Monthly Health Message:

Losing Weight: Are You Ready to Change to Reach Success?

February 2011

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Did you set a New Year's resolution to lose weight? Losing weight successfully depends on your readiness to meet that challenge. If you decide to lose weight before you are committed to making necessary changes in your attitude, food intake, and physical activity, your efforts will probably fail. Think about your answers to the following questions to assess your weight loss readiness:

  1. Can you picture yourself at your ideal weight? Having a realistic picture of yourself helps you to accept that maintaining a healthy weight is a life-long process. It is sensible to lose 1-2 pounds a week which means you need to burn 500-1,000 calories more than you consume each day. Maintaining a diet that is lower in calories along with 60 to 90 minutes or more of exercise each day is essential for weight loss.
  2. Are you motivated to make long-term lifestyle changes? Healthy eating and an active lifestyle are necessary to make sure you keep your weight and health in check. Maintaining healthy habits may be very different from your current lifestyle. Telling yourself you need to live a healthier lifestyle and actually doing it are two different things. You may have to make major changes in the foods you eat to decrease fat, salt, and sugar and add more whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and lots more fruit and vegetable servings. Also needed is daily exercise of at least 30 minutes to prevent regaining lost weight. .
  3. Are other distractions being handled? If major life events such as loss of job, home, or relationships are in the forefront of your life, losing weight is probably not a priority. Get all these other issues under control and then tackle your weight by making small, realistic changes in the foods you choose to eat and the amount of activity/exercise you engage in daily. .
  4. Are emotional issues connected to your weight? Stress, boredom, anger, and other emotions can trigger eating "mindlessly" and can add thousands of extra calories per year. Seek professional counseling, if needed, to handle these issues and develop a realistic routine for your eating and exercise habits. .
  5. Are you up for the weight loss challenge? A positive attitude about losing weight and the willingness to be committed to making permanent changes in your daily eating and activity habits are essential. You need to have a vision of what your new body will look like and what you will feel like when you are more active and weigh less. Picture yourself celebrating every small success along the way whether it is buying a new size pair of jeans or going for a walk. .
  6. Who will provide you with support? Your medical or health care professional, the local YMCA or exercise club, a walking group, family, neighbors, or friends can provide support for an active lifestyle. Encouragement is helpful. Join the online Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) Challenge to keep yourself accountable for daily actions that can improve your health and personal finances.
Good luck in 2011 with your small steps to a healthier lifestyle! Remember that every small step really does make a difference and that "if it is to be, it is up to me." As noted above, losing weight successfully depends on your readiness to change.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences