A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Getting in Shape

Medically Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S

Almost 40% of adults are classified as obese, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30. As these rates seem to be worsening, measures must be taken to address the root of the issue.

Losing weight and getting in shape can be a daunting task for most people – especially for those who love to eat and can’t stand the idea of working out. But for beginners, the mere thought of shedding pounds and getting physically fit can be overwhelming at best.

This comprehensive guide provides beginners with realistic tips on losing weight and getting in shape, as well as concrete advice on how to deal with emotional hurdles and how to get back on track after falling off the wagon.

We’ve obtained input from two top experts on this topic, including a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist who lost 80 pounds herself as a teenager; as well as a Certified Exercise Physiologist who has worked with members of the Olympic team.

Myths and Misconceptions

When it comes to losing weight and getting in shape, the biggest myth is that you can accomplish this goal quickly and easily, said Dr. Annthea Fenwick, owner of Achieving Fitness After 50 in Nevada City, California, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition.

Dr. Fenwick is also a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Pilates Instructor, a Certified Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength Conditioning Association.

She explained that when you first start an exercise program, your first 4 to 6 weeks of adaptations happen neurologically; and after neurologic adaptation, “we slowly start to see physiological adaptations such as muscle tone, weight loss or strength.”

Depending on your consistency with exercise and nutrition, these adaptations can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks up to one year to reach your goals, noted Dr. Fenwick, who has worked with numerous individuals throughout her 30 years of training, including Olympic athletes, Mixed Martial Arts fighters, people with hip and knee replacements, and individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

“So the human body does not make quick, healthy changes – it’s a long-term commitment,” Dr. Fenwick emphasized. “It requires motivation, dedication, and long-term consistency to lose and keep the weight off, and get fit.”

One of the biggest myths about losing weight and getting in shape is that you have to starve yourself, according to Ruth Pupo Garcia, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator at Adventist Health White Memorial Los Angeles.

“Also many people believe weight loss is hard when what is hard is the change in mentality and behavior,” she noted.

In addition to her professional background, Garcia has first-hand experience with weight loss, shedding 80 pounds as a teenager.

“So this subject is near to my heart, as I have practiced weight management all my life and have gained and lost those dreaded 10 to 15 pounds so many times,” she said. “Currently I see so many patients for weight loss, including bariatric surgery, which concerns me since surgery sometimes doesn’t change their mindset or behavior with food.”

8 Tips to Start Losing Weight and Getting in Shape

For beginners who want to lose weight and get in shape, Dr. Fenwick offered the following tips for ways to get started:

  1. Get a physical from your doctor if you think you have any contraindications to exercise or any limitations that need to be addressed before you begin, such as diabetes, orthopedic concerns, or cardiovascular issues.

  2. Find a reputable and credible expert in exercise, such as an exercise physiologist or certified personal trainer that has certifications from one of the major certifying agencies, and ideally someone with accredited certification such as American College of Sports Medicine or National Strength and Conditioning Association, both requiring a four-year degree.

  3. Find a registered dietitian or degreed nutritional professional to work with your nutritional needs and goals. Be wary of someone promoting fad diets or selling supplements.

  4. Have an assessment done to determine your baseline levels, allowing for track-ability; such as body composition testing, body measurements, and 3-day food recall. You need these baseline measurements so you can track your progress.

  5. Start with small changes. Begin exercising with basic movements, short time frames, so you can slowly and safely adapt, minimizing your chances of injury. Start nutrition changes with making one modification at a time, for example; eating more greens with your meals. When it has become a habit, then change another behavior such as drinking more water. Research has shown over and over that doing too much too soon leads to noncompliance, injuries, and ultimately termination.

  6. Work with your expert at least once a week at a minimum, ideally 2 to 3 times per week to start. This helps with accountability, support, and guidance. Having a plan you can follow, having someone work with you, explaining the exercises, outlining your specific calorie needs, answering the plethora of questions that arise about the safe and healthy way to get fit and lose weight that is correct for you. Unfortunately, many people (family, friends, neighbors or coworkers) have strong opinions on what works in both areas, which can make it confusing if you listen to all the misinformation, and ultimately impossible to find the right combination for what your body needs.

