You can’t play catch with your child because you get too winded. You wake up choking in the middle of the night due to sleep apnea. You want to be able to shop in mainstream stores. There are hundreds of reasons to lose weight.

Of course, being diagnosed with a weight-related medical condition such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol offers a more persuasive argument for losing weight sooner rather than later. In general, the heavier you are, the more likely you are to experience health problems. Your risk increases with a family history of certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, or if you tend to gain weight around your abdomen. (“Apple” shapes are naturally more predisposed to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes than “pear” shapes, which carry weight in the hips and rear end.)

Whatever your motivation, your success will hinge on how ready YOU are to commit to the challenge. You’ll know you’re ready when you can answer “Yes” to all of the following questions:

* I am ready to make a lifelong commitment to eating healthy foods and exercising on most days of the week.

* I have set a realistic weight-loss goal and understand that when it comes to successful, long- term weight loss, slow and steady — 1 to 2 lbs. per week — wins the race.

* I have acknowledged and addressed the underlying emotional issues behind why I overeat.

* I do not suffer from anorexia or bulimia.

* I have identified the distractions in my life that threaten to derail my efforts (my career, my interpersonal relationships, and my finances) and have developed constructive ways to deal with them.

* I have built a solid support system, including friends and family members, a therapist or nutritionist, a nearby center, or an online group.

* I recognize that plateaus happen, and I am committed to working through them.