As a dietitian and weight and fitness coach, I am often asked by prospective clients if I am going to give them a diet or meal plan to follow.  My answer is usually “no”, at least not in the beginning, as there are other issues to deal with first. It is true, if you consume fewer calories than you expend each day, then technically you would lose weight. For most of us, sticking to a diet over the long haul is simply not a matter of mathematics. Rather, it includes creating a vision of how we want to be and becoming aware of and dealing with eating patterns associated with emotions, situations, family and friends. It's important to determine READINESS. Embarking on a weight loss program — to end the struggle with your weight once and for all — is a lifelong commitment that requires willingness to change and practice, not perfection. It starts with creating your vision, then setting goals that move you toward your vision and a belief that you will be successful.

Here are three things you can do to begin your journey to successful weight management:

1. Create Your Vision:  You cannot arrive at your destination if you do not know where you are going. You have to develop a strong sense of how you want to be:  how you want to look and feel in order to achieve your goals.  For example, see in your mind's eye how rewarding it will be when you try on outfits when shopping or to feel the extra energy you have while doing things you love and trying new things you've always wanted to do, but your weight or body image held you back. Envision how your life will be if you stay on the same path you're on now. Compare it to how your life will be when you reach your goal and are living that vision. To get there, you'll have to align your thoughts, feelings and actions with your vision.

2. Build Awareness:  I recommend keeping an Eating Behavior Journal. It helps you get in touch with your eating patterns, thoughts and feelings so you can begin to make conscious, rational eating decisions. When you write down what and when you eat and record the conditions around those eating events, you will discover productive patterns to reinforce and unproductive patterns that require willingness and strategies to change. You will garner enough awareness that you can begin the process of asking yourself beforehand: “Does this behavior move me toward my goals?” “Am I acting in concert with my vision?” “Am I hungry?”  “Is food the answer?”  “How will I feel after?”  You CAN make choices and you CAN take control of your behaviors. It takes practice and the ability to be honest and accept accountability but at the same time being ok with not being perfect in your endeavor to make permanent lifestyle changes.

3. Get Support:  If you have struggled with your weight, you know that the issue is mired with lifelong habits and complex emotions. You don't have to go it alone. Hire a coach, enlist the help of a buddy and/or join a support group. Having a support system and a sounding board can get you through tough situations and help you stay of track.

In summary, there are three things you can start today to transform your body and transform yout life: 1. Formulate your vision, 2. Start tracking and assessing your eating behavior, and 3. Enlist some support.