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Mr. Bad Food

by John McGran, Food columnist

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Anyone forced to read Shakespeare at school is probably familiar with the term the "Ides of March." It describes the middle of March, but is probably best known from its use in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. A soothsayer tells a doomed Caesar, "Beware the ides of March". Soon after he dismisses the dire warning, the Roman emperor is struck down by a gang of assassins.

What does this have to do with weight loss, you might ask?

Well, the phrase made me think, not of "ides" but more about the similar-sounding "I'ds." I’m no Shakespeare, but here are a few examples of what I mean by the dreaded "I'ds of March."

-- I'd be in better shape if only I'd started working out sooner.

-- I'd be thinner if only I'd have started my diet in January.

-- I'd be more energetic if only I'd have lost those extra pounds like I planned - and vowed - to do on New Year's Eve.

It's time to seize the moment. You might be kicking yourself thinking that you could have dropped a dress size by now if only you’d followed your plan.

Don’t let that happen again when the summer finally rolls around. Decide today that you want to lose weight and use these steps to help you get there:

Put your goals in writing
The act of writing down what you are going to do is a strong motivator. Writing down goals prevents you from leaving your goals vague. Be specific. Use action verbs. Let your goals have measurable outcomes. Specify completion dates. Also record what your reward will be for achieving the goal. Make a contract with yourself, then read it every day. This will help you to be more committed to your goal as each day passes. And, while you’ve got the pen in your hand...

Make a list of obstacles
Think of everything that might stand in your way. Then decide what you can do about each obstacle. Design a plan to reduce the influence of each obstacle and increase the chances that you will be successful in reaching your goal. You might recognize that take away meals are hindering your weight loss. Deciding to plan your weekly meals and shopping to ensure you have healthy foods in the fridge is one way to overcome this obstacle.

List the benefits of achieving your goal
Knowing exactly what you will gain from reaching your goal is a strong motivator. Keeping my checkbook balanced will give me more spending money on the weekends. Walking a mile every morning will help me concentrate better at work. Losing weight will help me feel more confident about myself.

Identify subgoals
Break down complicated plans into manageable chunks. Be specific about what has to be accomplished. Decide what you are going to do, and when. Make sure each step is challenging but achievable, and that you have a complete plan of action. Then write it on your calendar and review it regularly. Remember, even if you have a lot of weight to lose, you should still aim for a loss of 1-2 pounds per week.

Learn what you need to learn
If information or skill is keeping you from achieving your goals, determine ways to fill in the gaps and build this into your action plan. Be willing to study and work hard to reach your goals. Think about how much time and effort will be required, and ask yourself whether you are really willing and able to do what is necessary. Is it better to adjust your goals or your timetable than to proceed with a plan that is unrealistic?

Enlist the help of others
Find someone, a colleague or friend, with whom you share a common goal. Get someone to go to the gym with you, to quit smoking with you or to share healthy meals with you. A partner can help you stay committed and motivated. Look for role models, people who have already achieved the goals you seek to reach. Ask them for advice and suggestions. Find how they got where they are, and incorporate what you learn into your plan.

Visualize yourself having achieved each of your goals
The more real you can make your visualization, the better. Go through magazines and cut out pictures that represent your goal and put them where you can see them. Provide reminders to yourself about what you’re working towards. Describe your ideal life in the future. Write a few paragraphs describing what you have accomplished, and how your life is better as a result. Use the present tense as if it is happening right here, right now. This is another way of making your vision real.

Get organized
When you are prepared and organized, you will feel better about your ability to reach your goals. Have all the information you need ...    Continue

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@ 8:10pm ET on March 22, 2009
These are good tips! Thanks John!

@ 7:44pm ET on April 18, 2009
Now....where is that pencil? No, better write it in ink! Your ideas are so sensible that I'm sure most of us have thought of them at one time or another, but it is good to see them listed all in one place. Thanks so much.

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