Setting Weight-loss Goals

A mind-set for sustainable weight loss.

A new year, new resolutions and new challenges. As January kicks off we are always full of hope and expectations for the year ahead, especially when it comes to our weight and our aspirations to follow a healthier diet plan and as a bonus lose some weight. It is a great trait to be optimistic, but let’s be realistic, by the time work and school starts, all our good ambitions have collapsed. Maybe I can help with a few tips on how to maintain these dietary goals we set for ourselves and by this time next year it is not just a dream, but a dream come true.

As a registered dietitian, I often see the common mistakes that are made when setting health and weight loss goals for one’s self. I would like to give you some insight on what the ideal mindset is to set you up for success and not a failure. The first question I ask a patient on their first consultation is (in a very polite manner of course) ‘why are you here today?’ Which basically means, what is your goal and what drives this goal? Is your goal to see yourself in a specific bikini that did not fit you for the past 5 years, or do you see yourself running around with grandchildren without excess weight? Whatever the goal might be, it is important to visualize that and keep that in mind as the bullseye, to keep you going strong during challenging times. As the well-known saying goes, ‘keep your eyes on the prize’. The drive behind the goal is just as important as the goal itself, unfortunately, in most of the cases, we tend to be people-pleasers and set goals to impress others, rather than focus on our own health and happiness. The first challenge is to discover what your goal is and what drives you?

Once you are able to visualize yourself reaching your goal and have the drive to do so, your weight loss goal should be reachable and realistic. We all know that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited), we have heard it a million times. But in basic terms, make sure your weight loss goal is achievable. Be realistic, if you have three kids between the ages of 1 and 10 years, for example, it might be more challenging (or take a while longer) to reach your goals, compared to your neighbour who has no kids and is a housewife and can spend hours in the gym. A very important question to ask, is, ‘how long did it take you to gain the weight you want to lose?’. With that in mind, you should be prepared to lose your excess weight over more or less the same period of time. Determine whether your goal is achievable?

It is obvious to one’s self when you start losing weight, but some people do not believe the progress if they don’t see it in the number on the scale. That should not be your guideline! There is a lot of factors that can influence the number on the scale one of which is the loss of fat mass and gain of muscle mass. This often causes people to lose motivation and give up, therefore don’t get onto the scale on a daily basis or even a weekly basis for that matter. Measure your results by the centimeters you have lost, to finally fit into that dress you never were able to. You will feel on top of the world and even more inspired to keep it up. How are you tracking your progress?

Once you have set a realistic goal to work towards to, in my opinion, the fourth thing that we do wrong is the lack of a proper plan. Yes, we want to lose fat mass, but how will we do it and how will we maintain it. A quick fad diet to aid in losing the extra weight picked up over December might help, but this can result in the weight (or more) being gained back as fast as it was lost. When I talk about a plan, I mean a proper eating and exercise plan that is sustainable and feasible. I would recommend, that if needed, the advice of an expert in the field such as a dietitian, nutritionist, life coach, personal trainer etc. they can help to determine your individual needs, because, keep in mind, all humans are different and live different lifestyles and will therefore, require a plan that fits in with their specific lifestyles and not the other way around. Do you have a structured plan?

Life happens but having a plan is important to keep you on track to follow your well-planned low-carbohydrate, high-fat meal plan. Therefore, plan in advance. If you know you are going to have a busy week, why not do all the grocery shopping over the weekend and better yet prepare food for Monday, therefore, Monday you can prepare food for Tuesday, and so on and so forth, this will allow you to always be a day in advance. Just think about it, working in advance allows you to come home to a ready homecooked meal. Plan, plan, plan?

Now that you have your plan stuck to the fridge, you are ready for this life-changing experience. Be prepared and aware, that some days may be more challenging than others. If a day comes crashing down on your perfectly calculated plan, please don’t abandon your dreams, just carry on where you left off. Remember we are aiming for a lifestyle change and not a quick fix. One slip up does not mean that the entire plan should go to waste. It is all part of the journey. Ensure to have a contingency plan in place for days where you planned to make an oven roasted lemon butter chicken with Al Dente mixed veggies, but one of the kids got sick, the car broke etc. etc. Remember a quick salad with a tin of tuna is just as suitable and nowadays that roasted chicken and ready-made veggies, at your local grocery store is a lifesaver. If you skipped meals or had something that does not fit in with your plan, it is not the end of the world, just carry on as planned. Do you have a contingency plan?

With various fad diets popping up all over the internet, I can understand that it can become challenging to find your feet when it comes to what is healthy and what not. We all want to see results within a day or two, but we know, deep down that, it is not the solution. Believe in yourself and commit to something that can change your life for the good. Great things can happen if you believe in yourself and give yourself the credit you deserve.

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