Getting started
Lyndel Costain

Why do you want to lose weight?

Think hard about why you really want to lose weight. It may help to look at it in terms of what your weight is stopping you from doing, for example. Make sure you think of benefits other than the changes to your appearance, such as feeling healthier and having the energy to do more with the family.

Fact file
Obesity can take nine years off a person's life expectancy.

Are you ready to lose weight?

Answer true or false to the following statements:

  • I've thought carefully about why I want to lose weight.
  • I want to lose weight for myself, not other people.
  • I'm prepared to put time and effort into changing my diet and activity each week.
  • I appreciate I need to make changes to my attitude and lifestyle to ensure long-term success.

For every 'false', have a rethink. It's a sign that you may not be ready to lose weight in a way that will lead to long-term success.

Do you have the right attitude?

Only when you have clear, non-appearance-related reasons for losing weight are you recognising that you're worth making changes for and that the benefits will be more than skin deep.

You need to have a very positive attitude from the start. Making changes to your diet and activity levels is a good, even enjoyable, thing to do. Losing weight healthily isn't all deprivation and hard work, as is often the case with strict diets. Focus on the positive outcomes, not how overweight you are now. Define yourself as someone who can make changes, not someone who always fails.

Think about the pros and cons

Whenever you change one aspect of your life, it will have an impact on others. If you start to make lifestyle changes without fully appreciating this, it's easy to be thrown off course or give up altogether. But if you enter into weight loss aware of the possible cons (such as being more choosy about what you eat, drinking less beer), as well as pros (having more energy, say, and clothes fitting better), it will help you feel less frustrated if the going gets tough.

How confident are you?

Losing weight involves making changes to your eating and activity habits - changes you can keep up long term. If you don't feel that confident about making such changes, think about what might help you feel more so.

Others have found that clear motivations for weight loss, realistic goals, improved skills and knowledge about how to change their eating and activity habits, alongside ongoing support, can all help.

Keep a diary

Before changing anything, keep a food and activity diary for a week or two to learn more about your usual habits and identify problem areas. You can then use this to plan changes relevant to your lifestyle. Keep the diary up once you start your weight-loss programme (and beyond) - people who do, lose weight.

When to talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor if you're under 18-years-old, have a medical condition and/or take medication, have an eating disorder or are very overweight (your BMI is 35 or more). If breastfeeding, seek advice about healthy weight control from your health visitor or practice nurse. Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. If breastfeeding, seek advice about healthy weight control from your health visitor or practice nurse.

Take action now!
  • Write down all the reasons you want to lose weight.
  • Write down the pros and cons of losing weight and staying as you are, to see which comes out on top.
  • Keep a food and activity diary.
  • Start with a positive attitude - to change your weight, you first need to change your mind!

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in October 2005.
First published in May 2001.

What's a healthy weight?
Getting started
Learning to eat well
Did you know...?
Adapting meals
Life stages