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The Friendliest Way to Lose Weight in 2010

Posted Dec 30 2009 8:59am

About this time ten years ago, I went through a rough patch in my life. Not long before that, I owned a successful business. I was young and prosperous. I was able to travel. And though I worked long hours, I had the freedom to work where and when I wanted.

I exercised frequently. I was eating well and I felt great. I could only see blue skies ahead.

Then, in a rather short period of time, it fell apart. The business failed, for reasons mostly out of my control. I lost a good deal of money. I started another business that went nowhere fast. And a few months later, I found myself with no job, few prospects, and just enough money for bills that month.

A friend of mine owned a restaurant. So I went to work waiting tables. I slowly got back on my feet financially. But I was still depressed. My solace was food. I was drinking soft drinks. I was always snacking on bread. And since I was always around food, I ate everything in sight, even when I wasn’t hungry.

In no time at all, I gained about 30 pounds. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. My skin started breaking out. And I became even more depressed about my situation. But I wasn’t broken and I decided to make a change. I knew that if I wanted to regain anything financially and emotionally, I had to focus on my health first.

Within a few short months, I was in better shape than I had been in years. I felt great. I had more energy. My skin cleared up. And feeling so much better about myself, I went on to have a great year financially. But this essay is not about my financial transformation. I want to tell you about my health transformation. There were three keys that made it work.

I’m not going to tell you what I ate, how much I ate, or how I prepared my food. And I’m not going to tell you how much I exercised, or what kind of exercise I did to get back in shape. You might think those two things are the most important when it comes to losing weight and transforming your health. But they are not.

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Believe it or not, there are three steps that are even more important than what you eat or how you exercise. Because without taking these three steps first, your chances of sticking to your plan diminish significantly. These three steps will make or break your fat loss and health transformation efforts.

  • Write down your goals and deadlines and make a detailed plan to achieve them.
  • Benchmark your starting point. Then document and measure your progress.
  • Communicate your goals and enlist the support of others. This is critical!

I am going to go over these three steps in more detail. Then I would like for you to comment on this article, with your own goals and plans for the New Year. So please read to the end!

Write Down Your Goals and Make a Detailed Plan

As with anything you set out to do, the first step is to determine exactly what you want to accomplish. Be specific and descriptive. How much weight would you like to lose? In what amount of time? In what measurable ways would you like to improve your health? Want to give up sweets? Set a future date that you won’t put a taste of sugar in your mouth until that time comes. Whatever your goals are, write them down and be specific.

Also write down the reasons you intend to accomplish these goals. You have to have a “why”. Maybe you want to look your best for a trip to the beach. Maybe you want to wear the same size jeans you wore in high school. Maybe you want to compete in a road race or a martial arts competition. Perhaps you want more energy to play with your kids. Or you want to live long enough to see your grandkids grow up. Whatever your reasons are… big or small… immediate or far out into the future… write those things down.

Then you need to write down your plans to achieve those goals. If your nemesis is junk food, don’t allow it in your house. Discard any temptation and fill your cupboards and refrigerator with healing foods. Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time. You never want to get too hungry or go too long between meals. That is when your willpower will break down. Make a plan for when you will exercise and put it on a schedule.

Document and Measure Your Progress

Now, you have your goals and plans in place. Next, you need to establish your starting point.

If your goals involve your health, perhaps you want to improve certain blood tests. Maybe you want to lower your fasting insulin so you can get off diabetes medication. Maybe you want to get your blood pressure in a healthy range and ditch those meds too. Whatever it is, you need to set a starting point for the markers you want to improve. If your goals involve fitness and fat loss, you should take measurements of your body, bodyfat percentage and your weight.

You should also take some photos of yourself. And continue to take photos every two weeks along the way. Just be sure to keep the variables the same. Stand in the same place. Wear the same clothes. Keep the lighting the same.

