5 Ways to Make Your Diet Work Better

Reach short-term weight loss goals for long-term wellness

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Have you started a new diet plan? Maybe you're struggling with a weight loss program that seems to be dragging. Whether you've set short-term weight loss goals or committed to long-term wellness, there are ways to make your diet work better.  And the good news is that it takes just 20 minutes of your time.

How to Make Weight Loss Happen

Research into weight loss has revealed that goal setting is one of the most important steps in the weight loss process.

Why? Because setting short-term diet goals provides a road map for long-term health and wellness. 

For example, your long-term goal might be to lose 50 pounds. Losing that amount of weight might improve your health and change the quality of your life. That's exciting! But if you lose weight at a reasonable pace, it might take 6 months to a year to reach your goal. It's hard to stay motivated for that long. 

But if you set short-term weight loss goals along the way, you'll have reasons to celebrate during the journey. These small accomplishments help to keep you motivated and remind you that you are capable of reaching the finish line.

So how do you set both long- and short-term weight loss goals? Dieters who take the time to set a SMART goal are more likely to slim down. If you're not sure how to set a weight loss goal or set up your diet plan, use this list based on recent research to set up a program that works.

5 Steps to Make Your Diet Work Better

  1. Personalize your weight loss goals. The goals you set should meet your specific needs, lifestyle, and circumstances. Don't get carried away with the exaggerated ads for popular diet programs that are unlikely to work. For most people, those programs are not healthy or realistic.

    Losing a maximum of 1-2 pounds per week through diet and exercise is considered reasonable. But you may choose to set a more personalized goal. Researchers at the University of Washington found that sometimes dieters don't like the strict standards set by many weight loss plans. 

    So choose a plan and make adjustments based on your lifestyle and preferences. Before you invest any time or money ask yourself key questions about what you hope to achieve. In the long run, making this extra investment will help you to stay on track and tackle common weight loss challenges as they arise.
     
  1. Get expert help.  Goals set with the help of an expert are more likely to be successful. A study at the University of California found that when patients were provided with help setting up and monitoring goals in the doctor's office they were more successful at attaining those goals. And similar studies have shown that other types of practitioners can help as well.
     

    In choosing an expert to work with, try to find someone who can be involved for the duration of the weight loss process. This way they can help to monitor your progress and provide feedback. For this reason, a physician may not always be the best source for collaboration. Consider other non-clinical providers. These may include a personal trainer, registered dietitian or weight loss coach.

    If you don't have access to a professional expert, consider connecting with others online. The Weight Loss page on Facebook is a great place to post your goals and let others hold you accountable. You'll find resources to set up weight loss plan, post questions, and get support through the weight loss journey. You can also connect with me on Pinterest, on Twitter or Google+ by clicking the buttons at the top of this page.
     

  1. Make weight loss goals measurable. In their advice to new exercisers, the American Council on Exercise recommends setting measurable goals. That means that when you set up your diet plan, you decide how you will measure your progress and include this as part of your goal statement.

    Weighing yourself on the scale is probably the easiest method of measuring weight loss progress as long as you weigh yourself properly. But remember that there are other ways to assess your weight. Both BMI and body fat measurements provide different ways of evaluating your body composition. BMI is easy to measure and provides a good indicator of how your weight affects your health.
     
  2. Write and post short and long term goals. In a published study about goal setting, researchers in Great Britain confirmed that successful goals need to be ambitious. On the other hand, the American Council on Exercise reminds new exercisers that successful weight loss goals should be attainable. So how do you set a goal that seems do-able and challenging at the same time?
     

    The answer is to write out both long-term goals that are more difficult and short-term goals that are a little easier. The short-term goals act as stepping-stones to the larger goal. In the Great Britain study, researchers emphasized using "incremental steps that lead to progressive achievement" as being important. By defining these multiple weight loss goals, you'll set yourself up for success.  Once the goals are written out, post them in a place where you see them every day to serve as a reminder of your commitment.
     

  3. Create deadlines for your weight loss goals. Goals are more successful when a clear deadline is attached. These deadlines should be attached to both the short-term and long-term goals and can serve as reminders to measure your progress in the process of achieving your goal.
     

    For many people, a seven-day structure works well for short-term goals. This provides for a fresh start each week on Sunday or Monday. But remember to personalize your goals and use a time frame that works for you.

Goal setting may seem like a trivial task but it can be a key factor in the success of your diet plan. As you move through the weight loss process, the well-designed goals will help you to stay on track. And once you've lost the weight, good goal setting skills come in handy during the weight management process. At that stage, you'll find that continuing to set and reach goals will keep your confidence high.

Sources:

Thomas Bodenheimer, Margaret A. Handley. "Goal-setting for behavior change in primary care: An exploration and status report." Patient Education and Counseling August 2009, Pages 174-180.

Andrew K. MacLeod, Emma Coates and Jacquie Hetherton. " Increasing well-being through teaching goal-setting and planning skills: results of a brief intervention." Journal of Happiness Studies. Volume 9, Number 2, 185-196.

E Diane Playford, Richard Siegert, William Levack, Jennifer Freeman. "Areas of consensus and controversy about goal setting in rehabilitation: a conference report." Clinical Rehabilitation April 2009 vol. 23 no. 4 334-344.

Darren A. DeWalt, Terry C. Davis, Andrea S. Wallace, Hilary K. Seligman, Betsy Bryant-Shilliday, Connie L. Arnold, Janet Freburger, Dean Schillinger. "Goal setting in diabetes self-management: Taking the baby steps to success." Patient Education and Counseling Volume 77, Issue 2, November 2009, Pages 218-223.

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