Losing weight must be one of the...

Losing weight must be one of the world's most repeated New Year's resolutions. The resolve usually lasts about as long as it takes for the next meal to roll around. As with the weather, everyone talks about losing weight, but few do anything about it.

"Guilt and anxiety are both very fattening," says Martin Bravin, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, "and they contrive to sabotage your good resolve."

Bravin and his wife Marj have directed the Bravin Center, a weight-management program in Encino, since 1973. Marj, now petite and attractive, says that she once weighed 200 pounds. "A diet is really just a Band-Aid," she says. "It has a beginning and an end, and at the end you return to eating in the way that made you fat in the first place. A weight-management program, however, helps you develop a way of eating that is comfortable and workable for you . . . forever."

Awareness, commitment and flexibility are the necessary ingredients for successful weight management. Become aware of how you are using food inappropriately, make a commitment to change the way that you deal with food and remain flexible about what will work for you.

Although the same techniques don't work for everyone, there are some basic guidelines that can help all:

Goal setting is important--Have a long-term goal and some short-term goals. Your long-term goal is to be thin and stay thin. A short-term goal might be to go down one size in clothing by your birthday.

Reward yourself with something other than food--Treating yourself to a hot-fudge sundae for reaching a goal is not a good technique.

Correct rather than reproach--If you blow it and have a candy bar, don't feel guilty and feed that guilt with more food. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Then start again.

Think thin--Twice a day, Marj uses some relaxation exercises combined with guided imagery techniques. "It all starts in the head," Marj says. "I like to picture my fist. That's about the size of my stomach. How much food do I really need to fill it?"

Become assertive--You can say no thank you to things that don't help you reach your goals and ask instead for things that do. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to eat that extra helping.

Take responsibility for your life--Mother may have helped you get fat, but she can't keep you that way without your permission.

Get off automatic--Give up those childhood habits and beliefs that don't work for you. Practice leaving something on your plate. You don't have to clean it for the starving children of any country. Send a check instead.

Eliminate the words "never" and "always" from your vocabulary--They are too hard to live with.

Physical activities benefit most people--Exercise must be in a form that is comfortable and workable on a long-term basis. Walking at a brisk pace requires no special equipment or training. Find someone to walk with; it will become a social experience, not a chore.

Be patient and persistent--This does not translate as hard or difficult. Find what works for you and stick to it. You might be able to control your eating for a short time, but your goal is to manage food forever.

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