The most accurate yardstick is your body measurements. If your goal is to transform your body, take the following measurements with a flexible tape measure:

  • Arm - flex your bicep and measure the biggest part
  • Hips - look to the side and measure the biggest part of your butt
  • Navel - measure around your belly, even with your belly button
  • Waist - measure the narrowest part of your waist
  • Chest - measure just above the nipple, with your breath out

Your body tape measurements will tell you where you are gaining or losing inches. But they won’t tell you what you are gaining or losing. The goal is to gain or maintain muscle, while losing fat. And the way to tell that is by calculating your bodyfat. You can do that with a simple caliper, or you can go to a gym and have your bodyfat measured.

Of course, you should weigh yourself before you begin. And you should track your progress along the way. Weigh yourself at the same time each time. But don’t weigh yourself every day. There are a lot of things that can affect your weight. You don’t want to get discouraged, just because you gained a few pounds of water weight. Once or twice a week on the scale is best.

And don’t worry if the scale is not dead accurate. Your progress is what is important. And as long as you use the same scale every time, you’ll know if you’re making progress.

Become Accountable to Other People

The third - and the most important - step is to communicate your plan and enlist the help of other people. My personal experience, along with numerous studies, proves that social support is one of the most important factors in transforming your health and losing weight successfully.

In one study, performed at Brown University School of Medicine, the subjects were a group of overweight men and women. They were scheduled to attend group exercise sessions to lose weight. Each participant was encouraged to bring up to 3 support partners who would also participate. What the researchers discovered is that the number of support partners each participant had didn’t matter, but the success of those partners mattered a great deal.

They found that each test subject’s weight loss was closely associated with the success of their partners. They also found that those with successful partners lost significantly more weight. And finally, the more often the subject attended counseling sessions, the greater their success.

Another study at the famous Karolinska Institute in Sweden tracked men and women who used an Internet weight loss club. They found that the people who used the website the most also lost the most weight.

Many other studies confirm the importance of social support. And it just makes sense. If you want to succeed in business, you need to hang out with successful business people. If you want to stop drinking, you need to hang out with people who don’t go to bars every night.

The best case scenario is to have a partner - or even better, multiple partners - that you can exercise with and share your plans and goals with. If you don’t have partners with the same goals and commitment, then at least communicate your plans to those close to you.

You want to tell people exactly what you are setting out to do. Be specific. Tell them what you are going to do to accomplish your goals. Also tell them what you are NOT going to do and the things you are going to avoid. Ask them to check on your progress. And ask them to hold you accountable.

It would be best if these people are close to you and important to you. But we all know that sometimes these people can be the least supportive. Whether it is from jealousy or insecurity, those around us sometimes don’t want us to succeed. Sad, but often true. If that is the case, then you need to seek some outside support.

Hire a trainer or nutritionist, even if only for a few sessions. Research shows that being accountable to an authoritative figure also increases your chance for success.

You might even dedicate a blog to publicizing your goals and tracking your progress. It doesn’t cost a thing, and they are super-easy to set up. This has worked for thousands of people. There is nothing like putting your goals and promises in front of the world to motivate you and keep you on track. And who knows, you might even make some money in the process.

You might also look into becoming active on an Internet forum dedicated your same goals. There are hundreds of highly active forums with thousands of members. And many of them are very specific. There are fitness and muscle-building forums. There are weight-loss forums. There are cancer-recovery forums. There are forums for moms looking to lose their baby weight.

The great thing about the Internet is that it provides enough intimacy to feel accountable. And it provides enough “removal” that you’re not mired in the social difficulties of “real life”.

The main idea is to communicate your goals and plans to a group of people and for them to hold you accountable. Social support is almost always the missing ingredient when someone fails to achieve their fitness and weight loss goals. So get help. Hang out with friends who will support you. Your chances of success will be assured.

In this spirit, I would like for you to comment on this article. Whatever you would like to accomplish in 2010, let your fellow Total Health Breakthroughs subscribers know about it.

How do you feel about your health and your body today? What changes are you looking to make? What are you willing to do to make those changes a reality? What is most important for you to accomplish this year?

Please let us know by clicking on the comment link below. I look forward to hearing about the goals you WILL attain this coming year!

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