Vice President of Research & Development at Nutrisystem
Let’s do a little imagination exercise.
“Imagine that you’ve reached the end of your weight loss journey. You’ve worked hard on losing weight and achieved the weight loss goal that you set for yourself at the start of your effort. You couldn’t be prouder of yourself. Stepping on the scale has gone from a dreaded chore to something that you look forward to. So go ahead. Step on the scale. Look down. What does it say?”
We’ll call this your dream weight. Chances are, your dream weight in that scenario was somewhere in what doctors consider the ideal weight range. When you think about the time and effort it will take to get to that weight, you may decide that it is perfectly reasonable to expect that you will get there. On the other hand, you may conclude that your dream weight is probably out of reach. If that’s the case, do not lose hope. Remember, that was your dream weight. Now, ask yourself how much weight you realistically expect to lose. Let’s call this your target weight. This is what you’re actively working toward.
Weight loss experts will tell you that a realistic goal when you’re trying to lose weight (without having bariatric surgery) is about a 10% reduction in your starting weight. (You can quickly estimate that by taking the first two digits of your weight.) Is your target weight further away than that 10% figure? For most people in weight loss programs, it is.
Does that mean that you can’t reach your target? Absolutely not. Ambitious is not the same as impossible. It is important to keep in mind, though, that weight loss success is not something that should be measured in all-or-nothing terms. Let’s say your target weight is 30 lb away and that you end up losing 25 of those 30 lb. Was your weight loss effort a failure because you did not reach what you considered to be a realistic target weight?
I hope you answered no to that question.
But if you are measuring your success in all-or-nothing terms, and you believe that even a 29.5 lb loss would be a failure if you had your sights set on 30 lb, let me encourage you to revisit the reasons why you wanted to lose weight. The desire to see a smaller number on the scale was probably just one of many reasons that you wanted to lose weight – and maybe not even one of the most important. Maybe you wanted to fit better in your clothes, improve your health, feel less winded when going up the stairs, reduce the pain in your ankles and knees after a long walk, get off some medications, etc. Whatever your reasons were, ask yourself whether you saw improvement in those areas – not perfection, but improvement. I would argue that your weight loss effort was a success if you got what you wanted from your weight loss, even if you didn’t lose as much weight as you expected to lose.
A common mistake for dieters is focusing too narrowly on what the scale says and feeling defeated if the numbers don’t cooperate with their expectations. Take a broader view of success. This will not only help you appreciate your accomplishments, but also may help to keep you motivated enough to persevere toward your ultimate goals.