16 Steps to Achieving Your Optimal Health and Personal Weight Loss Goals.

Recipe for SuccessAfter years of being in the health and fitness industry, and also struggling with my weight, I have had time to reflect upon common issues that I and my clients have struggled with when it comes to weight loss and goal setting. I have personally walked through each and every one of these “Steps”. These steps are intended to help you assess your mental and physical goals as well as take you to the next level of fitness and your pursuit of health. 

I hope they are of help to YOU!  





16 Steps to Achieving your Optimal Health and Personal Weight Loss Goals


1.  Stop using the term “diet”…

I believe just using the term “diet” sets you up for failure.  If you are trying to regain your health or lose weight, it MUST be a lifestyle change. With gimmicky “diets,” you may lose weight but is it healthy?? Most people who jump on the latest bandwagon of drinking shakes or popping pills usually regain their weight (and more) when the money runs out to buy the product. The key to remember in regaining your health is more than just losing weight; it’s about creating positive changes in your everyday life! Take the time to educate yourself about why you are making certain dietary changes like giving up grains or eating good fats. Once you learn it, you can’t unlearn it.

80-20-rule2.  Realize that losing weight is 80/20. 

When starting to eat healthy, physical changes and habits must be made but making mental changes are just as important.  Personally, I think losing weight and improving one’s health is 80/20… 80% mental and 20% physical.  Yes, there will be physical withdrawals or cravings, but the majority of taking positive steps to improve your health are mental. Changing your mindset is key to your success. Something that must be understood is that food is addictive, just like nicotine in cigarettes, alcohol or drugs and that is a fact. Part of this addiction is the brain telling you that your body physically NEEDS these addictive foods. The other part is the mind wanting it out of habit. This habit is the hardest to break but the most important. Find a new hobby (or new food) instead of putting the wrong foods in your mouth. It’s hard to break old habits but old habits must be broken in order to be successful long term. Comfort food is a biggie. If you normally turn to junk food for comfort, DON’T keep junk food in the house! If you mentally can’t handle it being near you then give it to the dog or neighbor, but get it out of your pantry. It would be silly and unhealthy for a recovering alcoholic to keep alcohol in the house, right? Make the foods you crave impossible to consume, at least in the beginning, before good habits have been created. Just for clarity, junk food doesn’t always mean “junk.” I personally can’t even keep naturally dried apricots in the house because I just can’t resist them. I can’t just eat one so to me, these are “junk” food to me.

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Image Source.

3.  Stop cheating on yourself.

After years of struggling with my weight, I realized that there was a major key to my success. That key being I had to come to the realization that I absolutely cannot go out and have a Mary Lee Donut and everything be ok. This one donut won’t kill me, but mentally, I am 99% sure that I could not stop at just one. I don’t have celiac disease so eating this one donut will not put me in the hospital. But eating just one donut will send my brain on a roller coaster ride and I am 100% sure that I would consume an entire dozen and it would probably take me a week to mentally “recover” since it would then be easy for  me to just wait and “start over” on Monday (see #8 below for why you shouldn’t start new habits on Monday.) Unfortunately moderation doesn’t work for everyone. Admit it and move on. This is the main reason I have created so many recipes including sweets and desserts. Yes, they are still treats but I can have one of my grain-free cupcakes (or maybe even 2) and mentally and physically I will be fine. Grains and sugars trigger our brains to make us want more. It’s not just about will power but also about the powerful control food has over us. I admit that food can control me so I choose to not let it. (Read more in Dr. Davis’ book Wheat Belly about how addictive wheat can be.) If you cut out 80-90% of the “bad stuff” but are not really seeing any improvement in your health or weight loss, stop cheating yourself. I know it sounds hard (or to some it may sound impossible), but cutting out certain foods like grains 100% will make the all the difference. By keeping 10-20% of these foods in your diet, you are torturing yourself by saying “I’ll only have 2 corn chips” and then you find you’ve finished the whole bag. Or you tell yourself “I’ll have just a bit of pizza” and then you find yourself eating the entire pie. It doesn’t always have to be a struggle, but if you continue to keep certain foods in your diet, even in moderation, you can be making life more difficult than it should be.

