By Lizzie Waldo, YMCA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

A new year means new opportunities! Every January, people pledge to try something new or create change in their life.

Weight loss in particular is a goal for many of my clients who wish to finally reach their “dream weight.” However, this can seem like a daunting task, and it’s common for those who make this resolution to lose enthusiasm along the way. If this sounds like you, you’re in luck! I’m here to provide six tips on how to jump start and maintain your weight loss goals.

1. The most important consideration for weight loss is to create a plan.

Start by taking a look at what you currently eat and drink, as well as your physical activity. This lays out a blueprint for change! By examining these tendencies, you will be able to identify unhelpful behaviors you want to focus on improving. Then you can move forward and make a plan.

Some of these behaviors may include:

  • Eating big portions
  • Skipping meals
  • Grazing on empty calorie snacks
  • Drinking sugary beverages
  • Eating too many meals out
  • Eating for emotional reasons
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle

2. Make small, specific goals.

Breaking large goals into small goals makes them more attainable and less overwhelming. Making them specific will also provide you with more guidelines on how to meet your goals every day. For example, a goal such as “I will eat healthier” is too big and vague, leaving too much room for error and possible failure. Instead, a specific goal of “I will eat one more serving of vegetables per day at dinner” is precise and achievable. That sets you up for success!

Extra tip! Having a hard time simplifying your goals? Try using the SMART acronym.

3. Keep track of your progress.

Those who self-monitor have been shown to lose more weight and maintain their weight loss long-term. Here are three methods:

  • Stepping on the scale every morning can help set positive and healthy intentions for the rest of the day. Consistency is key, whether this means weighing yourself daily or sticking to once a week.
  • Logging your food makes each meal intentional. When you plan for the next day, it sets a framework for how each day’s goal will be met. This also gives you the opportunity to plan ahead! Prepare your lunch, portion out snacks, and pack a gym bag to take with you so that you’re set up for success.
  • While the idea of taking pictures of yourself to track progress may make you cringe, it is an effective way to see how your body is responding to change and allows for small tweaks along the way.

Extra tip! I recommend downloading MyFitnessPal on your phone, or visiting to start tracking your progress today.

4. Practice portion control.

One of the biggest misconceptions of weight loss is that as long as you’re eating healthy foods, you can have as much as you want. When calories consumed exceeds calories expended, weight gain occurs. This is true if you were to over-eat French fries or cookies, and it’s also true for apples or whole-grain bread. While the nutrient content is vastly different between these food choices, eating in excess will cause weight gain. Keep these portion sizes in mind to prevent portion distortion.

5. Keep pushing forward.

Contrary to what TV and social media show us, any weight loss program that offers a “quick fix” or rapid weight loss will end up in more disappointment than success. These images, however, can cause you to feel like a failure when you don’t see the same results that the restrictive and low-calorie diets provide. While these types of diets can provide short-term weight loss, research shows that it is those who take their time to adopt healthy behaviors and incorporate change into their lifestyle that have the most success in the long run. The weight loss journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and slip-ups will happen! Continue to move forward, and don’t get hung up on any one mistake.

6. Practice positive self-talk!

A quote I like to share with my clients is: “Your body hears everything your mind says.” Thoughts are powerful. They can cause you to feel more confident, happy, and motivated, but they can also cause you to spiral downwards into negativity that holds you back. It makes sense, then, that those who maintain a healthy lifestyle engage regularly in positive self-talk. If you feel uncomfortable talking out loud to yourself, there are other forms of verbal reinforcement like journaling or reading positive and uplifting messages. Try these four ways to integrate positive thoughts into your daily routine.

Working toward a weight loss goal?

Stay accountable and inspired with the YMCA’s Weight Loss Program. This 12-week course offers weekly small-group discussion and tools to help you design a unique plan, track progress and set yourself on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Learn More.