The Do's and Don'ts of Weight Loss and Setting Realistic Goals

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How can you set realistic weight loss goals? You're ready to make a serious change. But you're not sure how much weight you should lose or how to set a timetable. Take a look at what you need to know about making the most of this new start and setting goals that you can reach.

Do Talk to Your Medical Provider

Start with a physical exam and discussion. Your doctor may also want to order blood draws or other types of tests. Even though weight is your primary concern, it's also possible the loss could impact your overall health or even reduce the risks of specific medical conditions. A pre-loss exam and conversation (with your medical provider) could reveal additional issues that you need to address. This can help you to set lifestyle change or health-related goals—along with realistic goals for the pounds or inches that you want to lose.

Your medical provider can also help you to decide on and set safe goals that won't cause other types of harm or issues to your body. Rapid or excessive weight loss could lead to physical problems and deprive your body of essential nutrients. This could result in nutritional deficiencies, constipation, fatigue, or decreased immunity.

Don't Set Extreme Goals

What does excessively rapid weight loss mean? Even though it may seem like your friends, family, co-workers, or even celebrities can lose 10 or 20 pounds at a time, this type of loss isn't realistic or goal-worthy. Avoid extreme loss goals that are unattainable or force you into unhealthy eating habits. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended typical loss is one to two pounds per week. Even though this may not seem like a lot, over time it can add up. If you want to follow this plan, a goal of four to eight pounds per month is a reasonable objective. This figure may vary, depending on your age, starting weight, activity level, and overall health. Some weight management programs may require participants to set higher goals for the first few weeks. These are typically only slightly higher than the average expected loss and will decrease over time. 

Do Understand How Weight Loss Works

Now that you know where to start and what to avoid, you're still not sure if your loss goals are too high, too low, or just right. Before you begin a diet or new nutritional plan, you may need to learn more about how you can and will lose weight.

There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. To lose weight you would need to burn 500 more calories above your weekly intake over the course of seven days. The 500 calories times seven days equals one pound of fat—or 3,500 calories. While this equation can help you to set loss goals, it isn't always perfect. A strict calorie-burning type of calculation may not account for your metabolism, activity level, and health needs.