Be sure to read Summer's Post here.

Be sure to read Summer’s Post “15 Things All Women Absolutely need to hear Regardless of Body Shape or Size” here.

4.  Stop trying to look good naked.

Don’t laugh. I know many people who want to look good without their clothes on. After carrying, birthing and nursing 2 kids, my body is not going to look good (whatever “good” means) naked, period! Bad genetics and saggy skin are just there. My solution: I keep my clothes on, ha, and I wear flattering clothes. If a old pair of jeans doesn’t look good on you anymore, go by a new pair and don’t be intimidated by the size. Stop trying to fit into your old body and accept the new one you have. Even after losing weight and restoring your health, most of our bodies won’t look like a fitness model’s. After being overweight 3 separate times in my life, I have the excess skin and stretch marks to prove it. I could have a “woe is me party” or I can use this as an opportunity to go buy a new outfit! I just recently got rid of clothes that I have been holding on to for 5 years. Seriously?!? It is time for the old Melissa (pre-kids) to go and the new more confident (and wise) Melissa to emerge! Take the plunge, get rid of your old clothes, it’s liberating!  It’s o.k. to want to lose weight and work out, but expecting to look like a Victoria Secret or a Fitness model just isn’t reality for the average person. Having realistic expectations is key. I know this is hard when Hollywood says we should look a certain way and you can’t turn on the TV or even look at Facebook without someone trying to sell you a product that “will make you look years younger.” I am very blessed to have a husband that loves me and thinks I am beautiful through all the saggy skin. As my good friend Brenda said, “Learn to love the person looking back at you in the mirror.” I also feel when you love yourself it will shine through for everyone to see. :)

5457536703_fd22ca16ca_z5.  Be Patient; Don’t expect a miracle overnight.

Poor health or a 50 lb. weight gain didn’t happen overnight so don’t expect just a few days, weeks or months of clean eating to solve all of your problems. True, you will see MAJOR improvements in certain health issues by making healthy lifestyle changes but stop beating yourself up for only losing 10 lbs. in 2 months… that’s a lot of weight! Everyone will lose weight at different rates so just be patient. Impatience normally leads to discouragement. When you get discouraged, you turn in the complete opposite direction and then get even more discouraged and disappointed that you gained back 5 lbs. of the 10 you lost. Does this sound familiar?? If this is you, breathe, relax and take it slow. Hopefully you are not just trying to lose weight temporarily, but for good, so changing your thought process and using patience is what is going to get you past your “plateau.”

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Image Source.

6.  Reassess your personal weight and fitness goals. 

This is huge! When asked how much weight you want to lose, I am sure you have a certain number in mind, right? How did you come up with this number? Is your target weight the amount you weighted 10, 20 or 30 years ago?? I’m not saying this is not doable, but please be realistic, or at least set shorter term goals to increase your chances of actually achieving them. I weighed 115 when I got married 5 years ago. 2 years later, I weighed 125 before getting pregnant with my first son. I lost all of my baby weight within the first year of my son’s life by giving up grains and cutting processed sugar out of my diet. Right after my son turned one, I found out we were expecting again.  I am just a few pounds away from being back at my pre-pregnancy weight of 125. I have no desire to weigh 115 pounds again, even though that was just 5 years ago and it is not an unhealthy weight for someone barely 5 feet tall.  Five years ago, before kids, I was much more active. I could spend all the time I wanted working out. Also, 5 years ago, I was just younger, period! Also, 5 years has bough wisdom that only time can buy. I don’t have to look good in a bikini or try to impress others. I have learned to be happy with myself and my body. Remember, our body’s change. Hormones change. The key is having a health mindset, self-esteem and body! If you have 100 lbs. to lose, go for it! It can be done but I encourage you to break the 100 lbs. up over the next year and set smaller goals. Don’t let the thought of losing 100 lbs. be so daunting that you never get started. Need a little more motivation? Why not celebrate losing a certain amount of weight with a special “gift”? Reward yourself for all of your hard work. Yes, you may still have a ways to go but celebrate that you are closer than where you were! But remember, it is not all about what the scale says, but about restoring your health. The number on the scale will move along your journey.

1 scale7.  To weigh or not to weight??? That is the question…

Scales, you either love them or hate them.  The question is do YOU benefit from using them.  For me, it depends. When I first started the grain-free lifestyle almost 3 years ago, every day for the first 4 days, I dropped 1 pound. This was very encouraging to me to keep going. Now that I have been eating this way for so long and I know this is the right way for me to eat (grain-free, sugar-free, lower carbs), stepping on the scales everyday is not the best idea. Weight fluctuates; it just does. If you see that you have gained 2 lbs. overnight from doing all the right things, this could trigger something in your mind (remember, I think it’s 80% mental), telling you, “might as well eat what I want today since I gained 2 pounds from doing everything right.” This is not good thinking. But if you have been cheating, then decide to step on the scale and you see that you have gained 2 lbs, the scale is a good indicator that “cheating” doesn’t pay off, so don’t do it. I am actually not allowing myself to step on the scale for the next month. I have begun to workout consistently so I don’t want to be distracted by the numbers while my body adjust to the new routine. The scale is not always an indicator of success. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. If you are using the scale to assess your success, try not to weight every day, especially if seeing the scale go up and down discourages you.

no monday8.  Don’t turn over a new leaf on a Monday.        

Everyone knows that “diets” start on Monday, right? Well, what if I told you that Monday is probably the worst day to start eating right or making other healthy choices. Monday’s are always so hectic. Monday’s are usually bad days to start anything in my opinion.  A better time to start working on your goals would be the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. Saturday is a good day to purchase and prep foods to set you up for success for the rest of the week. I’m not saying you can’t start new habits on Monday but it seems to be a running joke about always starting over on a Monday. 

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Image Source.

9.  Stop comparing yourself to others.

This is probably the hardest step. We are all unique. Some of us will always be short and a little “hippie” while others will always be tall and lean. Strive to be healthy, but I caution you to not say or even think “I want to look as good as so and so.” By doing so you have assumed “so and so” is perfect and they are not. Perfection does not exist here on this earth.  This also means that 2 people can’t expect to eat the same foods, in the same quantities and expect the same results.  I can’t tell you how many times I get asked how many calories, fat and carbs I consume in a day. What’s right for me, in terms of calories, fat and carbs per day is not necessarily right for you. 

Positive-friends10.  Surround yourself with Positive people.

I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are so encouraging and positive.  Even after gaining 60 lbs. during my first pregnancy, my husband always told me how beautiful I was.  I did not always believe him but he sincerely meant it each and every time. I know that everyone is not this fortunate. If you have a nay-sayer in your life, turn a deaf ear to them. I know this is easier said than done but it is crucial. Don’t let their negativity get in the way of your success. When I was in middle school, I weighted over 150 lbs. To this day I remember the wonderful friends who loved me for who I was and I remember the kids who picked on me. The encouragement I received from a middle school gym teacher, Ms. Vickie Mangrum, set the course for me to start losing weight. I wish I could find her and thank her personally for pushing me and loving me at the same time. As for those nay-sayers, don’t feel like you have to explain yourself to these people. It’s your life and you are choosing to take control. If you know that someone will respond negatively to your new dietary changes, just keep it to yourself and be a testimony when you start reaping the benefits. 

you-are-what-you-eat (1)11.  Accountability & Keeping track of your food, and activity.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step but accountability is important, for some more than others. If telling your best friend what you ate yesterday keeps you on the straight and narrow, then do it. If keeping a daily food chart helps, do it. I find that if I am starting new habits such as walking around the block or going to the gym, if I can check off on a list or calendar that I did it, it actually makes me feel good, makes me feel accomplished. This may sound silly, but the point is to do what works for you! If nothing is working, try something different!  Consider purchasing an app on your phone or composition book and record what you eat. You are not necessarily worried about quantities but the foods themselves. Writing down what you eat will also make you think twice before eating junk or other foods you are trying to eliminate. Try it, it works! For exercise, keep a calendar and check off the days that you exercise or, for me, I track the amounts of sets, reps and weight used for that day. I am a visual person and I LOVE seeing the progress over the weeks.

you-are-what-you-eat12.  Listen to your body.

When you feel bad, learn to attribute it to what you have eaten or not eaten. This is KEY to success. So many people walk around feeling bad, not knowing or wanting to admit that their diet is the root cause. Have a headache?? What did you eat today? Are you dehydrated?? Having stomach issues?? What have you eaten today?? As you begin to listen to your body (and look at your food journal), you may figure out that you are reacting negatively to one of your favorite foods. You can either ignore your body or listen to it. The best idea is to listen, especially if you are not seeing your goals met.

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13.  Pace yourself, slow and steady wins the race.

When you start getting active and moving, don’t try to set goals of “working out 1 hour every day.” Sure, this is doable but is it a good idea mentally and physically?? My biggest concern in someone trying to workout an hour a day when just returning to a routing is the possibility of physical injury. This is a biggy. You just can’t go from no activity to 30 minutes of walking everyday and expect your body not to rebel. Common injuries can range from anything to shin splints, knee injuries, back pain and even stress fractures in the foot. All these injuries are serious but all are avoidable if you just start slow. For those that don’t know, I have a BS in Kinesiology (study of movement), and have been personal training for over 12 years as well as teaching STOTT Pilates for 10 years. Since high school, over 15 years ago, I have been pretty active, constantly moving and exercising. But since the birth of my first son 3 years ago (and definitely after my youngest son Connor was born 1 year ago), I haven’t had as much time (or better said, I haven’t made the time) to work out as much.

About 5 months ago, I made up my mind that I was tired of feeling weak and it was time to start back regaining my strength. I had an evaluation performed and a home program designed for me (I knew what to do but I just wanted someone else to tell me what to do… less thinking). Well, the intent was to do 3 sets of an interval program, 3 days a week. What really ended up happening was the first week I did 1 set, 1 day a week. Then the next 2 weeks, 1 set, 2 days a week. Then the next week, 2 sets, 2 days a week. It has taken me 8 weeks to finally work up to 3 sets 2-3 days a week. Part of the “delay” was my mind. I was so out of habit that I didn’t want to do it! I had SO many other things I wanted and needed to do while my sons were sleeping. The other hurdle was that my body was weak and doing one set that first week was all I could do. I could have just given up but where would that get me?? Now after 10 weeks, I am active 4-5 days a week and I have worked movement into my busy schedule. It is now a habit and I am excited! Would you consider yourself a couch potato?? Has it been YEARS since you have exercised? Just remember, some movement is better than nothing but our mind tells us, “hey, you haven’t done anything in years, so why start now?” Don’t listen! Start small but start somewhere. If you don’t know where to start, be sure to get a personal evaluation by someone trained to evaluate your individual muscle strengths and weaknesses. They can then design a program specific to your body around your personal goals. For more information, find a practitioner here or at least consider consulting with a trainer at your local YMCA.

images14.  Plan exercise and meals.

This is ESSENTIAL! You don’t just find time for exercise, you must MAKE time! Studies have shown that people who put regular exercise on their calendar are more likely to actually do it. When it comes to eating, you MUST plan your meals. If you expect to wake up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast appear in your fridge… it’s not going to happen. I highly encourage Meal planning, for the day; for the week, so that you both stick to your budget (eating out is expensive and usually knocks people off track) and you know what your next meal and snack will be.  This is also a good time to clean out your pantry and eliminate all unhealthy foods! Personally, planning my food isn’t a big deal because I only have healthy and grain-free choices in my fridge and pantry but planning exercise has been a journey!

