Motivation Articles

7 Things to Do Before You Lose Weight

Success Can Start with a Simple Plan

You’ve decided to lose weight. Congratulations! Changing your lifestyle may take commitment and time, but taking off those excess pounds can really improve your health and happiness.
In this early phase, you may have checked out some online weight-loss programs (like the ones here at SparkPeople), talked to your friends about the programs they've had success with, or even visited your local weight-loss support group. After deliberation, you’ve chosen the plan that seems most suited to you. You’re excited and ready to start. This time you just know you'll be successful!
Before you dive in, take a step back. Statistically, your chances of taking those pounds off and keeping them off are pretty dismal. One of the largest studies on weight loss conducted at UCLA showed that although most individuals who follow any number of different diet plans will lose 5-10% of their body weight, most will gain it all back--and more--within a year. Other long-term studies show that only 10-20% of individuals who follow a structured weight loss plan were able to maintain at least 5% of the pounds lost after five years.
If chances of permanent success are slim (pardon the pun), why bother trying? Wouldn’t you hate to work that hard, and then find yourself right back where you started a few months down the road?
Don’t despair. There is a way you can succeed at permanent weight loss. The key is to spend time in a preparation phase before you jump into action. Let’s build a foundation for permanent weight loss now, and you’ll never need to go on another diet again.
Prepare to Succeed at Weight Loss
There are lots of great tools to help you get ready to make a big change. In my experience as a health and wellness coach, these are these seven things can help set you up for success before you start your weight loss plan. While you may be motivated to jump right in to the diet plan of your choice, taking the time to prepare with these steps will increase your likelihood of success.
1. Create your personal wellness vision. 
What does success look like for you? Imagine what your life will look like and feel like when you have accomplished your weight loss goal. Don’t let it depend on a number on the scale. What will be different and better? What will you be doing on a daily basis? What new habits concerning food and exercise will you be practicing daily? All behavioral change leads to a shift in who we are. Who will you be in your new strong, trim body? What will you be capable of that you might not be now?

2. Solidify your commitment. 
Writing a statement of what you are committing to will help strengthen your resolve. Putting pen to paper, taking the ideas out of your head and into a written agreement with yourself will help concretize your plan. Reading it out loud to others, or even just to yourself, is a powerful exercise.

3. Increase your confidence. 
No matter how committed and motivated you are, there still might be a tiny voice in the back of your head whispering that you'll probably fail, especially if you’ve tried to lose weight before. Don’t focus on the big picture or on that number you're trying to reach. Identify small steps you can take that are realistic and actionable. For instance, if you’ve been skipping breakfast only to end up overeating at lunch, work on adding a healthy breakfast into your day. Start with three days a week (not being perfect every day). When that feels easy, add a fourth. Not exercising on a regular basis? Begin with one 10-minute workout, such as a walk, a day. By creating a plan of small, manageable changes that you’ll work on one step at a time, and acknowledging each success, your confidence will grow.

4. Anticipate obstacles and create strategies to overcome them. 
What barriers to weight loss have you experienced in the past, or do you fear will trip you up in the future? Anticipate problems before they occur and create strategies to avoid them. Do you travel long hours in the car for work and find yourself at road stops buying anything available to ward off hunger? Brainstorm a list of non-perishable and portable snacks you can bring with you. Do your friends meet for happy hour every Friday after work, only to end up drinking and eating more calories than you'd like? Perhaps you can convince one or two of them to join you at the gym instead, and then head out for a healthy dinner together.

5. Build a support team. 
You must recognize that the job of weight loss is your responsibility and no one else’s. But that doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Who will support your journey along the way? Sharing your vision with family and friends and telling them how they can help you can be wonderfully useful. Perhaps using SparkPeople's online Community features is a good fit for you. Having the camaraderie of others who are working on weight loss, too, can give you a place to swap ideas, help keep you motivated and make the journey more fun. You can also build a team of professionals to help you with different aspects of your weight loss journey: your doctor, to monitor your health along the way; a personal trainer, to help you learn new exercises; or a psychologist, to help you overcome emotional eating issues.

6. Set up your environment for success.  
It’s time to start thinking about what needs to be in place so that once you jump into action, the landmines have been removed. Are your fridge and cabinets filled with junk food and unhealthy choices? Give it away or throw it out!  Stock your shelves with lots of healthy choices so that when hunger strikes or it’s time to prepare meals, you’ve got what you need on hand. Same goes for your office.  Clear out the candy and chips from your desk drawers. Keep good choices on hand. If you don’t have access to a fridge, you might want to purchase a small one or at least get a cooler to keep the right types of snacks available. If you’re thinking of joining a gym, make sure it’s convenient to your home or office. Ask for a trial membership and make sure you feel comfortable with the atmosphere. 

7. Create your plan of action.  
Now that you’ve done the cognitive work, it’s time to build your plan. Here’s where you get to decide what steps feel like the right ones for you to take. Will you follow a structured food plan, or just slowly work healthier foods into your daily intake? Will you begin a walking program in the park near your home, join a gym or sign up to take dance classes? Will you decide to start brown bagging lunches rather than eating out every day? The beauty in the system is you choose what will fit your unique life. Don’t attempt to follow rules that feel uncomfortable for you. There is no perfect diet plan that works for everyone. When it comes to losing weight, one size (or diet) definitely does not fit all.
Anderson, JW, Konz, EC, Frederich, RC, Wood, CL, "Long-term weight-loss maintenance: a meta-analysis of US studies," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2001 Nov;74(5):579-84.
Prochaska, James, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente. Changing for Good. (New York: Avon Books, 1994).
The National Weight Control Registry, accessed on May 1, 2013.

