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How to Set a Realistic Weight Loss Goal — and Achieve It!

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The weight loss number you should actually shoot for, and how to get there

By John Hoeber, MS, RD, CSSD, CPT

 

How much weight do you want to lose? How fast do you want to lose it? And how long do you want to keep it off? Now take a look at your numbers. Are you being realistic? Having a weight loss goal is great, but research shows that most dieters — and their doctors — have unrealistic expectations of how much weight they can lose.

As shown in the chart below, based on surveys conducted, some dieters think they would be disappointed with a 17% weight loss. That's like a 200-pound person dropping down to 166 pounds, which, in reality, is a great success.

 
Weight Loss Expectations
Doctors

How Much Weight Should You Lose?
(% of Current Weight)

Dieters
31% Ideal/Dream  38%
20% Successful/Happy  31%
14% Acceptable  25%
  Disappointed  17%

 

Why a smaller goal works

Medical science tells us that weight loss of 5 to 10% of current body weight will make a significant difference in markers of health and disease, such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. With that in mind, if you have a lot of weigh to lose, start with a goal of losing 5% of your total body weight.

Usually it doesn't take major changes to lose this amount, so it's easier to do. When you reach that first goal, reevaluate your diet, exercise and lifestyle habits and decide what you will need to change next in order to lose the other 5%. When you reach that goal, reevaluate again, and so on. Each time, you’ll make deeper and deeper changes to your habits, but because it’s incremental, you’ll change slowly and, most important, permanently, for lasting weight loss. To lose more than 10% of your current weight and keep it off takes changing certain health habits permanently. If you make a wholesale change by going on a crash diet, the chance of staying on it consistently is pretty small.

 

One health habit at a time

Another tip for lasting change is to focus on only one habit at a time. It's tempting to change everything — your workout routine, snacking habits, portion sizes, pasta intake and wine consumption — all at once, but it rarely works. People who try to change three habits at the same time are successful less than 10% of the time, but those who change only one habit are successful more than 85% of the time. Pick one thing that, over time, will give you 5% weight loss, then, when you’ve mastered that, choose something else to change.

 

Published October 24, 2014. 

 

John Hoeber works with individuals and teams to improve their health and performance through diet with practical and lasting solutions. He is a registered dietitian, certified specialist sports dietitian, personal trainer and wellness coach with more than 26 years of experience. John is available for phone and online consultations at john@bodykineticsmarin.com.


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