The trite, overused phrase ‘if you fail to plan, you’re really just planning to fail’ could never be more true when it comes to executing a successful weight loss program. The most important place to start is determining how much weight you want to lose in a given time period so you can have realistic goals to shoot for. While many people have in their minds a certain amount they want to lose, it may not be possible in the amount of time they’re willing to diet for. This can be figured by a calculation taken from your body fat percentage. Before starting any weight loss program, get your body fat measured by a qualified professional so you know how much fat you actually need to lose. Once you know this, you can set realistic goals and expectations. For mental and physiological health reasons, do not try dieting for longer than 12-16 weeks at a time. Depending on your muscular tone, physical conditioning, body type and several other factors, you can expect to lose 6-20 pounds of body weight in the first 3-4 weeks of any correctly designed nutrition program. Beyond this, a reasonable goal is to try to lose 2 pounds/week for the remainder of the time.This means a realistic weight loss goal is between 30-40 pounds in a 3-4 month period. If you have 100 lbs. to lose for example, you will need more than one nutrition program to reach this goal. If you need more than one diet program, do not plan on doing one right after another as you will have diminishing returns. For large amounts of weight to lose, string several diet programs together with short breaks in between. For example, if you have to lose 100 lbs., plan on doing so with three 12 week programs spaced 10 days – 2 weeks apart. To accomplish this, take a break from low calorie eating during the down times however continue to eat the food on your diet, just in larger portions. Expect to put on 5-8 pounds in between diet plans and account for this in your overall weight loss strategy. If you need several diets like this to achieve your goals, sketch out the big plan on a one year calendar but only worry about details of each program as you’re getting ready to execute it.Once you’ve decided how long your program will be (or how many programs you may need), the next most important planning step is the actual diet. No matter which guru you choose to follow, the best advice is to write down your eating plan before you start. Do not start your weight loss program without a written map to follow or you will veer off the course. Whether you’re eating three pre-made microwave meals plus a delicious shake, counting points with an app on your phone or following a bite by bite menu, write it down before executing. Writing down your diet menu will take all the guesswork out of what to eat, when and how much. While this step may take some time to accomplish, if your plan is correctly put together with the right foods and quantities, it will nearly guarantee your success.For consistent weight loss, it’s important you eat the same amount of calories each day. Flying by the seat of your pants and eating different foods every day can easily cause erratic calorie intake and make it harder to lose body fat. A written diet plan will ensure your calories stay consistent. This also makes it easier to raise or lower your calories as you need so you can control your weight loss. If you’re eating too many calories and need to cut back, a written diet plan will help you decide which foods (and how much) to reduce. Keeping a written log of your eating will also help you stay mentally strong on your program. If you’re committed to eating only the foods written on your diet plan, this will keep your mind from wandering into craving goodies that will derail your efforts. A good written plan may also serve well as an accurate shopping list. After following your written nutrition plan meticulously for a period of time, you will soon have it memorized but until you do, you should keep it by your side every time you prepare and/or eat a meal.While dieting alone will only net a finite amount of weight loss, you will go much farther by including strenuous exercise in your program. For the greatest amount of fat weight loss, you should include both cardiovascular and strength training as part of your plan. Cardiovascular work should be done for overall physical conditioning but also fat loss. Strength training is a must to preserve lean body mass and improve muscular tone so the end result will be a smaller, more muscular body with improved fitness. Just like a healthy nutrition plan, a good strength training program should also be planned out, however the details do not have to be as meticulous. As long as your strength training program is using progressive resistance over a period of weeks, prioritize balance (so every muscle group gets worked at least 1-2 times/week) and intensity during execution. Cardiovascular training should be performed separately from resistance training if possible, however if scheduling doesn’t permit this it’s fine.Plan cardio work to increase in amounts of overall time over your entire program with 30 minutes being the smallest effective period. For example, week 1, perform a total of 2 hours of cardio; week 2, do 2.5 hours; week 3 do 3 hours total, etc. Depending on your fitness level, you will ultimately reach a cumulative amount of cardio work that will be most effective for your program. For most people this is between 4 and 6 hours/week. Plan your strength training and cardio work on a monthly calendar. This way you can see how much cardio you will need to perform each week. Also use the calendar to plan other important weekly/regular events you can use as motivation to keep going. For example body fat measurements, cheat meals and of course your end date. If you don’t weigh in everyday (or at least every other), schedule an official weigh in every week. Schedule body fat measurements every 2-3 weeks. Planning your weight loss program on a calendar is important so can physically see how much longer you have and also chart progress. It will also let you know of other events you may have to work around (like trips, business dinners, etc.) so you can plan in advance for them and stay on your program.Perhaps the most important part of your diet is the start. If you start soft and half-hearted, you can expect to lose steam, fizzle out quickly and stop before you see the results you want. Plan your weight loss program at least 1-2 weeks in advance of starting. This will give your mind time to prepare for making a big change and committing to it. Several days before opening day, start getting everything ready. This includes making sure your gym membership is up to speed, you have proper apparel for all the working out you’ll be doing, preparing a shopping list and buying all the food you’ll need. If you have trouble with temptations, this time can also be used for getting rid of all the bad, fattening, non-diet food out of their house. Plan your weight loss program correctly ahead of time and the only thing that can derail your efforts is your will power. Anyone can lose 5-10 pounds from simply cutting out sugar, bread or soft drinks for 2-3 weeks, however real weight loss takes planning. If you have more than this to lose, take your time planning ahead and you will be sure to reach your goals!