Wolpert, Stuart, "Dieting Doesn’t Work," UCLA Magazine, accessed on May 1, 2013.

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Member Comments

  • Advice offered is 50% great and 50% well, gag me. I can think of NO ONE in my family or circle of friends who wants to share this journey to the point of listening to me (gag) read my goals to them. Thin or fat I will always be ME. And I'm the only one (I'm a psychologist) who listens to the others and their problems. We've tried to switch this but it doesn't ever last. Maybe a day - bottom line is they are comfortable in this and that really is how we relate. Funny (?) thing is when I meet new folks they react the same way - it's so easy to talk to you, you listen. And I do. It's me.

    How will I feel lighter (thinner may not happen) well I hope not much different. I was only really heavy once and that was due to drugs and a medical condition. It took me 3 years to lose a lot less weight than many here talk about AND keep it off. I did it at 30# a year. Didn't begin to try to lose more until I could maintain.

    Today I want to lose 30 (well 24 now - 6 weeks in). Ten pounds I gained from meds (not taking them anymore), the 10 I have always wanted to lose - we all have them. And because of complicated medical issues and increased falling 10 so someone can lift me.

    But the bottom line is that I am not any different because the scale says so.

    Spark People is a sound program but the "feel good articles" are often over the top.
  • Some great advice. Gonna set myself up to succeed
  • It was easier to lose weight when I lived alone, even though I love my boyfriend dearly and never want to lose him. I had all healthy food in my apartment and never brought in anything bad. I lost 150 lbs with no problems. When I moved in with him in February 2015 that changed. He wants pop, chips, ice cream, beef, pork, pizza, tacos, sausage, you name it. So that stuff is here now and the old cravings have returned and have been hard to fight. I've gained back 50 lbs! It's not his fault, it's MY fault. I can never blame anybody else for my setbacks and failures. I just wish he was more supportive. All I get out of him is, "Get some self control!" and he keeps buying bad foods. He doesn't understand how hard it is. I have always been overweight and I have been diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. It's very hard to not eat bad food, and my solution, which worked, was to never have it around. But now it's here. *sigh*
  • As a struggling perfectionist, with a lot of ADHD orgranizing challenges this article has great ideas that I would probably feel never ready to begin my journey with - and it could stall me out before I got started. I tend to pick an idea from this as I am on my journey and see how I can apply it to present circumstances or goals as I keep moving forward.
  • Great article and very well written. The good thing about each step is that each person can make it their own. I understand that the suggestions that you give are simply general suggestions because we may all be in a different place. It's all relative to where we are in the journey. I am excited about the 7 steps. For me this article is a wonderful starting place to begin again.
  • RUBEL346
    Eat fresh fruit with breakfast is such a small thing to do, it sets a healthy tone and fruit is low in food abstinence and good for you!
    If you wanted to know please visit: http://www.bestwh
  • DUNNBV1017
    I would like to have a structured Mediterranean diet...can Sparkpeople help with this. I have diabetes and need to watch sodium & also have a heart condition. I really want to get off the insulin & be able to manage this more naturally.
  • Thank You for the boot in the Butt I needed to refocus. I feel so much better after reading this.
  • Yes, yes, yes!!! This is what I'm trying to do, build a plan to succeed at what I call a Healthier life, which incidentally includes losing weight. I'm also taking small steps, one day at a time, knowing that taking on too much or setting too high a goal will only lead to failure for me. Thank you for writing this.
    What I have been doing as been working for me for 30 plus years.....I am 48, 130 lbs and mother of 5 children. I NEVER diet....I tried a couple of time, but for me, I just found I would eat more....I would be starving. I eat what I want to eat in moderation, except for potatoes chips...It really is very simple, you get back what you put put in fat and sugars, that is what you will get back. I am the type that is picking at food all the time....I always got snacks on hand for that, such as prunes, walnuts, cucumber, grapes, lite on the bananas rice cakes with hummus, I make my own hummus. Have you ever tried fried in olive oil, chick peas with salt, pepper and garlic powder......yummy snack. I use my Sunday for preparing my weekday food....such as snacks or full meals. I never eat out at a restaurant. With all the info that can begotten on the internet for food preparation and recipes ..Why would anyone want to eat out, god knows what they put into it. Getting back to the potato chips, that is a hard habit to break......I have filled my cupboard with smart popcorn and seasoning to go on it....You can get the bag sizes in 100 cal or 250 cal....I usually have the full sized one ....and finish about 3/4 of is still junk, but a lot healthier than potato chips. Eat healthy, Eat lots....and don't be afraid to try new things....I am going to be testing beet chips more thing...I do not like to my house stays very clean, Its not cleaning to me, its a workout....anytim
    e your moving, you are burning calories .
  • This is a great article and it works! I have actually followed a plan similiar to this and so far I'm halfway to reaching my goal. I made a commitment to succeed and this time I am more confident than ever!
    I was able to keep my happy weight of 135 for 10 years by exercising and following a healthy food plan that I lost weight with. I just added a few extras here and there. Then I moved from CA to Fl and gained 20lb after a divorce and moved in with my mom. Now, I am older and my blood sugar and cholesterol are way up. Now I doing it for my health because I care, and there's no looking back.:)
  • I think the key is to never give up

About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

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