Some specific and helpful behavioral strategies include:
- Set the right goals. Your goals should focus on specific dietary and exercise changes, such as "I will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day this week," or, "I will work up to being able to walk briskly for 30 minutes at a time," rather than just on weight loss. Select two or three goals at a time to incorporate into your lifestyle rather than trying to change everything at once. Effective goals are specific, attainable and forgiving, which means that you don't have to be absolutely perfect. Remember, too, in setting your goals, that losing more than one to two pounds per week can be unhealthy and greatly increases the chances of regaining the weight.
- Reward success. To encourage yourself to attain your goals, reward yourself for successes. An effective reward is something that is desirable and timely, such as attending the cinema or taking an hour for yourself. Don't use food as a reward!
- Keep a food and exercise diary. Many behavioral psychologists believe it's necessary to track your daily food consumption to achieve long-term weight loss. From a simple pad of paper to a computerized program that provides reports and analyses of your progress, the best tool is the one you use every day. Incorporate your goals, such as eating five servings of fruits or vegetables each day, into your self-monitoring efforts.
- Monitor your weight sensibly. Keep track of your weight, but don't weigh too often. One day's diet and exercise patterns won't have a measurable effect on the scale the next day, and your body's water weight can change from day to day, which may frustrate you and derail your efforts.
- Join a support group. Weekly meetings at a nearby support group or even over the Internet can help in a variety of ways. They provide accountability, helpful ideas, emotional support, an outlet for sharing frustrations and a variety of other psychological benefits.
- Use positive self-talk. Take responsibility and see yourself as in control, able to talk yourself into exercising every day rather than being angry, hopeless or in denial.