May 1, 2012 at 9:20 AM ET
Have your healthiest summer yet! Ease into the dreaded "swimsuit season" with healthy tips from TODAY experts. All throughout May, we'll offer smart do-it-yourself ways to look, eat and feel better. So stop stressing about that swimsuit, and read on.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to taking off weight or getting into shape isn't all the pounds you want to lose or all the healthy meals you'll need to cook and eat to lose them. The biggest hurdle might actually be your mind-set.
Most people end up feeling that the task is so big, the road so unpleasant and the outcome so doomed that they never really get started. That's why approaching your goal in a certain thoughtful way, where you basically “outsmart yourself,” can make a world of difference. Big goals can seem overwhelming and, therefore, easy to quit. Goals which require you to completely change your way of doing everything take too much effort to keep up day in and day out. And being completely alone in the task makes it too easy to cheat.
So with those issues in mind, here are some helpful ways to organize yourself psychologically to maximize the likelihood you’ll persevere.
1. Break down goals into bite sized pieces. Rather than saying to yourself, "I am going to lose 20 pounds for the summer," make a weekly goal. For example, "I am going to lose one to two pounds a week" is a completely reasonable, healthy and psychologically manageable idea. In addition, after losing the first pounds you will get the positive feedback of knowing you can complete your goal, which will inspire you for the following week. It's rather like a snowball gathering size as it rolls down the hill; in your mind you will gather speed as you complete manageable tasks.
2. Know thyself. Deciding you are going to run every day when you have always hated running is not going to happen. You have to know what you like -- and what you don’t -- and choose a plan that has as many methods incorporating what you like into it. Pick an exercise and dieting method you can like (or like enough). Find non-food treats to offer yourself as rewards: a new song from iTunes, a bubblebath with incense. If you are a meat lover, go with a high-protein style of diet; if you’re a veggie guy or girl then use veggies as a method of reducing, as opposed with going with whatever new fad your friend likes. If you love sweets the most, get some diet-friendly sweets to have and have them, or you will fall off the wagon fast.
3. Let others help. It is so easy to cheat alone -- not so easy when you have a partner or buddy in it with you, both watching you for cheating and encouraging you to cross the finish line. Choose a buddy with similar goals so you can really support each other rather than sabotage each other. Make dates to be active together and eat together, and then each of you stand strong for the other. There is pleasure in a shared experience, even one as tough as dieting. When you feel big brother is watching, you tend to hold yourself to a higher standard.
Also by Dr. Gail Saltz:
Dr. Gail Saltz is a New York City psychiatrist and regular TODAY contributor.