Weight loss. It doesn’t matter where a person is, they are likely to hear some sort of message about weight loss. Most of those messages are seriously unhealthy (i.e. weight loss “aids” and fad diets), but, in the U.S. at least, most of us do need to shed a few pounds for the sake of our overall health. It’s not a matter of looking smokin’ hot, it’s a matter of reducing our risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and a number of other lifestyle diseases. I, for one, see my own personal need to lose weight as a matter of doing what is best not only for myself, but for my family. The struggle is: how does a person go about effectively setting and reaching this goal of weight loss?
At this point, I want to clarify that I am discussing weight loss for those that do not meet the medical definition for obesity (BMI of 30 or above/30+ pounds over “ideal weight”). Those that are 30 pounds or more overweight should likely be working with medical professionals as there may be other health risks that need to managed while following a weight loss plan.
Now that we have cleared up the disclaimer, let’s talk goal setting. The very first step is saying out loud or writing down your goal: I need to lose weight. Once you have this, you’ll need to decide how much. Without an actual number, your goal will likely feel impossible and never ending. This leads to giving up. In my case, I want to lose 20 pounds. I don’t necessarily support putting a time line on losing weight so I won’t be saying that I need to have lost these 20 pounds by Valentine’s Day or anything like that. This would set me up for failure, especially with my number two favorite holiday just around the corner: Turkey Day. Instead, I know that losing 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy and sustainable weight loss goal. I won’t do this each week because some weeks I’ll fall off the wagon for one reason or another, and water weight can fluctuate up to five pounds a day. Remembering these things helps keep me from feeling bad about not seeing rapid, immediate progress. In the case of weight loss, slow and steady really does win this race.
Now that I know how much weight I want to lose, I need to figure out how I’m going to do it. This is going to be different for most people because everyone has a different relationship with food, different family food culture, and simply different lifestyles. In my case, I already eat VERY healthy. Not perfectly healthy, but to a degree that nutritionists would have little to suggest as far as diet change. My problems are three-fold: portion control, no exercise outside my daily activities, and too much beer. Now I have smaller goals to work on to get me toward my ultimate goal. I will now be setting goals a week at a time that address my three problem areas. So far, I have added some body weight exercises into my daily routine, cut snacking after dinner out (which leads to drastically reduced beer consumption), and I am exploring the philosophy of “mindful eating” (more on this concept at a later date.
Now, the ultimate marker of success with this goal is going to be my weight. However, it is best to weigh one’s self only once a week and this change might not be immediate. I know this because one pound of weight is equal to 3500 calories, meaning that I need to increase my exercise and decrease my caloric intake by a total of 500 calories per day if I am to lose one pound in a week. This is likely to not be very easy at the beginning because I am working to change some pretty deeply ingrained habits. How am I going to mark my success without fully relying on my weight? Well, I am going to focus on the little things that I am doing and reward myself for doing those rather than just losing weight. This is really about making a lifelong change and taking care of overall health, so only focusing on the number on the scale would be somewhat counter-productive.
There are many ways that a person can keep track of their goals and mark progress. I am a pretty visual person when it comes to goal setting (I’m really big on keeping lists and marking tasks off as I go). I was recently introduced to a FREE website, SlimKicker. This site is really pretty fun because it turns your weight loss goals into a game format. You can record various tasks and participate in challenges to earn points. You set up what your reward will be as you reach new levels. There are a few things that I don’t care for: there is no place to keep track of what my goals are and the nutrition tracking is cumbersome, but it still is an enjoyable way to work towards my overall goal. If you are interested in trying it out and having some support, I can be found as MDFeats on the website.
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There are SO many ways to set goals and keep track of progress. Care to share your method?