivation can impede progress when trying to lose weight. "If you eat a piece of cake, don't think, 'I blew it,' " Womble says. "Realize, 'I can have a piece of cake once in a while. I just need to exercise a little more or cut back at dinner.' "

Plan for land mines. In her work, Womble has found that people who successfully lose weight tend to soothe temptations or frustrations by finding alternate ways to cope with them. For instance, they call a friend or take a walk instead of eating.

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