  7. Keep a diary or journal. This contributes to accountability, which can ultimately lead to your success.

  8. Phone a friend. Having someone else to be accountable to on a daily basis minimizes your chances of skipping exercise or cheating on your nutrition. Ask a friend to join you in this lifestyle change.

In additional tips for those new to losing weight and getting in shape, Garcia offered the following advice:

First, evaluate what is keeping you from your best weight, and analyze what it is regarding your eating habits that cause weight gain.

“Start with small changes; for example, for someone who eats cookies for dessert daily, make a change by switching to having fruit for dessert instead,” said Garcia, who also suggests researching successful weight loss stories and getting tips from people that have done it.

She also agrees with Dr. Fenwick about keeping a journal of everything you eat, and that many free apps are available that can be used for tracking.

“People may be surprised at how much they really eat and keeping a diary will prevent non-mindful eating,” Garcia noted.

She pointed out that according to Harvard weight loss tips, mindless eating occurs when people eat without paying attention to their physical and emotional state; people sometimes eat to soothe anxiety, sadness, or other unpleasant emotions.

“Often people eat just because the food is there, or because it is time to eat,” Garcia added.

Implement Small Changes to Build Healthy Habits

There are so many nutritionists, nutritional therapists, whole food counselors, and food therapists out there that the consumer needs to be wary, Dr. Fenwick warned.

She recommends working with someone with the expertise and background, and that many states do not allow anyone other than Registered Dietitians to provide meal plans.

“There is no magic diet, cleanse, or supplement to lose 10 pounds in 10 days,” Dr. Fenwick said.

Because there are so many “miracle” diets out there, the trick is to find a reliable and valid diet such as the Mediterranean or the DASH diet and stick with it, she advised.

“Success in weight loss comes from sticking to a diet plan that works for you, and consistently following the guidelines at least 80% of the time,” Dr. Fenwick said.

She recommends starting off slowly, modifying one habit per week.

For instance, start with adding more greens to your diet. The following week, try to drink more water and fewer beverages that are heavy in calories and sugar. Then each week, modify behavior that will contribute to your success in losing weight and keeping it off.

“Many individuals have success in losing weight, and the problem lies in keeping the weight off for the long term,” Dr. Fenwick said. “It is imperative to establish healthy lifestyle habits at the beginning that set you up for long-term success.”

She also advises seeking support from your family.

“If you’re the only one modifying their nutrition and your spouse brings home McDonald’s every night, that can be extremely challenging to refrain from overeating,” Dr. Fenwick noted.

Another challenge is over-estimating your total daily calories burned.

“The bottom line: To lose weight you must create a caloric deficit,” Dr. Fenwick explained.

She suggests starting out by reducing your calories by 200 to 300 per day.

“Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered healthy; losing more weight will most likely be water weight and/or lean muscle,” Dr. Fenwick said.

If you have no idea how many calories you’re consuming, it’s highly likely you’re underestimating your calories and you are eating too many.

“You need to track, at least initially, calories [that you eat] compared to calories burned,” Dr. Fenwick advised, adding that if you do not know both sides of this equation, it is very difficult to succeed at losing weight.

Calorie restriction is a proven method of weight loss and relatively easy to adopt either on your own or with the assistance of a website or an app.

“Try using one of the free apps available to keep track initially of your calories – My Fitness Pal and Lose It are great apps to try,” she said. “They give you an idea of how many calories you’re burning and let you track how many calories you are consuming and can easily share this information with your support system.”

Weight loss takes time and also takes behavior change, or better said – a new mindset, Garcia added.

“Most people want fast, immediate results – since weight loss occurs over time, people tend to quit when the scale does not respond right away,” Garcia said.

