Taking the First Step

When talking to friends, family, and other acquaintances, as soon as the subject of weight loss comes up — which, I must say, happens almost daily in my life — I’m usually faced with the following confessions:

“My jeans are tight.”

“I haven’t been to the gym in weeks.”

“I eat too much take-out.”

“I work late and don’t have time to cook.”

“I finish the food off my kids’ plates.”

“I’m too tired to exercise.”

“I’m wearing my old maternity clothes.”

“I feel sluggish all the time.”

The conversation almost always ends the exact same way. After outlining the many causes of the extra pounds they’re carrying, the person will eventually mutter the phrase:

“I really have to do something about my weight.”

And that’s when I’m gripped with the overwhelming urge to reach out, shake their shoulders, and say:

“Then do it, already!”

But, instead, I offer them an understanding nod and change the subject. Because I know that beyond offering a few general tips and pointers about how to lose weight — you know, like eat less and move more — there’s absolutely nothing I can do to help them.

See, the thing is that I was that person once. In fact, I was that person for many years. And throughout all of the “my pants don’t fit” whining I did, nobody ever just looked me in the eye and said:

“Then just lose some weight.”

You know why? Well, for starters, that’s a surefire way to lose friends. But it’s also because I know from firsthand experience that nothing I can say or do can force someone else to take that first step on the path to a healthier lifestyle. None of the dozens of doctors, nutritionists, or physiologists I visited throughout my childhood and adolescence could make me lose weight, and even my parents’ and grandparents’ desperate pleas to stop eating everything in sight had no effect on me.

I gained over 100 pounds in five years, and it wasn’t until I woke up one morning and decided that I had to do something RIGHT NOW that I managed to take my first step: joining Weight Watchers.

You have to make the decision to change your life, and then you just have to take that first step. It’s that simple.

I know there are so many people who are desperate to reap the rewards of a healthier lifestyle, but they just can’t seem to figure out how to get started. For me, my “a-ha” moment occurred when I stepped on a scale and was slapped in the face by the cold, hard fact that I was well on my way to being 300 pounds. Other people begin their weight loss journey because they’re trying to get pregnant, or because they already have children who are starting to adopt poor eating habits. Some women do it to fit into their high school jeans or look svelte for an upcoming vacation or reunion, while others are motivated by a desire for more energy and fewer doctor’s appointments.

Whatever their motivation, when someone confides how miserable they’re feeling about their current weight, and talks about needing to do “something,” what I’d like to suggest is doing just ONE something. The first step will be enough to get you started, and it’ll make that next “something” so much easier.

Maybe that means trying to drink less soda and more water one week, then swapping one not-so-healthy snack per day with a banana or an apple the following week, and then gradually cutting back on microwave dinners and Chinese take-out. I recently advised a self-proclaimed “chocoholic” to limit her consumption to once or twice a week, and to swap Snickers bars for small portions of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. I urged someone else to stop thinking she had to eat nothing but salads and grilled chicken to lose weight — instead, I told her to make healthier choices most of the time, and enjoy her favorite indulgences in moderation.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is that when it comes to beginning your weight loss journey, it really doesn’t have to be complicated. You make the decision to lose weight, you possibly set a goal (lose 40 pounds, wear a size 8), and from that point on, it’s all about baby steps. Take it one day at a time, and make the small changes that will help you uphold that commitment to yourself and ultimately reach your goal.

Even if you have 100+ pounds to lose like I did, it can be done. One step at a time.

Now, tell me — what was the “first step” on your personal weight loss journey?

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