THE REAL challenge in dieting is not losing weight but keeping it off. Here are some tips from local experts on avoiding the Yo-Yo Syndrome:
* Get a good start. Start a diet when you can give it time and get support at home or from peers. You might want to see a physician first, to rule out a medical problem.
* Eat a well-balanced diet with an adequate number of calories. A safe weight loss is 1 to 1 1/2 pounds a week. Avoid fad diets and very-low-calorie diets.
* Exercise is essential. It helps preserve your muscle tissue as you lose weight and it helps maintain your metabolic rate, which tends to drop when you reduce your calories.
* Be willing to make permanent changes in your behavior. Discover what situations prompt you to overeat and work at changing them. Identify high-risk situations.
* Start changing the way you think about eating. Don't think of a diet as a sacrifice but as a way to gain control of your body. Don't think of food as a reward, an excuse, an entitlement or a means to an end.
* Be consistent. Whether dieting alone or in an established program, stick with your choice long enough to see it work. Don't jump from one plan to another or change your calorie level from week to week.
* Set realistic goals, not those that will easily defeat you. Aim to eat ice cream only once a week instead of giving up ice cream forever.
* Be a self-monitor during and after weight loss. Keep records of what you eat, weigh yourself regularly or do whatever is necessary to be vigilant about your weight. If you're joining a formal weight-loss group, pick one with a good maintenance program.
* Reward yourself for the journey, not the end. Buy yourself a treat for a positive behavior change; don't wait to lose 20 pounds before patting yourself on the back. Reward yourself for maintaining your new weight, too.
* Be patient. Don't let a lapse become a relapse by giving up after one mistake.