“Also when people are presented with difficult situations that threaten their weight control efforts they can get easily discouraged,” she noted. “For example, eating at a restaurant or at a party. If you do not plan ahead, you will likely get frustrated and overeat.”

Garcia recommends making a plan and commitment – and stay on track.

“For example, when going out for dinner, search ahead of time what type of food is on the menu, think about the healthiest choice,” she advised. “Going to an event? Pack fruit or a protein bar in your car or handbag just in case there aren’t many healthy options. Also, one meal does not cause obesity, but poor daily habits do.”

When it comes to exercising, Dr. Fenwick recommends finding an activity that you enjoy and will pursue on a long-term basis.

Hiking, biking, swimming, and lifting weights are all wonderful ways to burn calories and get in shape, but if you hate the thought of all those activities, you will be less motivated and therefore put less effort towards challenging your body, she said.

“Try different activities, or use multiple activities to find a combination that you enjoy,” Dr. Fenwick advised.

Also, find an expert who will train you that understands your concerns as a beginner – and not just following their own agenda.

Unfortunately, a lot of people in the fitness industry have little to no formal training, are usually very young and very inexperienced, who have no experience with injuries, Dr. Fenwick warned.

“It’s very easy to get certified online as a personal trainer; there are over 400 online certifications and some can be completed in a weekend,” she said. “The consumer needs to be wary and verify the background of the trainer, just as you would verify the background of your physician. It is very easy to get hurt, and you need to find someone with the background and expertise.”

She also said to be mindful of starting out too hard and doing too much.

“In the beginning, you’re more likely to become sore, if you do too much too soon, you can get hurt, and that this could discourage you from continuing,” Dr. Fenwick said.

She added that 60% of people starting an exercise program drop out within the first 3 to 6 weeks before the body has had a chance to make physiologic changes.

“So to reduce your chance of quitting, meet with an expert,” Dr. Fenwick said. “Start off slowly. Make small changes to your routines and you’re more likely to stick with it.”

Nutrition Tips and Eating Plans to Start Losing Weight

Dr. Fenwick recommends finding an expert in your area and sitting down with them to figure out the best nutritional plan for your needs and goals.

“Have a plan ready that you can realistically follow, which should include a grocery list, meal ideas and possibly recipes, daily calorie goals, and a track-ability journal or app,” she advised.

Dr. Fenwick also offered the following tips:

  • Have a support system in place (family, friends, and counselor).
  • Do meal prep on the weekends if you are very busy.
  • Buy a cooler and small storage containers so you can bring your lunch to work instead of going out to lunch.
  • Add exercise to the equation. You will lose more weight and keep the weight off in the long run.
  • Consistency is the key. Sticking to your new nutritional plan, week to week and month to month, will give you the longevity to success.

Dr. Fenwick also offered the following sample menu for one day to give you a general idea of what to consume:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cantaloupe, 1 slice of whole-grain bread, 1tsp butter, 1 cup of coffee
  • Snack: 10 carrots, 1 sliced bell pepper 3 tbsp hummus
  • Lunch: 3 ounces grilled chicken breast, small green salad, 2 tsp salad dressing, 1/2 whole-grain roll, 1 cup of berries
  • Snack: sliced small apple, 2 tsp almond butter
  • Dinner: 4 ounces baked salmon, 1/2 cup steamed cauliflower, 1/2 cup roasted garlic carrots, 1 cup fresh strawberries, 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 tbsp sliced almonds, 1 tsp honey. 8 glasses of water throughout the day.

Those who opt for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle can substitute animal proteins with tofu, whole-grains, or hearty root vegetables.

Garcia also recommends starting out with one goal – for example, making the decision to eat 2 fruits per day and stop eating chips.

Additionally, keeping track of portion sizes and calories is important. Current dietary guidelines recommend portion control, particularly for calorie-dense foods. This is another proven method of weight loss and maybe an even easier lifestyle change to incorporate.

For example, rather than making drastic changes to your diet, you can simply consume less of your typical meals.

