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What’s It Going to Take?

A new Associated Press/iVillage survey concludes that American women are shedding pounds for the wrong reason. Want to guess what, according to research, the primary motivation should be to successfully keep weight off? Want to guess what the most common motivation is? If your first answer was “for good health” and your second was “to look good,” you’re right in line with the AP survey results.

The poll of 1,000 women found that half are unhappy about their weight, including women who were not even overweight! The main reason for unhappiness was because of how weight, or their perception of it, affected their appearance. Only one-third had concern for their physical condition. Okay, if you’re in that one-third, nice going. Not only do you have the right motivation to lose weight, but you have the right one to keep it off.

Now you other two-thirds, please take a moment to stop and think about your priorities. It appears that you care more about looking good than being healthy and that is seriously irrational thinking at its worst. If you want to attain and maintain a comfortable size, that’s not going to happen unless you also want to become healthier along with “looking good.” Studies show that long-term weight loss and maintenance work far better for people who want to stay healthy, than for people who want to be thin.

As to exercise, according to the study, half of those polled exercised less than 80 minutes a week. Only 8% reported eating five servings of fruits or vegetables each day, while a bit more than a quarter admitted to ingesting these five servings only once a week or less. Again, please pause to consider how many servings of vegetables and fruit you eat daily or weekly. If you’re well below the ideal, try adding one fruit or veggie per day for a week (one measly serving), then adding another the next week, until you’re up to five. When you are, commit to continuing this five-a-day program for one month. My guess is that if you put your mind to it for 30 days, you’ll be used to more nutritious eating and have a good chance of it sticking. The idea is to make the change incrementally, not all at once, and to keep at it for a full 30 days.

To recap, if you want to become healthier, you’ll benefit from rethinking your exercise incentives and either replacing appearance with health or adding it as a goal. You can also eat better by simply adding one fruit and vegetable to your diet every day. You may decide to use these foods as a replacement for other items or in addition to your usual fare. You may not think so, but small efforts can sometimes produce big results.