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How to Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals

Are your goals realistic?
Are your goals realistic?

A realistic weight loss goal can mean the difference between failure and success. When you put a number on what you want to lose, it’s important that number is both healthy and achievable. So many times I’ve seem people give up or fail, because they decided on a goal that’s completely out of touch with what would be appropriate.

Step one, come up with a number that’s right for you. Consider what you’re going to use as a baseline. The traditional approach is something pioneered by insurance companies. They produced “height-weight” tables. You choose the table for your gender, and then look up your height. Beside that is a range of weights, from low to high that are considered healthy.

Height Weight Table

This table was designed by calculating the healthy range of weights using the Body Mass Index (BMI) information for the corresponding heights. Then the healthy range (from 19 to 25) was divided into three groups, small, medium and large.


The range is quite broad. So step two is finding out where in that range you fit. You do that by measuring your body frame. If you have a larger body frame you should keep your weight on the upper end of the acceptable range. If you have a smaller body frame, a healthy weight is probably on the lower end of the range.

To measure your frame, check your wrist size. Wrap your middle finger and thumb around your wrist. If the fingers overlap you're small-boned and should be on the lighter end of the scale. If your fingers just touch, you'll probably be best around the middle. If your fingers don't touch at all, your ideal body weight is probably at the higher end of the scale.

Once you know your frame size and where in the range your weight should fall, you have a starting number. But that’s not necessarily the best number for YOU. Step three requires you consider how many times you’ve tried to lose weight in the past.

It might seem a little crazy to consider past efforts, but it’s critical that you do. One or two previous attempts may not make much of a difference, but if you’ve lost and regained weight five or more times, you may be dealing with a damaged metabolism.

In a process called adaptive thermogenesis, your body quits responding to weight loss efforts and essentially keeps you stuck at a higher level. If you’ve spent years yo-yo dieting, consider a weight loss goal that gets you to between 60 and 80% of your ideal.

Step four; you need to take an honest appraisal of your exercise goals. Strength training at least twice a week and aerobic exercise three times weekly is considered the minimum you should try to accomplish. But you might not be willing to commit to that.

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t commit to the minimum, give yourself a walking goal. Pledge that you’re going to walk at least three times a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes. After you’ve done that for a few months, you can look at expanding into something more vigorous.

If you’re only able to commit to walking or no exercise at all, take your weight loss goal and cut it down by another 20%. Exercise doesn’t do a whole lot to help you lose the initial weight, but it’s a big help in boosting your metabolism so you can keep it off. Without an exercise commitment, only plan on losing 50-70% of what you need to reach your ideal.

Remember that at some point you will need to introduce strength training into your routine. Aerobic exercise helps with your cardiovascular system, but it doesn’t build muscle. We lose about 10% of our muscle mass each decade. Only physical labor (lifting heavy things) or a weight-training workout can slow or reverse that decline.

After you achieve that first weight loss goal, you need to learn how to keep your body at that level. Spend six to nine months doing weight maintenance and getting used to your new lighter self. Only after that lower weight becomes your new normal, should you once again re-evaluate where you are and start making new goals.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

12/9/2017