Change doesn't happen overnight, but when it comes to losing weight, many of us want to see at least a hint of success early in the process. That’s why gyms tend to be so crowded in January following weight-loss resolutions and then return to normal capacity come February,

"We start out on a plan and in three days’ time, or even within a week, we don't see the results we want to see and give up," says Anne Nicole Dragovic, a certified group exercise instructor. "There's no quick fix. Hard work and determination will earn you success."

If trimming your waistline and getting in shape is on your to-do list this year, here are five expert tips for making it a reality.

  • 1Set Obtainable Goals

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    For many people, starting a weight-loss program means going full throttle right out of the gate: gym six days a week and only healthy eating all the time. This approach might work for a week, but then life gets in the way: the kids get sick, a work meeting goes longer than expected or you are just plain tired. A few missed workouts leads to throwing in the towel entirely.

    Instead of setting overly-ambitious goals, fitness experts recommend making a realistic commitment. "Going from no exercise to making the commitment to work out five or six days a week can be too much to handle," warns personal trainer Jonathan Ross. "You have to set up realistic goals and make them actionable."  

    Schedule workouts similar to how you would put a meeting or doctor's appointment on your calendar. "Trying to fit in six days when it can't be done is stressful and leads to negative thoughts," Dragovic says. "Instead of saying, ‘I can't get it done’ say ‘I can get it done Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.’ Set yourself up for success."

  • 2Use Words and Images to Stay Motivated

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    Pictures are worth a thousand words and “before” and “after” pictures of your progress can provide substantial motivation. Fitness experts recommend taking a picture of yourself every couple of weeks to view your progress in addition to writing down and reviewing your goals every day.

    "The subconscious mind relies on images," says John Clancy, owner of multiple Planet Fitness gyms. "If you read your goals out loud it kicks it into overdrive."

  • 3Make Many Small Goals

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    Even if your end game is to lose 100 pounds, experts suggest breaking up the weight loss into smaller goals.

    "We've had people come in who were 300 plus pounds and they lost 100 to 150 by doing it in stages," says Clancy.  "If you want to lose this many inches within 30 days, set that goal and then set new goals."

  • 4Go Easy on Yourself

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    Nothing derails a plan more than a bad attitude. If you start your journey expecting to fail, it's likely you will. If you miss a few workouts or eat a few bad meals, don’t beat your-self up about it. When you have a bad day at work, that doesn’t mean you stop showing up. The same thinking should be applied to your weight-loss journey, says Ross.

    “You have to expect a few challenges along the way. Expect mini failures on your way to success.”

  • 5Find a Buddy

    Staying motivated can be hard, but a gym buddy can help encourage a better workout and hold you accountable to your goals. Experts recommend choosing your partner wisely and finding someone who is positive and encouraging and honest.

    "You want someone who will not be afraid to say 'eating that cake in the office will throw you off track,'" says Dragovic. "Make this person the same one you can admit your challenges and failures to." She adds that having a sounding board will unburden you of any negative feelings that can make you to give up on your goals.