Dec. 4, 2013 at 2:11 PM ET
Whatever your goal is, set a few benchmarks so you can chart your progress while you work toward it, says Traci Statler Ph.D., of the Intimina Medical Advisory Board. To give yourself the best chance of succeeding, your goals should be realistic and attainable, like getting in 30 minutes on the treadmill per day or eating four nutritious lunches during the workweek. If you try to achieve the impossible, you’ll erode your confidence and possibly give up altogether, says Statler.
"My milestones were measured on and off the scale," says Tory Johnson, contributor on ABC’s "Good Morning America" and author of The Shift, an autobiography about her weight-loss journey. "Some days the milestone was that I made healthy choices or shared an entree instead of having my own, or beat my cravings instead of giving in."
You can also use an item of clothing, like a pair of pants or a dress, as your point of reference, suggests Ashley Koff, R.D. If it fits a little looser every time you try it on you know you’re headed in the right direction. (Remember to factor in hormonal, time-of-the-month fluctuations).
Every time you hit a mini goal, toast yourself—just don't do it with a cupcake. As a culture, "we’ve been raised to celebrate with food," explains celebrity nutritionist J.J. Virgin, author of The Virgin Diet. After all, no child ever asks for steamed broccoli decorated with candles for her birthday.
"I realized that rewarding myself, a food addict, with the foods that weren't my friend was akin to an alcoholic celebrating a month of sobriety with a few beers," says Johnson, who lost over 60 pounds. "I had to cut out the stuff that caused me to gain weight." Instead, Johnson chose to give herself a pat on the back with inedible rewards, like scented candles and fresh flowers.
To acknowledge your accomplishments and motivate yourself to keep going, our experts offer up a range of rewards that are much sweeter than your favorite dessert:
•Treat yourself to a manicure/pedicure
•Relax with a massage
•Freshen up with a haircut or blowout
•Splurge on jewelry
•Get fitted for a new bra (you may need to be resized after losing some weight)
•Invest in new workout gear, sneakers or a yoga mat
•Buy a book you've been wanting to read
•Enroll in a new group fitness class
•Spend some time downloading new music (or old favorites)
•Sleep in at least one day on the weekend
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.