Eyes on the prize: Setting achievable weight-loss goals

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Eyes on the prize: Setting achievable weight-loss goals

Advice for those of us who struggle with weight loss goals.

Were you one of the many people who made a New Year's resolution this year? Did it focus around weight loss and dieting? If it did, you were not alone. A search on Google confirms that weight loss or dieting is one of the top 10 New Year's resolutions set by people all over the world. How are you going in your efforts to reach your goal?

Setting a goal can be a good way to get motivated to change your lifestyle. But if the goal isn't realistic it can set you up for failure.

If you are a person who constantly goes on and off diets, it might be worth reviewing your goal and looking at ways of reaching your destination by using a different approach.

For many people the goal is marked by achieving a certain weight or fitting into a certain outfit. We often set a goal weight based on what we used to weigh before we had children, or for men it may be what we weighed when we were playing rugby in our earlier years. Or it may be a weight achieved once before with considerable effort that could not be sustained.

If an amount of weight is your goal, one thing to keep in mind is that health benefits are achieved with a weight loss of 5-10%. Certainly you may benefit from losing more than this, but if you do manage to lose 5-10% of your weight and keep it off, this is fantastic. This would mean that if you weigh 90kg, an appropriate initial goal may be in the vicinity of 81-85kg. Which may be less than what you wanted to lose, but it's a great and achievable start.

Many of us start an exercise programme when trying to lose weight. Noticing an improvement in overall fitness is an important factor for long-term lifestyle change. If you can now climb the stairs without getting puffed, chase the children more easily or feel comfortable in a new exercise routine, then this is a fantastic improvement.

Being more organised and establishing a regular eating pattern is one of the cornerstones to good health and weight management. If you used to skip meals because you were too busy to stop for breakfast or lunch and now you can't go without these meals, this is a great new health routine.

Having control over your eating is very important. Late afternoon munchies or sugar cravings in the evening can be due to poor choices at meal times. Congratulate yourself if you no longer dive for the pantry or the snack box at work in the late afternoon because you are now choosing foods which are more sustaining.

Are you feeling more upbeat and are your energy levels better? If you have improved the balance of your eating pattern and also started an exercise routine, the chances are you will be feeling more energetic. If you have got more energy at the end of each day, this is a great spin-off from your new lifestyle.

Enjoying what you're eating means you get more satisfaction out of what you eat. This goes hand-in-hand with eating slowly. If you eat slowly you are more likely to recognise when you are satisfied. When eating a treat, eat it slowly and enjoy it – you don't need to 'blow' your new eating plan just because of one treat. Food is such an integral part of our lives that being able to enjoy what you eat is a goal we can all benefit from.

Having a narrow goal of just a specific weight loss can be disheartening; widening the goalposts can help you see progress in other ways. Some health benefits that come with an improved eating pattern may not be as tangible as weight loss but they are just as important. Recognising and acknowledging other health benefits should be included when you focus on your goals.

*This article was the winning entry in one of our dietitian writer competitions.
First published: Apr 2007

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