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Key to losing weightdont try to become the biggest loser overnight

Cory A. Haywood | 2/6/2013, 5 p.m.

Feeling and looking good has become one of the fitness focal points of the modern era. As a result, billions of dollars are poured into chic franchise gyms that offer everything from yoga classes to freshly squeezed juice after a workout. And a barrage of infomercials that promote the next big thing in weight-loss or muscle enhancement is constantly being streamed.

Combine that with people's annual New Year's practice of making vows to change--most often beginning an exercise or fitness routine--and you have a recipe for potential disappointment.

That is because people often start quite energetically on an exercise regime, but in time lose their enthusiasm. There are a number of reasons why the entire process can eventually become an uphill climb that drains the body and mind.

This could be particularly true for those who suffer from severe obesity. Chances are if you fit this category, even sitting and standing can be difficult, let alone running. In addition, carrying excess weight is one of the leading causes of joint and back pain among young and old, which in turn makes it difficult to exercise effectively.

Lack of variety, or repetitive, boring routines are other reasons people lose their enthusiasm for working out.

Finally, lack of results or slow weight loss can also sap motivation.

In a recent interview with TV One, celebrity dietitian and author Ian K. Smith, M.D., offered this perspective:
"You have to put one foot in front of the other--literally. Take your time," urged Smith, whose list of bestsellers includes "The Fat Smash Diet" and "Extreme Fat Smash Diet," which address obesity in the African American community and healthy living.

"Don't start a program that calls for changes that are too drastic. Getting overwhelmed at the beginning of a plan means you're less likely to follow it. Start walking or playing a sport or moving in a way that's fun."

Unfortunately, rather than taking baby steps, as Smith suggests, novices often make the mistake of overexerting themselves to get results fast.

"Sometimes the gym is not for everyone," Smith added. "Start by exercising with a friend. Do it in small intervals at first, and then as you get better-conditioned, increase the duration of your exercise. Most importantly, challenge yourself a little without overwhelming yourself."

Opting for a slow and steady pace applies to weight loss as well. It's important to understand that bodies aren't designed to undergo vast transformations in short periods of time. In fact, rapid weight loss has the potential to cause dehydration, malnutrition, degeneration of muscle tissue, hair loss as well as damage to the immune system, among other risks.

"In most cases, rapid weight loss only occurs to people who are excessively overweight," explained Jerren O'Neal, personal trainer and fitness manager at Gold's Gym in Long Beach.

"A lot of people aren't aware of this, but a person who is overweight has a much faster metabolism than someone who is average size or underweight. Their bodies are much larger. Therefore, the internal functions of the body require more energy, which in turn, burns more calories, which leads to weight loss if a proper diet and exercise plan is put into action as well."