Losing Weight: How Do I Start?
- The importance of setting a goal
- Questions to ask
- Set a goal: make it SMART
- A lapse is not a collapse
- Useful resources
The importance of setting a goal
Weight loss involves making permanent changes to what you eat and drink, as well as increasing your activity levels. Losing weight in a healthy way can therefore be a big challenge and many people find it difficult to keep these changes going in the long term.
Research into why some people lose weight and keep it off, while others do not, has found that most people who succeed have set a realistic and achievable weight loss goal and put together a personalised weight loss plan that outlines what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
Questions to ask
If you are thinking about losing weight, you should ask yourself the following questions. This will help you develop your own personalised weight loss plan.
- Why do I want to lose weight?
- What is a realistic weight loss goal for me?
- How important is weight loss to me?
- What has worked and not worked for me in the past? Why?
- What steps can I take to help me lose weight?
- What is the first step I could take? When can I do this?
- What might get in my way?
- How can I overcome these obstacles?
- What support do I need?
- How confident do I feel that I will reach my goal?
- When will I review my goal?
- What changes (if any) do I need to make to my plans?
Set a goal: make it SMART
Once you have thought about the above questions and decided on what changes you are going to make to your diet, it is important to set yourself a goal. When you are setting yourself any goals, it is important to make sure they are SMART. This means that your goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-specific.
Be clear about what you are going to do. Don’t just say, ‘I am going to eat less’. Make a specific plan on how exactly you plan to eat less. For example, are you going to cut down on snacking between meals? Are you going to reduce portion sizes? Will you stop eating supper before bedtime? Will you adjust your diabetes medication before you exercise, so that you don’t have to eat to prevent low blood glucose?
You should be able to measure the changes you make. So, instead of saying, ‘I will eat a smaller breakfast’, instead say, ‘I will have one Weetabix for breakfast instead of three’. By making your changes measurable, you will be able to assess much more easily whether you have been successful.
It is important to be realistic about the changes you are going to make. People often set a goal that is unrealistic and then become disheartened when they don’t achieve it. You are more likely to succeed if you make small, gradual changes. Start with small changes you feel comfortable with and build from there.
Make sure the changes you plan to make will help you to achieve your goal. There is no point making changes to your diet that will not actually help you with weight loss.
It is important to review your goal regularly so that you can assess whether you have achieved it. If you haven’t, this gives you a chance to work out why not and to revise your plan accordingly. When you draw up your weight-loss plan you should include a realistic date by which you aim to have achieved your goal.
To help you set your goals, complete the SMART worksheet.
A lapse is not a collapse
Everyone who tries to lose weight finds it more challenging at times. The important thing is not to give up: a lapse is not a collapse! If you do go off track, you should not see it as a reason to give up completely. Try to get back on track as quickly as you can – the sooner you do this, the more successful you will be.
It is important to learn from any lapses to try to make sure they don’t happen again. Review your plan and ask yourself why you went off track and what you can do to avoid another lapse.
The following will give you more information and support on managing your weight:
- Exercise and Physical Activity: The Impact on Blood Glucose
- Exercise and Physical Activity: Healthy Living
The NHS has developed a free 12-week guide which combines advice on healthy eating and physical activity:
The British Heart Foundation has produced a detailed information leaflet to support weight loss: