Many of us alternate between periods of high motivation and a "who cares" attitude. There is a corresponding rise and fall of the bathroom scale and your bodily dimensions. Years of yo-yoing also produces a ratcheting effect: the supposed low weight you're now descending to comes dangerously close to what used to be your high weight. And your new "high" weights are off of what used to be the chart.

Sound familiar?

What is the trigger embedded deep in your psyche that would enable you to master dietary and exercise discipline once and for all? Although there is no certain anidote for everybody, try using these steps to prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.

Follow The Checklist

Know why. There has to be a reason to make changes. The reason(s) has to be more powerful than the challenges you will encounter. Begin with a simple statement of your goals, and continually expand on it. Add depth, breadth and passion to your reason why.

Obtain knowledge. Without knowledge, the Bible tells us, people perish. Know which foods enhance health. Start by understanding the concept of the FOUR FOOD GROUPS. Besides your program materials, consult a nutrition guide and health-conscious cookbooks.

Look sharp. Wear only clothes that make you feel attractive. If you don't own any, buy a few flattering outfits. They'll keep your self-estee --and determination -- high.

Get a life. You don't have to stop having fun, just change your type of fun. Explore activities that can fill the void created when you stop overeating. Try volleyball parties instead of dinner parties. Research restaurants. Find ones that are willing to steam vegetables, use less oil, put sauces on the side and remove the bread basket.

Pass up parties for a while. Those diet-busting finger foods are a killer. Later, when you're on the right track, you can reenter the social circuit.

Exercise. Make muscle strengthening the core of your program. Circuit strength training (virtually no wasted motion in getting from one exercise to the next) supplies a good blend of strength building and aerobic-enhancing workouts. Enlist support. A friend or mate make the ideal sources. You could also join a behavior-modification group such as Overeaters Anonymous.

Decalorize your cabinets. Banish the fatty foods, or at least move them to where you're not used to finding them. This will break up snacking habits that have become automatic.

Establish a plan. An eating plan is the cornerstone of your program. Select the framework of calories in selected proportions of carbohydrate:fat:protein and appropriate levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Your program eating plan is at least a starting point. Modifications are optional. Do you enjoy crunchy food? Then include cold cereal, not hot, at breakfast. If you love peanut butter, juggle your diet to occasionally accommodate a couple of tablespoons. Got it? Stay within American Medical Association or American Heart Association guidelines.

When it comes to losing weight, a well-planned attack, in black and white, beats good intentions every time.

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