Despite the vast population of overweight Americans, it’s hard to believe that anyone would actually want to cart around cumbersome, health-impairing, excess poundage. Why then is reaching and maintaining a healthy weight such an insurmountable challenge for so many of us?

This might be partially explained by some common, persistent misconceptions, like the notion that there’s a magic bullet offering results without healthy lifestyle changes. Or that the only way to lose weight is to give up all the foods you enjoy. Or that drastic calorie-restricting diets actually work.

On a positive note, you can lose weight safely, and permanently without starving or any other major discomforts in your daily routine. Healthy, lasting weight loss is all about making small, gradual changes that you can maintain over time. If you really want to trim the fat, here are 3 initial keys to establish before taking further action:

Think it Through

Considering all the factors first is a winning tactic. Prepare yourself for small but consistent changes which will lead to permanent, sustained weight loss. You can break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, which is so damaging that some experts believe it’s better to remain overweight than to continuously lose and regain the same 10-20 pounds. If you have emotional, stress or boredom eating issues, they should be addressed, which will help protect against self sabotage once you embark.

Get Motivated

If you’ve ever set out to achieve something important, like getting into an excellent university, nailing that dream job, or finding a terrific husband/wife, you know that most truly worthwhile endeavors take effort. Weight loss is no exception, especially when you mean business. The key is clarifying exactly why you want to be sleek, fit and healthy. Writing out those reasons─like greater energy, overall health, confidence, daily happiness, or positive self-image─will lay a sound, intellectual foundation to sustain you when you need it most.

Make a Genuine Commitment

Make a firm decision that you can dedicate yourself to this effort at this place/time in your life. It takes considerable mental and physical energy to change your habits for good. Your odds of success will be dramatically higher if you think it through first, define your reasons to give your plan staying power, and then commit 100%. Enlist the support of loved ones too. The good news is that while other stresses in your life may not disappear, your healthier lifestyle will enable you to better manage them.

Stay tuned for Part Two next week, which will identify strategic, practical first steps in successful fat loss. Until then, you have your homework. Here’s to your fit and healthy life!