Part 11

Setting Weight-Loss Goals

"If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else"-Quote from Lawrence J. Peter


How much weight do you want to lose? How fast? By what date? Your answers to these questions matter more than you might think, and if you're like most of us, you probably haven't thought about any of it much at all.

You might argue that "wanting to be thin" or "wanting to lose weight" are worthy goals; and they are. But they are also vague and the problem with vague goals is that they are a lot like no goals at all. At any rate, and in nearly every endeavor of human ambition, simple, precise and realistic goals offer people a yardstick by which to measure their success and allow them improve their performance. Knowing where you want to go really is the best guarantee that you'll get there.

So with that in mind, let's focus on defining your weight-loss goals.


Good Goal Setting:

1.     Be realistic in the short term. Major life-changes (and weight loss certainly is one of them) don't happen overnight.

2.     Be optimistic in the long-term: Think about it this way: in ten years, anything is possible. Anything at all.

3.     Choose a rate or speed of weight-loss. How many pounds per month (on average) are you aiming to lose?

4.     Choose an ultimate amount: What is your final "target" weight?

5.     Choose a health goal: What sort of physical being are you aiming to become? If you have health problems now, do you want to resolve or improve them through weight loss?

6.     Choose a fitness goal: Do you want to run marathons or just climb a flight of stairs without being short of breath? Either answer is equally good, but be clear about what YOU want.

7.     Choose a life-goal: How does weight-loss help you attain the life you want?

8.     Choose a self-reward: When you achieve a goal, how will you "pat your own back"?


Your Personal Weight Loss Goals

People can and do lose hundreds of pounds and people can and do keep it off forever. But that is not the norm and it requires extreme focus and effort. For you personally, too much effort may not be worth the result. Too much deprivation may take a lot of the joy out of life. Or, on the other hand, weight loss may indeed be worth it for you. These are very personal decisions that only you can make.

It is important though that you think long and in great depth about exactly how much time and effort you CAN and actually will make and that you then, in turn, adjust your weight loss goals accordingly. A single mother of three with a full time job who is going to night school simply does not have as much free-time as a retired person whose children are grown. While it is true that important goals require sacrifice and in some cases weight loss may mean delaying other goals like education, its hard to make those decisions without carefully considering one's priorities. With that in mind, let's focus on your priorities in life and see where weight loss fits in.

Typical High Life-Priorities (roughly in order of importance to most of us):

1.     Personal health. We can all probably agree that without our health we cannot attend to any other priorities, so health comes first. But what is health? Well, it's many things including

a.     Avoiding serious illness when possible. Some risks can be managed through lifestyle, some cannot. A healthy lifestyle is thus a high priority and weight is, of course, a part of that.

b.    Avoiding serious injury: Most of us care about driving safely and avoiding foolish risks on the road. Likewise we should not take foolish risks to lose weight or to achieve most other goals. Weight loss is about health, but it does not matter more than health.

c.     Mental health: When we are at peace with life we tend to be physically healthy. We should therefore strive for emotional balance. Again, weight loss should not come before emotional well-being.

2.     Health and well-being of loved ones: Few of us would be willing to harm others, especially family and children in order to lose weight. This can become a real problem for parents with young children. Too often they are faced with a choice between going to a gym for exercise or spending a precious few hours with their kids. Kids matter more. Fortunately, the choices aren't always mutually exclusive.

3.     Sleep: It might be tempting to try to sleep less in order to exercise but it is foolish. Your health and your weight will suffer. There are only so many hours in the day and most of us need eight of them for sleep.

4.     Money: People are willing to pay for weight loss provided that the price is reasonable and the service is reputable. But what if the only way to lose weight was to quit a well-paying job or delay schooling to achieve one? That is a much harder decision to make. It might be worth it, it might not be. Depends on your personal priorities.

5.     Friends: Are you willing to give-up time with friends to make time for weight loss? Many people are, some are not. Again, there is no right or wrong answer, it's personal.

6.     Activities: Is television time more important than weight loss? Probably not. What about going to the movies or musical concerts? You should be very clear with yourself where your priorities lie.



To put all this another way, if the only thing in the world you cared about was weight loss and everything else came second, this would be easy. But obviously weight loss is seldom one's absolute first priority. Carefully assessing exactly how big a priority it is and where it fits in with other priorities will help you set realist goals.

How Much and How Fast?

If you lose weight rapidly for a little while but never reach your goal-weight, you will probably get frustrated. If you lose weight very slowly but consistently, you will probably become frustrated too. So with weight loss, people generally need to set two goals: an ultimate long-term goal and a week-to-week or month-to-month goal. It's basically just mathematics. If your long-term goal is to lose sixty pounds in one year then your month-to-month goal should be five pounds-per-month or a little more than a pound per week. It's not always this simple since weight loss tends to slow-down as people approach their goals, but you get the point. Know where you want to go and know how fast you want to get there.

Setting a Long-Term Goal: Think Big and be Optimistic

Human beings, all of us, can achieve miracles when we have a clear vision and when we apply dogged determination. Do you want to lose 100 pounds? You can. I am here to tell you that other people, patients of mine, have lost that much and more and better still, they have kept it off. Long-term goals should be visionary and they should inspire you.


Setting Short-Term Goals: Think rationally and be realistic:

You are less likely, not more likely to achieve your long-term weight loss goal if your month-to-month goals are slow and steady. This is not a race, "The Biggest Loser" notwithstanding.


Integrating Weight-Loss Goals with Other Life-Goals:

Weight loss changes many other aspects of people's lives, often in good ways, sometimes in ways that are uncomfortable. Let's examine a few of these weight-related issues in people's lives:

1.     Health: done right, weight loss improves health

2.     Physical fitness: see above

3.     Physical "Attractiveness":  In America today, generally thinner people are considered more attractive. Thus losing weight usually improves self-esteem and increases "romantic" attention. The attention can be enjoyable for some people, troublesome or even scary for others.

4.     Employment: Numerous studies confirm a sad truth in America: thinner people tend to get better jobs. Deplorable as this is, it is also a fact.

5.     Fertility: Weight loss often improves one's chance of becoming pregnant. For women who struggle with infertility, weight loss and having children can segue perfectly.

6.     Athletic Goals: Maybe you have always wanted to compete in a marathon. You'll find that much easier to do if you are thinner and of course, conversely, running marathons (or performing any athletics) will help you lose weight.

7.     "Bucket-List" Goals: Some people promise themselves a trip around the world once in life. For others it might be climbing Mount Everest, scuba diving with sharks, learning to fly an airplane, attending the Bolshoi Ballet or writing a book. In nearly every case, the goal will be easier to achieve with thinness.