“Feeding the body nutritious foods is key, but staying at 1,200 calories or under per day is needed for weight loss,” said Garcia, further noting that patience is required, as well as persistence.

“Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is great progress, and it will take time to see results,” Garcia said. “Get on the scale and weigh yourself at least once per week.”

She further noted that the National Weight Control Registry is a database of people that have lost 50 pounds or more and kept it off for 5.5 years or more.

“One habit that members had was to weigh themselves at least once per week, and this prevented weight re-gain,” she said.

In other advice, Garcia provided the following sample menu for a beginner wanting to lose weight:

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of whole-wheat toast and ¼ avocado
  • Lunch: Green salad with 3-ounce chicken breast and 2 flatbread Wasa crackers and 1 apple
  • Snack: One Greek yogurt with 7 almonds
  • Dinner: 3-ounce salmon with steamed broccoli and small sweet potato
  • Snack: (optional) ¼ cup cottage cheese and 1 pear

Exercise Tips and Workout Plans for Long-Term Success

To get in shape, you need to work your heart, work your muscles and stretch your muscles – and all three components create a well-balanced healthy and fit body, Dr. Fenwick said.

Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of physical activity each week of moderate-intensity to improve heart, muscle, and bone health.

In regards to cardiovascular exercise, you can walk every day, starting with 5 to 30 minutes per session. Low-impact activities have the added benefit of limiting the forces placed upon your joints that can be associated with carrying excess body weight.

“If the cardiovascular is another mode such as biking or jogging, it would be better to start with 3 to 5 days per week, at 10 up to 30 minutes per session,” Dr. Fenwick advised. “Strength training should be done 2-3 times per week, starting with 15 up to 45 minutes per session.”

She offered the following tips for beginners who want to get in shape:

  • Start slow and easy, do not try to do too much too soon. In the beginning, it’s very easy to get injured, to overdo the exercise load and duration, trying for maximal results in the shortest time frame. However, the body does not adapt to too high loads, too much duration in the beginning. Hence the bodies’ mechanism for overdosing on exercise is muscle soreness, muscle tightness, and ultimately muscle, tendon or ligament injury.

  • To build aerobic strength, it’s recommended by the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine to start with low-intensity movements. Walking, biking, swimming, Zumba classes are all great options for the beginner; it depends on your preferences, accessibility, and level of enjoyment. If the beginner has for example enjoyed cross country skiing in the past, start out again, but this time do the activity for 30 minutes to 1 hour to start, versus 5 hours in a day. Or if you haven’t walked in years, start out walking 5 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week. The long term goal for cardiovascular activity is 30 to 60 minutes, 5 to 7 times per week.

  • Strength training is also recommended by the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine. Two to three days per week, 8 to 10 exercises, a total of 20 to 45 minutes per session on non-consecutive days.

  • Start off doing 1 set of 15 reps per exercise, with a weight that is light enough to perform the activity with control. Within 1 to 2 weeks, the sets can be increased to 2 sets of 15 reps; by the fourth week, the beginner should be able to complete 3 sets of 15 reps, with full control. At this point, the weight can be increased and the reps decreased to 10.

  • Incorporate flexibility/mobility exercises. These can be done every day, allowing a range of motion within the joints. Stretching can be done in 5-20 minutes, and be done at home, or in a class. Yoga classes, for example, have become increasingly popular. The newbie, however, needs to look for beginner classes: such as restorative yoga or introductory classes. There are many good books that have basic stretches with pictures and diagrams, so stretches can be done very easily at home.

  • Buy clothes and shoes that support your new regime such as a loose, comfortable, breathable shirt and workout pants, and good supportive shoes. You want to make your first few times exercising comfortable so having the correct clothes and shoes is important.

