Last updated: Feb 12, 2009
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Marc Royce

What you do in the first few weeks of a new shape-up plan is the key to making sure the numbers on the scale keep heading south. “Its not uncommon for dieters who start a plan to drop out after the first month because they havent learned the skills they need to stay on track,” says dream team psychology expert Judith Beck, PhD.

Ahead, our experts share the five must-do moves that will help you—and our Feel Great Weight star, Criminal Minds actress and new mom AJ Cook—get to your goal weight.


Secret #1: Make it easy on yourself.
“Do online grocery shopping to buy all of your staples at one time,” says diet expert Alyse Levine, RD. That way you wont be tempted to browse the aisles weekly and impulse-buy cookies or chips. Then do yourself a big favor and donate your pantry stash of unopened personal binge-trigger foods to a shelter, she says.

Stock up on favorite healthy nibbles like grapes and almonds, and store them at eye level in the fridge and pantry. Also keep on hand practically instant, emergency dinners for when youre too tired or famished to cook, like Amys Organic frozen meals or ingredients for mini pizzas (whole-wheat pitas with shredded mozzarella, frozen veggies, and marinara sauce). Make it convenient, and youre way more likely to stay on track.

Secret #2: Have a plan for (minor) mess-ups.
Messing up is core to being human. Dont beat yourself up for it, because then you risk giving up altogether—or having a pity-party food fest.

What to say to yourself after that slipup: “‘If I stop right now, it may not show up on the scale at the end of the week,'” diet-psych expert Beck says. “Youll keep mistakes in perspective, gain confidence in your ability to get back on track, and keep losing weight.”

How to make up for it: “Eat a smaller next meal—some lean protein with salad or other nonstarchy vegetables,” Levine says. Goofed all day? Simply forgo your evening snack and stick to the plan the next day. “The worst thing you can do is try to starve yourself—youll end up bingeing by the time dinner rolls around,” she says. Missed a workout? Clean the house for an hour to make up for it, fitness pro Keli Roberts says. “Put on some motivating music, and dance as you clean. Youll torch calories—and end up with a sparkling house.”


Secret #3: Dress for the body you want.
“Put on clothes that make you feel good. You want to dress for the body that you want, not camouflage the body that you have,” dream team style expert Tod Hallman says. “So no hiding in shapeless clothes or baggy sweats—youll just end up feeling frumpy. Start dressing really well right now so people will start complimenting you, then youll be even more motivated to keep working toward a body you love.”


Secret #4: Prepare to be selfish.

Not used to making time for you? Well, youre not alone. “Many women feel terribly guilty whenever they put themselves first,” Beck says. Heres how you can lose that guilt: “Write a list of all the things that you do for other people, then compare it to the list of what you want to do for yourself,” she suggests. Chances are, your list will be much shorter and youll realize that its perfectly fine to spend some time on yourself.

Another trick: Every time you want to do something for yourself that youre afraid might let someone else down, draw two dots on a line marked with “0%” at one end and “100%” at the other. “The first dot represents how disappointed they will be a year from now if you do this thing—take time to exercise, turn down food, etc.,” Beck explains. “The other represents how disappointed you will be a year from now if you dont lose weight and feel good about yourself.” Its a great way to put things in perspective and realize the big-picture importance of sticking with your healthy-body program.

Secret #5: Spoil yourself like mad!
Go on a weight-loss plan, and it can seem like youre losing out … on favorite foods, your old routine, you name it. To keep from feeling like the love rug has been pulled out from under you, self-nurture big time. But were not talking about pulling a scene from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Try these cheap—calorie-free—treats instead.

  • Spa up your food. Cut up lemon slices, and arrange one nicely in every seltzer you drink at home, Levine suggests. Pour it in a gorgeous wine glass to make it seem even more spa-like.

  • Get steamy at the gym. Hit the steam room postworkout for 5 to 10 minutes, and stretch or just relax, Roberts says.
  • Enjoy a soothing soak. Take an Epsom salt bath (great for detoxing and relieving sore muscles), Roberts advises. Light candles, and listen to music, too.

  • Keep a slush fund. Each day you stick to your goals, put a dollar in a special jar, Levine suggests. At months end, use the money to buy something fun (and nonedible), like theater tickets.