I’m trying to lose 20 pounds. Ideally by next week for a hot date I have coming up.
Weight loss is always a touchy subject. There’s no way of really talking about it without somehow insulting someone or making yourself feel bad. Personally, I always get pissed whenever one of my naturally thin friends comments on having to lose “like, five pounds” for a pool party that weekend.
We set unrealistic goals for weight loss because we expect so much from it. We falsely believe that shedding ten pounds in two weeks will somehow make us smarter, more confident, better. But in reality, that heavy mental weight won't go down just because the scale did.
Think of the last time you were a bridesmaid. How long did the bride starve herself prior to the big day? Two months? Three?
We think these goals are acceptable because they have an end date. We tell ourselves, "In a couple of weeks I won’t have to fit into that bathing suit or that dress." Soon enough, we’ll be able to stuff our faces and pack on the pounds again.
The key is having realistic, attainable goals.
"Setting lofty goals that are either unrealistic or not healthy can be detrimental in many ways,” Amanda Foti, Registered Dietitian at Selvera Wellness, says. "If the goal is unrealistic to start with, you will be setting yourself up for failure before you even begin."
Basically, once you made the promise to lose 20 pounds or whatever unrealistic number you have in your head, you’re asking to fail.
As a perfectionist, this really hit home for me. I get extremely upset if I don’t meet the goals or standards I create for myself. This means every time I don’t lose the 10 or so pounds I told myself I’d lose earlier, I get angry, hurt and less enthused about my plan for shedding those extra inches around my waist.
The truth is, it’s not about giving up. It’s about being so disappointed with myself that even the thought of trying again sounds too painful.
Foti agrees with my sentiment. She explains,
In order to achieve the unrealistic goal a very restrictive diet and activity plan must be followed. However, when people don’t reach the goal they get discouraged and give up. A period of time goes by and they start all over again and set another unrealistic goal.
One component of ludicrous weight loss goals is restrictive dieting. You know the drill: you decide to completely ditch pizza, ice cream and mixed drinks. Then, every time you walk past a bar or pizzeria, you feel a part of yourself dying.
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t totally give up cupcakes and mimosas. Moderation is everything, even with your potentially unhealthy Baked by Melissa addiction.
Restriction typically causes the client to feel deprived and upset, two emotions that don’t help with weight loss. Once a client 'gives in' to these restricted foods they feel discouraged and like a failure, leading them to likely throw in the towel.
There is also a downside to losing weight too quickly, like that friend who mysteriously lost ten pounds in a week after a combination of not eating and attending three Soul Cycle classes per day.
Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Our body fat is our bodies back up fuel source and if we lose too much too quickly it will set off an alarm where our body fights the weight loss. This will throw off the body’s energy, cravings, metabolism and even mood which makes weight loss and maintenance even harder.
Want to lose those stubborn couple of pounds and not bounce back immediately? Foti recommends the S.M.A.R.T. method: smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and time oriented.
Choose a long-term weight goal in a healthy range and then keep that in the back of your mind as you strive towards it. Break it into smaller benchmarks that are either time-oriented or weight-oriented. Ideally, your long-term goal shouldn’t exceed one or two pounds lost per week.
Foti puts it best,
It takes a bit of patience and time. But in this case, slow and steady really does win the race.