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15.  Don’t get discouraged during a Plateau.

I actually like plateau’s. Plateaus or stalls in your weight loss make you reassess what you have been doing. You can either get discouraged, throw your hands up and go back to your old way of eating OR you can use this plateau to assess your goals and your methods for achieving them. A few things to consider during a plateau:

  1. Are you “cheating”?? IF so, there is your answer.
  2. Are there foods that you should temporarily eliminate to see if you body will get past this plateau and respond differently? Dairy is a common hurdle and nuts can be as well.  Can’t imagine giving up dairy or nuts?? What if that is what it takes to get you past your “hump?” This may not be permanent but it could be exactly what your body is needing at this time.
  3. Do you need to start some moderate exercise or increase your activity level??
  4. Do you need less exercise??
  5. Do you need to reassess your fat, protein, and carb ratios?? Do you need more or less in a particular category?
  6. Are you overeating? Are you not eating enough??
  7. Are you not sleeping well?
  8. Are you stressed?
  9. Have you reached a point where you want more specific coaching and someone to help you through this journey??

All of these reasons and more could be the reason you have stopped losing weight. Assess each one of these points. Don’t go back to your old ways and habits. You are on the right path; you just need to get even more specific!

** Be sure to check out this list for more reasons you may not be losing weight.

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16.  It’s o.k. to be stubborn.

Stubborn has a negative connotation but, being stubborn can help you achieve your goals. During the 3 major times I have lost weight (when in middle school, and after each of my children were born), I have been stubborn and I was determined to lose the weight. This usually meant that I would eat different from the crowd but I was o.k. with that. Because I have struggled with my weight since early middle school, it is always in the back of my mind. I don’t believe that my genetics made me carry around extra weight but I wholeheartedly believe that my food choices led me to being overweight. I challenge you to take responsibility for your health and then take the initiative to change it. Be stubborn about it. No matter if you have been diagnosed with a laundry list of ailments and you think all hope is gone, it’s NOT! Start somewhere, make small changes and just move forward. This time next year you are going to wish you had started today. If you are interested in taking that next step, be sure to check out my friend Brandon’s Nutrition Tele-class coming up next month. I am signed up and I am excited to learn more about how food affects the body! I hope this has helped someone. Remember, Health is a journey, not a destination. You must continue to pursue it for the rest of your life. Don’t delay, start that journey today!

What advice could you add to this conversation about goal setting and achieving optimal health? Please share in the comments below!

16 Steps to Achieving your Optimal Health and Personal Weight Loss Goals.
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  1. 1.  Stop using the term “diet”…

    2.  Realize that losing weight is 80/20. 

    3.  Stop cheating on yourself.

    4.  Stop trying to look good naked.

    5.  Be Patient; Don’t expect a miracle overnight.

    6.  Reassess your personal weight and fitness goals. 

    7.  To weigh or not to weight??? That is the question…

    8.  Don’t turn over a new leaf on a Monday.        

    9.  Stop comparing yourself to others.

    10.  Surround yourself with Positive people.

    11.  Accountability & Keeping track of your food, and activity.

    12.  Listen to your body.

    13.  Pace yourself, slow and steady wins the race.

    14.  Plan exercise and meals.

    15.  Don’t get discouraged during a Plateau.

    16.  It’s o.k. to be stubborn.


  1. Follow these steps for a healthier you!

Satisfying Eats http://satisfyingeats.com/
Need some meal inspiration?? Be sure to check out all of the recipes on my blog as well as over 400 recipes found in my 2 cookbooks! cookbook collage 3-5-14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

about the author

Melissa is the mother of 2 beautiful boys and the creator of the Satisfying Eats Blog. She has also authored two cookbooks, Satisfying Eats and Comforting Eats, out of her love for Southern food but with a grain-free twist. From an early age, Melissa has always loved to cook, and after going grain-free almost three years ago, she has had to relearn everything she thought she knew about great cooking so that she could continue to create delicious recipes. Creating tasty Grain-Free Southern food and helping everyone she can along the way is her passion. Melissa graduated from Georgia Southern University with a Bachelors in Exercise Science. She also has been personal training and teaching STOTT Pilates for over 10 years.  


