So you've decided you want to lose weight. Sure, you know that accomplishing your goal means cutting calories, but have you considered what else you need to do to get to your target weight?

Once you've made up your mind to lose weight, you probably want to get started while your willpower is strong. But if you don't plan ahead, you'll likely be ill-equipped for any challenges you face along the way, making it far too easy to give up and increasing the risk you'll put the weight back on.

So before you do something drastic and stock up on carrot sticks, here are some things you may want to consider.

  • Have you discussed your plan with your primary health care provider? Aside from helping you to determine a healthy weight, your physician or primary health care provider can help you to set appropriate goals, determine whether you have any health concerns that could affect your weight loss plans, and point you towards additional resources if you need some extra help.
  • Have you set a reasonable target weight? Sure you may want to look like the airbrushed models you see in the glossy magazines, but have you thought about whether that is a realistic weight for you? Ask your physician or primary health care provider what your ideal weight rangeor BMI target is, to help you look and feel your best.
  • Is your plan realistic? Weight loss is yet another example of 'slow and steady' winning the race. Rather than trying to drop a size by tomorrow, set a goal of 1 to 2 pounds (no more than 1 kg) per week. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound - so to meet this goal, aim to cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day, depending on your current eating and exercise behaviour, through a combination of diet and exercise.
  • Have you planned for setbacks? When was the last time you set a goal and every little detail went according to plan? While an optimistic outlook will help you reach your goal, if you don't think about how you'll handle any setbacks along the way, you're not giving yourself all the tools you need to succeed. You may feel disappointed with yourself if you give into temptation and have that extra slice of chocolate cake, but decide ahead of time how you are going to handle such roadblocks so they don't derail your weight loss plans.
  • Do you have a support system? For some people, weight loss feels best as a solitary effort, while others may find support and advice from someone who can relate helps them stick to the plan. Think about your style and seek out support if you think it will help you. Family, friends, weight loss groups and online forums can all provide the encouragement and advice you are seeking.
  • Have you thought long term? In truth, losing the weight is only the first part of your goal. Keeping it off is the second. Think about whether you are ready to make permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits, because your old ways are how you gained the weight in the first place.