Fitness is not a quick sprint

Do you view healthy eating habits and weight loss as a race - or as a journey?

We may train for a race for months or even years, but the actual race may last for a very short period of time. A journey may last for months, or years.

So how should we view our weight loss goals? If our tendency is to view weight loss as a race, are we setting ourselves up for failure?

If we try to achieve unrealistic goals in a short period of time, we will likely fail. For example, almost half of the people who make a New Year's resolution to lose weight have given up attempts to change their behavior by now. You can improve your chances for success if you plan on taking things slowly.

Changing behaviors can't happen overnight. You are trying to establish new habits for a lifetime. Studies show it takes 30 days to break a habit. Think about all the habits you will establish - for example, you will probably want to cut out caffeine from your diet. Why? Caffeine can stimulate your appetite.

Monitor your sodium and cholesterol intake. Why? High levels of sodium can cause water retention.

Consuming foods high in cholesterol can raise a person's low-density lipoproteins (LDL). That is the bad kind.

Make sure to drink enough water. Why? Water is one of our most important nutrients. It also helps with our metabolism and fluid retention.

Measure all food portions. Why? It is the only way we know that we are consuming correct portion sizes.

Prepare your own meals. Why? It helps with all of the above.

Increase physical activity. Why? It helps raise your metabolism, burn calories and build lean muscle mass.

If you tried to focus on everything and make all of these changes at once, more than likely you'll become overwhelmed and give up. Focus on the fact that you are trying to develop new behaviors instead of trying to reach an arbitrary number on the scale. You have to change your behavior in order to get the number on the scale to move.

You know you have control over your behaviors, but you don't have direct control over the scale. Changing your behavior is what will help you accomplish your weight goal on the scale. Try resolving to change your habits, instead of trying to lose pounds.

Keeping in mind that your weight loss is a journey will help you keep things in perspective when you think your progress is slow. Remind yourself that you can't accomplish your goals overnight, but success is down the road.