Weight loss is not just a physical act. The most successful people who lose weight and keep it off are those who adapt a long-term lifestyle change that is a good fit for them.

It is something we all have heard of before but certainly not a simple change process to begin. That’s the psychology of weight loss. To get to the stage of actually changing your lifestyle, you will enter a tough journey, but not an impossible one. It is a step-by-step process. Remember, the journey to finish a marathon begins with the first step.

When entering a weight-loss program, be mindful to avoid ones that promote their program with “x” amount of weight loss for “x” amount of money. For example, “Lose 20 pounds in two weeks for just $19.99.” To avoid a disaster, look at the program’s outcome data. Look to see that it gives you tools to maintaining your weight loss, and, most importantly, does it teach one to be accountable to oneself.

A healthy weight-loss program is not one that is just low in caloric intake, but uses several tools to help you achieve your lifestyle changes.

Excessive weight is what I call a multifactoral or multimodal health problem. Your body is a complex piece of machinery. Excess weight is related to many factors (e.g., biological, genetics, psychological and social). It is not as simple as “eating less and exercising more.” If excess weight is multifactoral, then the approach to losing weight must be multimodal.

One must appreciate and be mindful not only of the physical battle ahead but the emotional/psychological one as well. Choose a program that will help you on all levels that has multiple resources, which could include a physician, psychologist, dietitian/nutritionist and other support groups or systems.

The process of weight loss should start with honestly evaluating your readiness to change. For many people, weight gain occurs for many reasons and over some period of time.

All of the factors that have lead to the weight gain need to be evaluated and addressed to promote the most individually tailored weight loss treatment plan. With this in mind, you should think about everything that has lead to your weight gain and list those reasons (e.g., stress, genetics, poor eating habits, time management, etc).

Think about the relationship you have developed with food and eating. Include the surroundings of where and when you usually eat: in the car, in front of the TV, when you are stressed, on your way to work.

After you have listed and examined all of these issues, ask yourself this important question: “Am I truly ready to change my behaviors?” The first answer commonly is “yes” when I ask my patients; however, it is easier to identify whether you truly are ready for change by using Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross’ Stages of Change Model, which puts your situation in perspective.

There are six stages of change that have been identified, which are crucial in tailoring treatment. Research has shown there are specific techniques and processes that help people move from one stage to the next.

Precontemplation: In this stage, you want to lose weight but you have not really thought about how to change yet.

Contemplation: You are thinking about change but sitting on the fence on what to do.

Preparation/pre-action: You start actively looking for resources, programs or other tools geared to help reach your weight-loss goals.

Action: You are fully engaged in the weight-loss process and working a program tailored for you.

Maintenance: You have maintained your healthy weight loss, being mindful of body and emotion for a lifestyle change with long-term effects.

Relapse prevention: Many people do relapse similar to other behavioral problems by resuming old habits and eating behaviors. In this stage, it is important to identify what the trigger was to this relapse and tackle that head-on.

Find out where you are. Do not assume you are ready to lose weight based on what you say or the pressure you feel from friends, family and society. Identify what stage you are in and aim to get to the next stage until you begin changing your lifestyle. There are countless bad weeks, and there’s never a right time to start a plan, so avoid that mind-set,  focus on the stage you are in and work toward the stage you want to be in.