One of the top New Year resolutions is to lose weight or get fit. Every January diet programs and gyms across the country get a huge boost in membership. However, within a few weeks most people have given up and gone back to old habits.

The key to success in reaching your fitness goals this year is to get in touch with your WHY. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to be healthier? To look and feel better? Maybe it's so you can run a marathon or fit into a size 8 dress or 32 waist jeans.

Whatever it is, you need to get it really clear in your mind and use your WHY to focus. Visualize yourself already in your new body, doing what you dream of doing, such as wearing a bikini to the beach, dancing with your wife, playing soccer with your kids. (And make sure what you're visualizing is YOUR idea of your best body, not what others or society thinks is best.)

Do this several times a day. Start cataloguing in your mind a bunch of scenarios that describe your WHY that you can pull from, ones where you're enjoying and appreciating your new fit self. Use as many senses as you can in your visualization and really feel the thrill of how awesome it feels to bein this body.

You may be tempted to think things like, "my back won't hurt anymore" or "my jeans will never again cut off my circulation," but don't! Start conditioning yourself to think in terms of what you want – not pushing against what you don't want.

If you're thinking about not having or not wanting a hurting back or a bruised waist, you're still thinking about a hurting back or a bruised waist! Better to think thoughts like, "my back feels strong and healthy and easily supports my beautiful body" or "my size 8 jeans fit like a glove and I feel great in them". (And then imagine doing a happy dance in your new body and new jeans!)

In addition to your WHY, you have the best chance of reaching your ideal weight and staying there if you set realistic goals. Healthy weight loss is between 1/2 to 2 pounds per week, so set a goal that is sensible and achievable. (Unless you have a couple of body parts amputated, you are not going to lose 20 pounds by your cousin's wedding next

Write down the first step of your goal then make a specific plan to reach it. (I will lose 3 pounds by next Saturday and I will look and feel GOOD! This is what I will do: 1400 calories or less a day, drink water instead of soda, make at least one daily meal a salad, and walk 30 to 60 minutes every day.) Make your plan tangible and do-able and set yourself up for success.

One proven way to lose weight is to keep a record everything you eat and drink in a day, as you go – not at the endof the day, along with the calories of each item with a running total. Stop eating when you've reached your limit.

Most people either know or have heard that this works, but they still refuse to do it, claiming it's too much bother. Sounds like just another excuse not to lose the weight, right?

Once you've got your plan in place, start taking action! Do something, anything, that will move you toward your goal. If your plan is to work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week, stop
what you're doing (reading this article!), go outside and take a 30 minute brisk walk right now. Don't delay – that's old, goal-busting behavior.

If your plan is to eat healthier, then clear your cupboards of junk food immediately. Get over your aversion to throwing away food – saving a few scoops of ice cream and half a bag of chips from going down the drain doesn't help any starving child. If you're still uncomfortable after getting rid of the bad food, make a donation that matches the value of what you threw out to a program that feeds the hungry.

Your ultimate goal may be to lose 60 pounds, but that can be overwhelming, so set smaller milestones like fitting into size down or dropping five pounds. Typically, a women's dress size approximates 14-20 pounds, so 60pounds means a reduction of three or four sizes.

Of course, once you start building muscle, you'll see the wisdom in gauging your progress by clothing size and body measurements, rather than number of pounds, as muscle is about 18% denser than fat. And the more muscle you build, the faster the weight will come off, since muscle burns more calories than fat.

Once you've reach each milestone, celebrate! Put a sticky note on your fridge with the date you reached the milestone to remind you of what you can do. Buy yourself something small to celebrate; a new blouse, a book, extra sessions at the gym. It should be something that makes you feel good yourself, but isn't food.

Celebrate each and every goalpost for the victory that it is. It will give you the impetus to keep going. Take a picture of your face or yourself in a favorite outfit so you can actually look back and see the difference at each milestone – even ifyou're nowhere near your goal, seeing the progress that way will astound and motivate you. That in itself is a celebration.

Once you've reached your ultimate goal, make a plan to stay there. You'll come out of weight loss mode and into maintenance mode, and you'll need to figure out about how many calories a day you should eat and burn to stay where you are.

An approximation many people use as a maintenance number is weight x 10. So if you're 140 pounds, you should balance out to about 1400-1500 calories a day to maintain your weight. That means eating, say, 1800 calories and burning 300-400. On the days you can't do any activity that burns calories, you would want your calorie intake to stay below 1500.

Then really celebrate by giving your old clothes to charity and buying some that show off your new figure. If you can't afford more than a few new outfits, you may have a friend or relative who would loan or give you clothes in trade (I'll weed your flowerbed if you'll lend me that jacket for a couple of months).

Take a picture of yourself running that marathon you looked forward to or lounging on the beach in a bikini, and display it in a place where you'll see it every day to remind you that you can do anything you put your mind to!