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This story is sponsored by Tanner Clinic. Click to learn more about Tanner Clinic.

Why is it that losing weight is one of the most difficult life changes that anyone can face? Having unhealthy levels of fat is not simply a result of eating too much and exercising too little; targeting these factors alone is often insufficient for producing lasting weight loss results.

The fact is several factors contribute to unhealthy fat accumulation.

Here are a few:

  • Too little exercise
  • Too much food
  • Genetics
  • Hormones that control appetite
  • Metabolism hormones
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Medications
  • Chemicals we consume

Dr. Wyatt West, at the Tanner Clinic says, "We don't treat obesity as a personal failure. Rather, obesity is a complicated state that requires a comprehensive approach to achieve meaningful and sustainable improvement."

He suggests four lifestyle changes for maximizing weight loss, and successful long-term weight management. They include principles that address each of the underlying causes of obesity, and strategies for long-term weight maintenance. He says, "Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not an event, it is a way of life." At his clinic, he guides patients through these four steps during the first month of treatment.

Step 1: Start a Daily Journal

Daily journaling is an essential part of realizing goals and aspirations. When you plan a trip, the first steps to arriving at your destination are to identify where you want to go, map out the path to get there, and track your progress along the route. When your desired destination is weight loss, the same principles apply.

First, set a healthy, realistic weight loss goal and write it down. Be specific. Specific goals lead to specific results.

Second, establish daily behavior changes that will help you arrive at your stated goal. You should also track specifically what you eat and how much you exercise. There are a variety of Apps that can assist you with this.

Lastly, accountability is key to goal-directed change. Many find it helpful to choose someone to whom they are accountable, with whom they can "check-in" and who will hold their feet to the fire somewhat.

Step 2: Pick the Low-hanging Fruit

On a fruit tree, the low-hanging fruit found on the lower branches is easiest to pick. For losing weight, the low-hanging fruit is the sugar we eat. Sugar and other sweeteners are highly potent, highly addictive and highly fattening.

Desserts, sweets, and sugary beverages are obvious. Also be very careful about so called, "health foods." Many foods that are touted as healthy are teaming with sugars. "low fat" or "fat-free" often equates to "high sugar." Reading food labels needs to become a part of life. If there are high potency sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, or if there are three or four different forms of sugars in the list of ingredients, don't eat it!

Step 3:Choose a Diet

Studies show there are three general diet plans that work:

  • The Calorie Restricted diet (simply counting calories)
  • The Calorie Unrestricted, but Macronutrient Restricted diet (e.g. carb free)
  • The Meal Replacement diet (shakes, bars replacing 2 meals per day)

Dr. West does not advocate a specific diet plan. Often a hybrid model of these can be very effective. Whatever you choose, it must fit your lifestyle and be sustainable. Remember, no one is a robot. Often the most successful dieters build into their diets a few opportunities during the week to "cheat". Cheating should be the exception not the rule, however, one free day per week, or three free meals per week will mentally make your diet more palatable.

Step 4: Exercise

Being physically active is one of the joys of life! Often, exercise is also what separates the successful dieter from the yo-yo dieter. There are a variety of apps that can assist you in tracking your activity of choice, including estimating the number of calories you burn.

Exercise should be of moderate intensity, sustained, and 150-250 minutes per week. The optimum regimen is a balance between aerobic and weight or body resistance training. If you are currently not exercising, start low and go slow. Then, increase your intensity by about 10% every 2-4 weeks until you reach your goals.

Where to go from here?

These 4 steps, while absolutely necessary for your success, comprise only the first steps toward your goal of long-term, meaningful weight loss. Changing diet and exercise habits addresses one of many factors contributing to weight gain. To maximize your weight loss you must address all the modifiable factors affecting your weight, and remember: frequent follow up is key to ensuring that you maintain your weight loss for the long run.

Dr. West and his associates at the Tanner Clinic conduct thorough laboratory and medical evaluations for their patients. The evaluations include an analysis of hormone and medication issues that can hamper weight loss efforts. If you are interested in an evaluation or are curious about what the next months of treatment entail, you can call the clinic today.