  1. Rachel Blackett says

    I love these rules :)

    Going back to rules 3 and 7- I use to cheat but the last few times I felt so awful I stopped completely. Now I am feeling way more amazing. I was also finding each time I “Committed” myself I could lose up to 1kg a day (But usually around 500-800grams and sometimes less) But as soon as I had a treat I would lose nothing and feel refluxy and headaches all day. If I continued to have a cheat each day for a few days I would start gaining again. Thats been enough experimenting for me and now I am on the straight and narrow 😉 (And was almost 6kgs down! Until I accidentally had wheat yesterday and BOOM instant bloating. And scales this moring agreed 😉 )
    I have also always had this rule not to weigh myself too often, only go by how my clothes feel and how I look in the mirror (Which honestly has never worked for me lol) But since going grain free I can’t help myself and just HAVE to weight myself BUT it gives me great encouragement to keep going, and on the days I don’t lose or grain slightly I just go “Meh” and move on and make sure I really watch what I eat that day :) For me its a good thing, but I have friends who NEED to have theirs taken off them lol!! (One friend would weigh herself 3-4 times a day! and get upset with the fluctuation, and she was already super thin and fit and healthy! :/ )

  2. Brenda Korinek says

    This is great information with loads of encouraging thoughts, Melissa!

    If I had any advice to add it would be to really follow these steps! They work!!! Regarding goal setting: I think it’s OK, and perfectly natural, at the onset to have a goal weight in mind. BUT, as Melissa suggests, it’s a really good idea to break that up (no matter if you want to lose 10 or 100 pounds) into smaller goals. Say, 5 pounds at a time (or 10). The journey won’t seem so daunting. And…don’t get discouraged by losing only a pound or even a half pound a week along the way. It’s been long said that losing at a slow rate is so much better than losing weight quickly – the odds are better of keeping the weight off if weight loss is slower. I think this is due in part to the longer the time of one’s journey to their goal weight, the more certain the new, healthy habits will become ingrained as a healthy lifestyle. When I first went grain and sugar-free I lost 5 pounds the first week but then the weight loss slowed down each week – sometimes it was half a pound, sometimes it was 1 pound and sometimes even 2 pounds. I celebrated each 10 pound loss by buying some new clothes…in a smaller size! It felt great to send those old, huge clothes to Goodwill! I certainly won’t be needing them any more :-)

    Along this line too, I’ve also stopped counting calories and started counting carbs each and every day. I have this cool carb counter app and use it every day. It’s really helped me keep on track, along with giving up grains and sugar AND cleaning out my pantry. I also graphed my weight loss. That gave me a great visual of my progress – I loved seeing the line on the graph slope downward! Oh, and take measurements! I found even on those weeks when I hit a plateau or had a tiny loss, my measurements (waist and hips) changed for the better!

    Even though these steps have just been posted, I’ve pretty much been following most of them since I began my journey in January. And just a few weeks ago I reached my goal of losing 30 pounds! Be patient, persevere, and follow this great advice Melissa offer!

    Well done, Melissa!

  3. Karen says

    Melissa, thank you for sharing your wisdom and honesty. You are brave and encouraging! I also would recommend going slow by getting rid of your unhealthy pantry items and replacing them with healthy ones. I highly recommend buying Melissa’s cookbooks. I have both and I finally have access to recipes my kids will eat!

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