Setting Realistic Diet Goals to Maintain Healthy Weight Loss
Accepting weight loss that misses the mark by a few pounds is healthier than writing off your diet as a failure and then giving in and gaining the loss back. A healthier diet strategy is to maintain the loss for a few months and then reach for another 10 to 15 percent loss.
Think of weight loss as moving down a flight of stairs — not a ramp — with landings to stop and evaluate your progress.
One study of obese women taken before they started on a diet asked the women write down their goal weights and then the weight-loss amounts that they would consider “acceptable” and “disappointing.” Most women set their goals 32 percent lower than their starting points (about 72 pounds). “Acceptable” was about a 25 percent loss (55 pounds), and the women considered a weight loss of only 17 percent of their starting weights (38 pounds) to be “disappointing.”
After 6 months of dieting, exercising, and behavior modification and 6 months of maintenance, the average weight loss that these women were able to maintain was only 16 percent of their defined starting weights (or 36 pounds). They hadn’t even reached their “disappointing” weight.
Did the dieters fail? No. These women can be called successful for several reasons: A weight loss of just 10 percent is enough to bring down high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and improve overall health. And these women beat that goal by 6 percentage points.
More importantly, all the women were happy with their losses and were surprised to find that even though they hadn’t reached the weight loss they initially called disappointing, they felt better physically and emotionally than they had expected.