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How to Set a Realistic Weight Loss Goal, Make a Plan and Stick to It!

posted: 03/01/16
by: Katie Morton
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  • Weight loss requires both mental and physical exertion.
    Weight loss requires both mental and physical exertion.
    Image Credit: iStock
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    Real Talk About Weight Loss

    You just need turn on the TV or wander through the bookstore to see all the programs promoting the “new best diet.” Losing weight does not happen overnight and experts agree that healthy weight loss requires changing eating habits and regular exercise for best results. Basically the secret to weight loss is what no one wants to hear: It requires consistent changes in your lifestyle.

    And though it’s tempting to try crash diets that promise quick weight loss, slow and steady is the way to go. Losing one pound of body fat means you have to cut approximately 3,500 calories. Most dietitians recommend that you aim to lose one to two pounds per week, and about eight to 10 pounds per month.

    Unfortunately, as one 2013 study pointed out, women often set unrealistic weight loss goals, hoping to lose 20 percent of their body weight (which is A LOT). Here are our tips on how to set attainable weight loss goals and put you on the road to better health.

  • Juice diets don't provide enough nutrients to be sustainable.
    Juice diets don't provide enough nutrients to be sustainable.
    Image Credit: iStock
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    1. Beware of Fad Diets

    A too-strict diet is not the answer. While cleanses or eliminating entire food groups may result in quick weight loss, such strict programs set you up for failure by their very nature. Depriving yourself leads to binges and may result in dangerous dips in blood sugar or deprivation of vital nutrients.

    Even more importantly, researchers have found that low-calorie diets and extreme weight loss may lead to hormonal changes that alter your metabolism and make it harder for you to keep the weight off.

    It’s far better and more sustainable to adopt a new lifestyle involving healthy food choices and exercise. Once you’ve changed your behaviors for the better, you’ll be on the road to better health and setting yourself up for success. Without a long-term, sustainable plan, the weight will come back.

    Many experts recommend working with your physician to come up with a manageable, and healthy lifestyle plan (as opposed to “diet”) for realistic weight loss. If that plan involves consuming less than 1,200 calories a day, in may be hard to maintain.

  • Group workouts are the best!
    Group workouts are the best!
    Image Credit: iStock
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    2. Don’t Go it Alone!

    One of the keys to long-term weight loss is support. Whether that person is your spouse, another person in your weight loss group, or a friend on Facebook, having someone else invested in your success is invaluable. A 2013 study found that people who exercised with friends were happier than those who went through their workout alone.

    Bonus points if you can find a workout buddy to hold you accountable for gym times or meet you for walks. Knowing that there’s someone who’s cheering you on can help you overcome roadblocks in your weight loss journey. And, if you can, choose someone who is in slightly better shape — a Kansas State study found that cyclists who were working out with a virtual partner, who they were told could cycle longer than they could, exercised longer than when they biked individually.

  • Celebrate your hard work!
    Celebrate your hard work!
    Image Credit: iStock
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    3. Set Mini-Goals

    It’s tempting to want to fit back into your high school jeans, but setting unrealistic goals sets you up for disappointment. The good news is that even moderate weight loss can provide big health benefits, such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. Experts recommend setting monthly goals to hold yourself accountable. Reaching monthly goals will give you the momentum to keep going, while keeping a positive focus on achievable goals.

    Use the SMART checklist: Are your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and trackable? For example, aiming to run a mile in 9 minutes at the end of 30 days is a perfect goal for someone who’s already running regularly.

  • Meet a goal? Treat 'yo self.
    Meet a goal? Treat 'yo self.
    Image Credit: iStock
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    4. Reward Yourself

    Perhaps you’ve gained weight because you’ve been rewarding yourself with food. Don’t feel like you’re alone — this is a common problem. Changing your mindset about how to reward yourself can help you lose weight. When you achieve your monthly weight-loss goals or honor your exercise commitments, reward those milestones and treat yourself.

    Buy fresh flowers or go the movies—pick something that is appealing and that you’ll look forward to. Or, better yet, give yourself a financial incentive. A recent Mayo Clinic study found that dieters who got the opportunity to either receive or pay $20 a month, depending on if they met or failed to meet their weight loss goal of 4 pounds per month, lost an average of 9 pounds after a year, while a group without financial incentives lost 2.6 pounds. We recommend packing a healthy lunch each day, and putting the money you’re saving by not going out in a jar. At the end of the month, if you meet your goals, treat yourself to some new workout gear!

  • Simple swaps can lead to big results.
    Simple swaps can lead to big results.
    Image Credit: iStock
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    5. Take Small Steps

    Small changes add up to big results, over time. Find changes you can make that don’t seem daunting. Swap out a fat-filled latte for one with skim milk, walk around during your lunch break, or give up that nightly bowl of ice cream. Small changes in your behavior can add up real weight loss. Moreover, you’ll find as you make one small change, other healthier changes will come naturally.

  • Being healthy means you can be active with friends and family.
    Being healthy means you can be active with friends and family.
    Image Credit: iStock
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    6. Take Stock of Your Motivations

    Weight loss isn’t just an exercise in vanity. Remind yourself that losing weight can improve your life in ways that have nothing to do with the reflection in the mirror or wearing skinny jeans—namely, more energy, better sleep, and improved overall health. Think about why you’re taking the steps to lose weight and focus on how your life will improve as a result of your weight loss.

    Remember, any journey worth taking is going to take some time. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your achievements, and take pride for committing to a healthier you this year. With the right lifestyle changes and support, you’re on your way to meeting your weight loss goals!