05/24/2012 08:34 EDT | Updated 07/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Losing Weight Doesn't Mean Losing Your Sense of Responsibility

Managing your weight is a health issue, period. It has nothing to do with being attractive or sexy or being able to wear certain types of clothing -- although some of these perks can be great motivators. Staying within your healthy weight range has much greater value in and of itself.

Nobody can promise you that eating right, exercising, managing stress, getting enough sleep, etc. will always keep you healthy or prolong your lifespan. You also won't be able to prevent your body from aging, no matter how hard you try. But you can vastly improve the quality of your everyday life. That should be the real purpose.

A man I greatly admire, Dr. Andrew Weil, once wrote: "The best we can do - and it is a lot - is to be in the best health we can at any other words, to live as long and as well as possible."

Staying healthy is always a work in progress. For some, it is a struggle that can last a lifetime. The reason why you should stay in shape or, if necessary, return to your ideal body weight is to maintain your optimal health and fitness on every level. Having more energy to do the things you love, being confident and having a positive self-image, living a more satisfying and fulfilling life are all goals worthy of your ongoing efforts.

Before you try losing weight

If weight is an issue for you and you want to do something about it, start out with a personal self-assessment. Before you enroll in any diet or fitness program, ask yourself what your real intentions are. No plan is worth the work (and money) if it doesn't fit your purposes. While intensive quick-fix regimens can be an attractive option for the moment, they seldom let you maintain the results over time.

Not every day is the right time

While it is always important to be proactive in health matters, there are some caveats to consider. For instance, if you are pregnant, it is not a good idea to try losing weight. Depriving your body of nutrients can be dangerous for the fetus.

Children and teenagers should not undergo weight loss programs and diets without the advice and supervision of a physician; it can adversely affect their growth and overall health. Instead of dieting, intense physical activity and healthy eating habits may be sufficient to overcome weight issues at this early age, and may continue to have beneficial effects throughout adulthood.

Adults attempting to lose weight shouldn't aim to lose more than two pounds a week, unless they are in an emergency situation and under medical supervision. Rapid weight loss may have serious health risks. Don't attempt record-breaking weight loss results as shown on TV or reported in the rainbow press.

Pace yourself

Essentially, weight loss occurs when there is a calorie imbalance that causes fat to be mobilized and utilized as fuel. One pound of fat provides about 3500 calories of fuel. Cutting back as little as 500 calories per day can achieve an average weight loss of one pound per week! Unless there are urgent reasons for speedier progress, this is a reasonable pace.

However, cutbacks in calories should never result in deprivation of essential nutrients. As a matter of fact, it is even more important for the body to receive all the nutrients it needs when you are on a diet. The best approach is to increase the nutritional value of your food while you decrease calorie intake.

Substantial weight loss should always be monitored by a physician. If you take prescription medication, have a particular health problem, if you smoke, are over 35 years of age or have a sedentary lifestyle, it is strongly recommended you undergo a physical examination before beginning any weight loss, diet or exercise changes. You must also be aware that certain prescription medications may need to be adjusted when you lose weight.

Don't be anxious to see dramatic results right away when you diet, or try to get back in shape. Remember, this is supposed to be a long-term process. You don't want to get to the finish line in a hurry, and then be too exhausted to keep up the good work thereafter.

It's your choice to make

You are never done working on your health and well-being. After you've learned how to eat healthy, lose the extra pounds, gain strength, build up muscles, become happier and more relaxed, etc., you cannot rest on your laurels. Your body is not a casino where you win some, lose some. Being healthy is a promise you make to yourself, a promise to fulfill every day...