Weight Loss Goals

What is a healthy goal for weight loss?

The problem with most dieters is they pick a target that is too lofty or unrealistic, and when they miss the mark, they become discouraged.  Being discouraged naturally leads to regret and guilt and these negation thoughts are not helpful with weight loss.  We are in the days and times of instant gratification, and we expect that it will be our way right away.  If we text our spouse or significant other, we expect a response quickly, and we become uncomfortable if it does not come quickly.  It would be great if you could take a pill like Star Trek and instantly be transformed into a healthier you.  A pill artificially induces exercise for you without a treat mill.  Well, I am sorry that is not gonna happen.  

So what is a healthy weight?  There is not an easy answer, so I will not delve into this much, but I like the CDC and WHO for this type of information.  The CDC defines a healthy weight as a Body Mass Index or BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.  That would be 199 or less for me.  BMI does put those with a higher muscle mass in the overweight or obese group because it poorly accounts for high muscle masses.  I prefer body fat percentages as a measure, but I think you should look at both.  

The first step to a successful weight loss program starts with making the decision to make a change and lose weight.  It should be followed by picking a goal.   A prefer the S. M. A. R. T. method of picking a goal.  S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to that helps explain the process of making a successful plan and centers on goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Smart Goals

Goals by S. M. A. R. T. Methodology:

  1. Specific:  A goal needs to be specific.  So not that you will just lose weight, but I will lose 5 pounds.  Instead of saying you will burn more calories exercising, you need to specifically make a goal to burn an amount such as 500 calories per day.  
  2. Measurable:  A goal needs to be measurable.  So for example, if you decide to lose weight, pick something you can measure easily such as 5 pounds.  Another possibility is a 2% body fat loss, but remember it must be measurable.  If you do not have a body fat testing device, this would not be very measurable.  Track your steps and calories and make a goal for each.  Mine was 500 active calories and 10,000 steps.  Active calories are the calories you burn with activity.  
  3. Attainable:  The goal needs to be attainable.  If you weight 96 pounds, losing 20 pounds is likely not achievable or realistic.  Although it might be attainable by amputation, I would not recommend this method of weight loss.  It tends to be counterproductive in the long run.  Active calories burned at 500 per day is attainable but 3000 a day is likely not.  
  4. Relevant:  Your goal should be relevant.  The goal you select must be relevant to your other targets.  For example, I want to lose weight so I can watch more TV.  This goal is not relevant.  On the other hand, I want to lose weight or body fat so I can better perform my duties at work is relevant.  
  5. Time-bound:  Yourgoal needs to be time-bound.  This term means it must have a time in which you can realistically complete the task.  Deadlines motivate us as long as they are realistic.  You can safely lose 2 pounds a week so losing 1-2 pounds a week is realistic.  

So, what is a realistic goal?  This concept depends on you and your life situation.  Your body and genetics are not the same as mine, so you need to be realistic.  Although it might be possible to get into a size six dress again if you are a size 8, it is less likely if you are a size 24.  You need to pick a smaller goal and work toward it.  Reassess once you meet you short term goal and make another one.  This method will result in less discouragement.  

By the math, you want to look at your week to week goal and ensure it is realistic before you make a monthly or long term goal.  For example, it is unrealistic to expect to lose ten pounds a week.  This level of weight loss is unhealthy and unrealistic because you would have to burn 35000 calories that week above what you eat.  Even if you cut 500 calories a day, that is only 1 pound so you would have to burn 31500 calories with exercise.  If you need to burn 31500 calories a week to meet your goal, it would require 4500 calories burned per day.  That is 16 hours of walking a four mph per day.  It is not possible.  

Safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, but this must be individualized.  If you are active and can burn or cut 7000 calories a week or 1000 a day, you can lose 2 pounds safely, but remember that means you must burn extra calories and or eat less.  One thousand calories are a significant reduction for some folks.  On the other hand, if you are sedentary, 3500 calories or 1 pound per week may be more realistic.  

So, let’s look at an example.  Say Dave has a social event for work and he wants to lose 10 pounds to be able to wear his suit without altering it.  He is 6 feet and weights 205 pounds.  The event is in 1 month.  This goal meets all but the attainable part.  A goal of 1-2 pounds a week for four weeks is 4-8 pounds total lost in a month.  He will likely almost always fail.  If he had eight weeks, he would probably safely make the goal of 10 pounds.  

The bottom line: Having a realistic goal is key for weight loss success. I highly recommend that you use a fitness tracker like Lose It.  Journalling your diet and exercise is a nice way to track and hold yourself accountable.  I will do an article soon on this.  I also plan to do one on BMI vs. Weight vs. Body Fat goals.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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