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Setting Realistic Goals for Weight Loss

There are many reasons for people who are overweight or obese to lose weight. To live longer. To look better. To have more energy. To feel better. No matter what the reason, successful weight loss and healthy, sustained weight management depend on sensible goals and realistic expectations. If you set achievable goals for yourself, chances are you'll be more likely to meet them and have a better chance of keeping the weight off. You shouldn't strive to lose 50 pounds in a month. In fact, losing even five to 10 percent of your weight, over a matter of time, is the kind of goal that can improve your health.

Most people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off, have a "oh goodness" moment, when something clicks and they don't want to be this size any longer. Motivations vary. Some people worry about chronic diseases like diabetes or coronary problems. Others are preparing for a special event--a wedding, reunion, or special birthday, such as their 40th or 50th. Some people find in embarrassing to have difficulty fitting into theater seats or behind the steering wheel of their vehicle. Having to buy extra large clothing from special shops is a psychological motivation for others.

Whatever the reason, pick a plan. One diet does not fit all. And for obvious health concerns, overweight people should try to lose weight gradually. Try not to exceed two pounds per week. Fad diets which ignore the principles of the U.S. government Dietary Guidelines may result in short term weight loss, but may do so at the risk of your long-term health. And many of the fad diets--like the infamous Cabbage Soup Diet--can undermine your health and lead to psychological despair and disappointment when you regain the weight shortly after you lose it.

Doctors, dieticians and other health experts agree that the best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and increase physical activity so you burn more energy. There are no "super foods" that either cause you to gain weight or help you lose it. That's the reason to ignore products or programs that promise quick and easy results, or that promise permanent results without permanent changes in your lifestyle. Any ad that says you can lose weight without lowering calorie intake and/or increasing your physical activity is selling a fantasy dream, the "magic bullet" which simply does not exist.

Unless your health is seriously at risk due to complications from being overweight or obese, gradual weight loss should be your goal. Here's how you do it:

Check with your doctor. Make sure you are healthy enough to lower your caloric intake and increase your physical activity.

Follow a calorie-reduced, but balanced diet that provides for weight loss of one or two pounds per week. Be sure to include at least five servings a day of fruits and veggies, along with whole grains, lean meat and low fat dairy products. This regimen may not sell many books, but it will reduce your waistline.

Make time in your day for some form of physical activity. Start by parking a distance from your work or shopping center a walk! 200 steps is equal to one city block and experts recommend that people aim for 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Then gradually add some added physical activity you enjoy--walking, cycling, tennis, golf, evening mowing the lawn with a push mower is an excellent exercise.

For many people who are overweight or obese, long-term weight management generally requires sensible goals and a commitment to make realistic changes in their lifestyle (diet/exercise) to improve their health. A lifestyle based on proper, nutritional eating and regular physical activity can be a real lifesaver.

About the Author

Larry Denton is a retired history having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, MT. He is currently Vice President of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., a business providing information and resources on a variety of important topics. For an exercise room full of additional free weight loss information and hundreds or valuable resources visit


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