Setting goals provides a target and direction for transformation and is an important component of successful lifestyle change. Let’s look at some of the elements of successful goal setting. Consider the following as you set your goals and go about achieving them:
Setting Weight Loss Goals: How Much?
Experts recommend an average initial weight loss goal of 10 per- cent of body weight because research shows that this degree of weight loss is associated with significant improvements in cardiovascular risk factors and psychological well-being. This doesn’t mean that further weight loss may not be beneficial: it may very well be, depending on your initial body mass. In the Diabetes Prevention Program, weight losses of 5 to 7 percent were associated with a 58 percent reduction in the development of diabetes.
But research also shows that obese individuals would find a 17 percent weight loss “disappointing,” a 25 percent weight loss would be “acceptable,” and a 37 percent weight loss would meet their “dream weight” expectations. Even when participants in a weight loss program were repeatedly counseled that a weight loss of 5 to 15 percent was a reasonable expectation, they still hoped for a weight loss of 25 percent. However, for most overweight or obese people, a 10 percent weight loss is achievable and will make a difference.
To figure out how many pounds you’ll need to lose to meet your weight loss goal, multiply your weight by the percent you want to lose. Let’s say Joanne, who weighs 250 pounds, wants to lose 5 percent of her body weight; she would multiply 250 by 05, which would be 12.5 pounds. For a 10 percent weight loss, she’d need to lose 25 pounds. For Joanne, a weight loss of 12.5 to 25 pounds would significantly improve her cardiovascular risk factors and reduce her risk of diabetes.
A person’s weight loss goals are often based upon other personal considerations, such as appearance. As you set your weight loss expectations, keep in mind that the amount you need to lose to improve your health is probably different from (and likely less than) how much you’d need to lose to bring you to your preferred weight. But, remember that you don’t want to set your goals so high that you become discouraged and give up on a reasonable weight loss that will have important health benefits.
Calculate Your Own Weight Loss Goal
My current weight is ___ pounds. To lose 5 percent of my body weight, I’d have to lose ___ pounds. To lose 7 percent, I’d have to lose ___ pounds. To lose 10 percent, I’d have to lose ___ pounds.
Using the Weight Loss Graph, (see Figure 8.1), record your current weight at the beginning (at week 0) and mark your 5 percent, 7 percent, and 10 percent weight loss targets at week 26. Draw a line connecting your current weight (before any weight loss) and your target weights so you can follow your rate of weight loss and see whether you’re losing at a rate that will yield health improvements.
Setting Weight Loss Goals: How Fast?
What rate of weekly weight loss should you aim for? Most people aren’t satisfied with a gradual loss of one to two pounds per week, even though this is the safest and healthiest way to lose weight. It sounds slow, but at a rate of one to two pounds per week most of you will have lost at least 5 to 10 percent of your body weight in about six months. This is an impressive achievement when you consider how long it took you to gain that weight and the number of calories you need to cut to lose it.
One pound of fat carries 3,500 calories of energy. If your weight has been steady and you want to lose one pound per week, you need to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories per day for seven days (3,500 calories), or expend an extra 500 calories each day by walking briskly five miles per day for seven days, or some combination of decreased energy intake and increased energy output that totals 3,500 calories. To lose two pounds per week, you would need to reduce your calorie intake by 1,000 calories per day for seven days or walk ten miles per day for seven days. If you have been gaining weight, then you would have to reduce your calories even further to create the same weight losses. So, losing one to two pounds per week requires a substantial effort.
Moving More: Activity Goals
As you set goals for activity, it is important to consider your start- ing point. If you are not currently active, you’ll want to set goals that are not out of reach. It may be best to start with walking for 10 minutes, five times per week (50 minutes per week). (A variety of practical approaches to increase your activity level were reviewed in Chapter 5.) Once you are walking 50 minutes per week, increase the goal to 15 to 20 minutes, five times per week, for a total of 75 to 100 minutes per week. As you build stamina and establish your new habit, you can continue to increase your activity goal to a minimum of 150 minutes per week. That was the minimum activity goal for participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program. In the DPP, lifestyle participants kept a diary of their activity levels and often used pedometers (small, inexpensive devices that count the number of steps you take) to help measure their level of activity.
F I G U R E 8 .1 Weight Loss Graph
My Weight Loss Graph
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