Dr. Fenwick also offered the following sample exercises for someone just getting started with getting in shape:

  • Walk at a comfortable speed for up to 20 minutes.
  • Wall push-ups.
  • Box squats.
  • Bent over rows (bending at the hips, hold onto a counter with one arm; grab a weight with the other. Bend the weighted arm up to the armpit and squeeze shoulder blades, and lower back).
  • Static lunges (extend one leg behind you, stay on your toe, lower both knees and extend back up. Stay on one side for reps, then switch).
  • Marching on the floor (on back, knees bent, engage the core, lift one knee then lower, alternating legs). Do 1 set of 15 reps to start, work up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Dr. Fenwick added that exercise should be followed by stretching, which can be done every day, and offers the following tips for a five-minute stretch:

  • Hamstring: place one foot on top of a low table, bending at the hips, and reach for your toe. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs.
  • Quads: with a table in front to hold onto, put a chair behind you, and place one foot on top. Squeeze buttocks and hold for 30 seconds.
  • Calves: holding onto a wall, step back with one foot, try to get the heel on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
  • Chest: facing a wall place one palm against a wall. Turn the body slowly away from a wall till you feel a mild stretch across the chest. Hold 30 seconds.

» See Also: 18 Best Exercises for Seniors: Safe Balance, Strength and Flexibility Routines

What to Avoid

Garcia recommends avoiding fast foods, eating late at night, processed foods, and unconscious eating for beginners wanting to lose weight.

Additionally, trends, fad diets, and quick fixes – and anything or anyone that promises quick or overnight results – should be avoided by beginners wanting to drop pounds and get in shape, according to Dr. Fenwick.

“There is no magic pill to lose weight or get in shape,” said Dr. Fenwick, noting a quote by Oprah Winfrey: if there was a magic pill I would have found it by now and used it.

“It takes time to lose weight the healthy way, and keep it off,” Dr. Fenwick emphasized. “It requires modifications of your lifestyle, acquiring new habits and new skills, and it takes time to change.”

Same thing with getting in shape.

“There is no legislation requiring any licenses or regulations of trainers; so anybody can take an online certification, and become a certified trainer,” Dr. Fenwick warned. “Gyms are paying barely above minimum wage, so they don’t care what certifications the trainer possesses.”

Therefore, consumers need to be wary of trainers and check their background and education.

“Many exercises are too advanced for the beginner to try; however trainers try to kill the beginner, causing extreme muscle soreness and overload,” Dr. Fenwick explained. “Hence the newcomer to fitness quits, becoming a national statistic of 60% failure rate of new exercisers.”

She pointed out that the body slowly adapts to the loads placed upon it, and if you try to load it too soon or too heavy, the body could respond with pain and injury.

“It is much smarter and safer to take it slow and easy,” Dr. Fenwick advised. “This is the key to success and longevity in exercise, and losing weight and keeping the weight off, the turtle wins the game, not the hare.”

With getting in shape and losing weight, there is no magic anything, she re-emphasized.

“It takes time, discipline, consistency, motivation, and support. It takes months to years. That is why most Americans are overweight. They want things right now: fast food, internet, Amazon prime.”

The body, however, has many mechanisms in place that will not allow quick or fast changes, she said, and the body will slow down its metabolism, or create muscle tension around areas subjected to injury.

“The body has slowly evolved over millenniums, and will continue to slowly adapt to forces and loads placed upon it,” Dr. Fenwick added. “You need to be in for the long haul, you need to make this a lifestyle, not just a few months of change.”

How to Avoid Falling Off the Wagon

Those new to losing weight and getting in shape might fall off the wagon from time to time, which is normal and very common, according to Dr. Fenwick, who noted that some of the reasons why this can occur include the following:

  • A stressful event in their life (death, loss of a job, change of location, divorce)
  • Going on vacation (when you return home, staying in vacation mode)
  • Lack of direction; no plan for success.
  • Lack of support; no expert help, guidance, or family support
  • Working too much (not enough time, too busy)
  • Illness, injury, surgery
  • Lack of motivation (not seeing results or changes)
  • Family (too busy taking care of kids, spouse, parents)
  • Location (live in an area that’s unsafe, no access to healthy food)
  • Deprivation (giving up favorite foods)
  • Depression

Garcia noted that according to the Centers for Disease Control, over time, dieters can grow fatigued with the dietary prescriptions and find it difficult to maintain interest and commitment.

