Diet Do #5: Get Real About Your Ideal Weight
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If you ask anyone if he or she would like to weigh less, chances are the answer would be a resounding “Yes!” Fitting into a favorite pair of jeans, looking better in a bathing suit or in workout clothes, wearing a smaller size, or simply seeing a lower number on the scale are goals that many men and women have (even if they’re at what others consider a healthy body weight).
The start of a new year is like a “do-over” for many; it inspires and motivates them to trim their calorie intake and increase physical activity in an effort to work toward their weight loss goals. Of course with hard work, determination, focus, and perseverence, many people can successfully lose weight (and in some cases, get to what they consider to be their ideal or “dream” weight).
It’s no surprise that unfortunately, many who lose weight end up gaining some if not all of the weight back eventually. Some are “successful losers” as evidenced by research from the National Weight Control Registry. But for most, weight loss is only temporary. But why? Of course there are many reasons why people regain weight. Having worked with many clients over the years and seeing family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintences repeatedly lose and gain the same 10, 20, 50 or more pounds, I’ve noticed that most who have had trouble keeping lost weight off set unrealistic body weight goals for themselves; to achieve those goals, they had either gone on too restrictive a diet (drastically cut calories, avoided carbohydrate-rich foods, and/or gave up sugar or alcohol), overexercised, did something more radical like gastric bypass surgery, or did any combination of these things. Weight loss was also often quick; rapid weight loss can be motivating, but it can also mean lots of lean muscle mass lost, a slower metabolism, and it can lead to medical problems like gallstones or other adverse health effects.
When setting goals for weight loss, I’ve always encouraged others to first focus on creating food and fitness behaviors (that they believe have a high probability of turning into habits they can maintain). Cutting 200 to 300 calories a day and increasing physical activity to burn more calories can promote a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week for most people; that may not sound like a lot, but making such small, do-able changes over time can really add up in terms of pounds lost (not to mention help preserve your metabolism).
I also encourage people to be realistic about what weight they think they can achieve and maintain long-term. Before embarking on weight loss, it’s important to ask to yourself how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to get to and maintain a certain body weight. If you feel like you have to work out an hour a day, eat so little and/or ban sweets and alcohol for life (or whatever favorite indulgence items you have), not go out to meals with friends or family, and avoid high risk food situations like cocktail parties and such, how realistic is it for you to be able to maintain your new body weight? Is it more important for you to get to an ideal or dream weight that will be almost impossible to maintain, or one that you feel is comfortable for you, that allows you to live and function fully in the world, that you can maintain by engaging in healthful (but not extreme) food and fitness behaviors? Be honest with yourself, and tell yourself that true happiness is not about what the scale says but about how you feel both mentally and physically at any size. Losing even just a small amount of weight and maintaining it over time (and overcoming the yo-yoing in body weight that so many of us experience) can improve your health, help you feel lighter on your feet and better in your own skin overall.
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