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Setting Practical Weight Loss Goals

by Dr. William Epperly, Forum Health Bloomingdale

One of my favorite motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar, used to say that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. So in order to better attain something, we need to aim for it, which is another way of saying we should have goals.

With no goals whatsoever, our activities are directed by the circumstances that are immediately in front of us. This does not generally result in any significant beneficial long-term outcomes.

Goals limit the randomness of our thoughts and actions, and cause us to bring them into alignment and sequential logical order toward a certain desired outcome. Put another way, having goals leads to more favorable long-term outcomes by causing us to focus our energy, decisions, and efforts. And when we focus energy, we increase power dramatically.

A classic example of focused energy is when a magnifying glass focuses regular warm sunlight onto one little spot on a piece of paper which makes it hot enough to burn it. Focus generates more power and drive toward a desired outcome.

For goals to have real power, it helps to feel passionate about them. Without much passion, the pain of sticking to the pursuit of a particular goal to the exclusion of other activities or choices erodes our resolve and makes it less likely that we will continue the goal-oriented behaviors. Other more pleasurable, easier, and less painful behaviors will simply take over.

Any goal has to have enough pleasure (or perceived reward) associated with it to overcome the pain associated with doing the work of obtaining it, and the pain of saying no to other things at the same time. That’s because we are more motivated by the avoidance of pain than by the pursuit of pleasure (so the “pleasure” must be large).

Whereas obesity often occurs as a result of random eating, weight loss is something that occurs more often by having goals. Random behaviors are the opposite of goal-oriented behaviors.  When it comes to weight loss, people will usually benefit from long-term goals and short-term goals.

Practical ongoing short-term weight loss goals for women may be ½ to 1 pound per week. For men, it is about 1-3 pounds per week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a woman that equals 25 to 50 pounds in a year, and we all know how fast a year goes by.

Another reasonable goal may be 10% of your body weight, because we know that losing just that much can be enough to get a person off some or all of certain medications. So that’s a 200 pound man losing 20 pounds.

The ultimate ideal weight reduction goal that I try to move everyone toward is not one that is measured by the scale, but rather by a tape measure. And the tape measure is put around the waist at or just above the belly button with the abdominal muscles relaxed. The ideal measurement there is less than half your height. So for a 6 foot man, the ideal waist measurement (not pants size) is less than 36”. A 5’5” woman should have a waist of 32.5” or less. This is the WSR, or waist-to-stature ratio. Studies show that the curve of increased mortality risk begins to rise at a WSR of 0.5. For most people who need to lose weight, this would be considered a long-term goal. One inch of belly fat is usually about 4-5 pounds.

If you are ready to set some weight loss goals, and want a reliable proven program to get you there, contact our office to get started with a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your health needs and goals.