“Also, the CDC states that the diet can only have an effect if an individual will follow it,” she said.

“Since diets are thought of as temporary, people believe that they fall off the wagon if they eat unhealthy food, meal, or defy their meal plan,” Garcia said. 

The reality is that one meal or one event does not cause obesity, but daily habits do.

“The best method is to eat healthy 80% of the time or better, and enjoy a treat from time to time,” Garcia advised.

Getting on that scale, being aware and keeping active and healthy eating as a lifestyle rather than a diet helps with this type of mentality.

“We need to be realistic that control and discipline are requirements and a big component of weight loss and management, however, there should be room for that special treat or favorite food in moderation, in order to avoid feeling deprived,” Garcia said.

She further recommends never overeating two days in a row.

“An old theory is that it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound, so there is some room for extra food,” Garcia said.

She added that the best advice she can offer beginners is: don’t quit!

“No one is perfect – get up the next day and continue your new healthy lifestyle,” Garcia advised.

Also, when you feel like quitting, remember why you started.

“Think about all that you have to gain with your new lean healthy body, remind yourself of your motivating factors,” Garcia said. “Was it to travel on an airplane without a seat-belt extender? How will you feel when you fit into your favorite jeans? Or playing with your kids without being short of breath?” 

Emotional Factors to Consider

When first trying to get in shape it’s very easy to feel awkward, clumsy, and consequently unsuccessful – yet you see other fit individuals who make exercising look easy and efficient, Dr. Fenwick said.

However, it takes time to acquire the efficiency of movement and kinesthetic awareness.

“Understand that these individuals did not start their fitness journey where you see them today,” she advised. “They have also had to work to obtain the results you are seeing, just as you will also see results from the work you are putting in.”

Losing weight has some of the same emotional challenges.

“If we don’t lose weight right away, we tend to feel unsuccessful,” said Dr. Fenwick, further adding that beginners need to be educated that if the scale doesn’t move right away, that doesn’t mean they’re not a success.

“With individuals losing weight and starting an exercise program, muscle is denser than fat,” she explained, recommending that beginners use multiple methods to measure success.

For instance, body composition testing, taking measurements, before and after photos, or using a smaller size pair of pants to see if they are fitting better are all better methods to measure weight loss than just the scale.

“If you gain 2 pounds of muscle and lose 3 pounds of fat, the scale has only moved 1 pound,” Dr. Fenwick explained. “This can be discouraging unless you realize that you have actually changed your body composition by 5 pounds, and the added muscle will increase your metabolism to help you lose more fat.”

This highlights the importance of setting realistic short-term goals, in addition to your long-term ones. The short-term goals can serve as check-points to keep you motivated and engaged, rather than focusing on results that won’t be obtained for weeks or even months.

It’s also important to have a healthy relationship with food in general, and she points to the example of using food as a reward system.

For instance, during childhood, many individuals received dessert if they were good, so as adults having a bad day or stressful situation, will use food to make them feel good, Dr. Fenwick hypothesized.

“There is an enormous emotional component to food, certain foods, social gatherings, key events, and celebrations – food has become an emotional healer, best friend or escape,” she said. “Having a healthy relationship with food requires looking at food as fuel, aiming to put the healthier fuel in our body versus what is just emotionally satisfying. This change can take some time and show why having expert advice can really make a difference in your success and reaching your goals.”

Since weight loss requires a change in behavior, this is the toughest challenge, especially since people often tie emotions to food, Garcia added.

“Feeling sad or depressed? Eat. Celebrate? Eat. Bored? Eat. There has to be a change in eating behaviors which require some form of control and organization,” Garcia advised.

When people are connected to food for other reasons than nourishment, the challenge begins, Garcia further emphasized.

