How committed are you to achieving your weight loss goal as we head into bathing suit season? Are you hitting the gym, guns blazing, ready to take off all the pounds you’ve been putting on over the winter and spring . . . finally ready to look amazing for that vacation — or are you just going through the motions at the gym, already having given up?

Anyone reading this can achieve their goal to lose 100-plus pounds, get a washboard six-pack or build some sexy muscles, although the process isn’t instant, but rather takes hard work and dedication. Many of you may be thinking, “I don’t need help; I can do it myself. I can gain the discipline. Besides, I know my body better than anyone.”

Well, folks, those are pleasant thoughts, but really just a fantasy, unless you are a qualified nutritionist, a professional trainer or someone with intimate knowledge about how the human body functions. Do you really know what happens to your biochemistry or hormones when you exercise or eat certain foods? Do you have a foolproof regimen that will get you in the best shape of your life?

Sure, a select few might accidentally stumble onto the right path and actually get fit on their own. Most, though, will stay motivated long enough to see just a few results, but quickly find themselves frustrated after spending two or three months in the gym without coming anywhere near their goals. It’s not that your body can’t do it — the slow results are more likely due to many other factors: you don’t exactly know what you’re doing; you’re following the wrong program for the results you want; your dieting/eating plan isn’t right for your body’s biochemistry; you are not pushing yourself hard enough; or you are not persistent enough.

What would you do if you suddenly heard your car begin to make a loud clinking sound? Would you get under the hood, bang around for an hour or so, and then walk away shrugging, figuring you’ll just dump the car because you’ll never be able to fix it? No, of course not. You’d hire a professional who knew what he was doing, and you’d have him work on the car for as long as he needed to, and order whichever parts were necessary to fix it. Granted, depending on the problem, the mechanic might have to troubleshoot for a while to determine exactly what was wrong. It’s even possible that he might not have fixed it properly the first time, and you could find yourself taking it back for further repair. Bottom line, though, is you’d make sure your car was fixed, wouldn’t you?

The situation with getting in shape is no different. Why would you insist on doing things yourself when you most likely have fairly little knowledge about how the human body works? Rest assured, it is far more complicated than a car — and you’re not likely to tinker with your vehicle unassisted, and expect great results, right? So why try to develop an exercise and eating plan yourself when you can hire a qualified trainer and learn by asking specific questions about the exact steps you should be taking.

There’s a tendency for people who’ve never worked with a trainer to feel intimidated when they first meet one. They often feel the trainer will judge them or be unnecessarily harsh. These fears are generally unfounded, though. Just like your mechanic wouldn’t expect you to know everything about your car’s engine, personal trainers work with people who want to get in shape, but they don’t expect them to have all the answers. If you had all the answers, you wouldn’t need the trainer — or the mechanic — would you?

Of course you want to set a goal for getting in shape —don’t ever give up on yourself or this goal because “a quitter never wins and a winner never quits.” You can even try it on your own first, but don’t be surprised if you don’t achieve quite the same results as you would if you were to hire a professional. If money is an issue, you might start by hiring a professional trainer for a short period of time. Work with them periodically, if it’s not possible to work with them on a more consistent basis.

One thing that will make or break your success is your own decision to stay motivated. Ask anyone at your gym who is really fit — you can never take a break for a while to stop exercising. Look at that lean, healthy person and understand why they are in such great shape — they have that physique because they continue to hit the gym and exercise from day to day, and they consistently push themselves. Understand that it took hard work for them to get where they are — and they remain in great shape because they continue to eat healthy and exercise regularly. If you want similar results, you must be committed to exercising and eating right.

Just as you didn’t get out of shape overnight, neither should you expect to lose all your weight right away. It will take time for your body to adjust to your new fitness plan and begin to burn fat and shed those unwanted inches. You can stay motivated by taking measurements to monitor your progress. As long as you keep losing inches and sizes, you will be happy because you are moving in the right direction. Remember, only time invested in consistent exercise and correct eating will keep those inches melting away.

Celebrate your progress and remember how much work you have put into it. Sure, you might not be where you want to be yet, but acknowledge that you are slowly working toward your goal. Don’t have unrealistic ideas about your weight-loss goals, as those will simply sabotage your progress. Remember, every body is different — and each of us needs a program designed specifically for our needs and body type. How quickly you will lose weight depends a lot on how well-designed your program is. So be happy with your progress, and know that as long as you continue to adjust your eating and exercise programs according to your body’s adjustments, you will continue making more progress and be where you want to be in no time at all.

Make no mistake, there may be times when the goal seems impossible and you may want to give up. Don’t! Be persistent and continue to push yourself harder each time — pushing past the tough parts is the only way you will continue to succeed in achieving your goal. In the beginning, it can be painful to exercise and move through the challenging exercise regimens and cardio routines. Remember, though, the harder you push yourself now, the faster you will see your desired results. Another reason it’s important to consult a professional trainer has to do with safety. You want to know the difference between pushing your body to its limits and hurting yourself — injuries are not the goal. Make sure you know that the inevitable pain you will experience is just your muscles burning, and not an injury due to improper exercise form.

Even the healthiest person with the fittest body stumbles every now and again. Remember to keep your eye on your goal and to acknowledge your short-term successes. Stepping off your fitness path temporarily by skipping the guy or eating one or two bad meals is no reason to quit altogether. The more quickly you get back on your health plan — getting back to the gym and getting your eating regulated — the sooner you will resume your path to progress. It’s only when that one meal turns into weeks and months of bad eating, or that one day of skipping the gym turns into weeks and months of not exercising, that our fitness goals are really at risk. You’re human, and you will never be perfect. There will always be the next meal and the next day to get back on track.

Why not make this the summer you finally fit into that bikini you’ve been dreaming about for years? Get those rock-hard abs and feel how great it is to have a tight, gorgeous body. You can do it — just set those goals, and stick to them no matter what.