“Behaviors need to be replaced with new habits and hobbies and coping mechanisms applied,” she said. “For weight loss, the relationship with food must change.”

Why It’s Never Too Late to Start 

It’s never too late to start – and small changes can make a big difference, Garcia said.

“For people that feel that they need more support there are good resources that can help,” she said. “I recommend Overeaters Anonymous and TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) which offer the support and motivation for weight loss.”

Dr. Fenwick pointed out that a landmark study conducted several years ago looked at strength training in seniors living in an assisted care home. Most of these individuals were between 75 and 85 years of age. 

“They were all placed on hardcore strength training programs and all were able to increase their strength – they did not increase the size of muscle but the strength of the muscle,” Dr. Fenwick said.

At the end of the 12-week study, several of the participants moved out of the assisted care home.

“They were only there because they lacked the strength to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Fenwick, adding that the strength training gave them their strength back.

“There is always hope – if you are living and breathing, the body will be able to adapt to the loads imposed upon it,” she emphasized.

“No matter what age you are, how weak you may be, what limitations you may have, there is always a way,” Dr. Fenwick said.

The key is to find a specialist who will work with you.

“You need someone who will start off very slow and easy, who knows how to progress the body without causing any injury or undue soreness,” she recommends. “You need someone who will find the right nutritional plan for your lifestyle, who will continually search and modify till they find the right diet.”

It is important to have someone who will support, motivate, and be continually patient, kind, and caring, Dr. Fenwick added.

“There is always hope, so if you don’t feel this hope, find an expert who does.”

The Bottom Line

Weight loss is a journey that requires behavior change that must include sustainable lifestyle changes, Garcia said.

“Temporary diets cause temporary results,” she said, adding that before starting a weight loss plan, questions to be asked are: Does it cost too much? Can I do this long-term? Is it safe and reasonable? Has it worked for anyone else? Can I maintain these habits for a lifetime?

“Losing weight can be easy, maintaining the weight loss is the biggest challenge,” Garcia said.

She noted that according to the National Weight Control Registry, people maintained weight loss by eating breakfast every day, weighing themselves once per week, exercising 1 hour per day, and watching less T.V.

“We need to learn from people who have lost weight and kept it off, and turn our head when we see enticing, new fad diets that promise quick fast results,” Garcia said.

When beginning a program to get in shape or lose weight, “it can be very confusing and scary,” Dr. Fenwick said.

“There is so much information out that it can be overwhelming and in some cases, downright wrong,” she warned.

“The uninformed assumes the celebrity, the Instagram model or their fit next-door neighbor has all of the answers,” Dr. Fenwick noted. “If you listen to everybody, you will never succeed.”

She noted the old saying: too many cooks spoil the soup.

“Find a credible and reliable expert, whether it’s a book, or in person, and listen to that one person,” Dr. Fenwick recommends. “Don’t keep jumping back and forth between weird diets or the latest get-fit-quick-program.”

The only way to succeed is to follow sensible and reliable advice for your needs, goals, limitations, and metabolism, she emphasized.

“Just because it works for one person does not mean it will work for you,” Dr. Fenwick noted. “There is no magic diet; there is no lose-1,000 calories-per-hour exercise class. This is all marketing gimmicks.”

Getting in shape takes time, losing weight takes time, and success depends on your consistency, she further emphasized.

“What you do day in and day out, week after week, month after month, determines if you reach your goals,” Dr. Fenwick said.

“You need to modify your behaviors and change your lifestyle. This takes time. So have a plan A. Have a plan B. Then have a backup plan C.

“Life will get in the way, that’s okay. Just get back on track as soon as you can. Aim for persistence, not perfection. Never give up.”

Alicia Doyle

Alicia Doyle is an award-winning journalist who works with board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons to cover topics about beauty, cosmetic surgery, and procedures. She has written hundreds of articles about products and service that have a positive impact on people’s lives.

A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Getting in Shape