A new decade is here, and a traditional part of celebrating the New Year is setting resolutions focused on becoming a healthier version of yourself and often, weight loss is the target of many resolution setters. With the health risks associated with carrying extra weight and obesity a major health concern in our nation, shedding extra weight can be a positive goal if it’s something you and your doctor have previously discussed. To achieve success with your efforts, the first step is to make sure that you are setting realistic weight loss goals, otherwise you are potentially setting up yourself for disappointment and potentially added health risks. Here is some useful information on setting and reaching realistic weight loss goals in the new year.
How to Determine an Appropriate Weight Loss Goal
In general, losing 1 to 2 pounds a week is a good target, typically accomplished by burning 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day, through a lower calorie diet and regular physical activity. However, everyone’s physical status, abilities, medical history, and a myriad of other factors, contribute to making each person’s weight loss goals and plan unique, so it’s important to work with a medical provider to plot your course, beginning with determining what’s an appropriate weight loss goal for you.
Body mass index (BMI) is a good guide when starting to determine weight loss goals. Your BMI is a simple calculation involving your height and weight, and the National Institutes of Health provide a useful BMI calculator here. Most people should have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 to be at a healthy weight.
However, your BMI does not tell the whole story. Your body fat percentage is also important. Your primary care physician can help you calculate this measurement and let you know if you have too much or too little body fat. Your BMI may give you misleading information if you have a very athletic or muscular build. For example, many bodybuilders and powerlifters would be considered overweight or even obese based on BMI alone, although they have very little body fat in reality.
Formulate a Plan You can Follow
Trendy low-fat diets, low-carb diets, high-protein diets and weight-loss programs tend to promise quick and easy weight loss, but the most successful permanent weight loss plans are based on a healthy, calorie-controlled lifestyle combined with exercise. And these plans are also more easily to stick with in the long run.
To get started with your plan, it’s always advised to tell your primary care physician about your desire for weight loss and let them assist with setting your goal weight and devising an action plan. This plan may include outside resources such as a dietitian and nutritional counseling.
A strategic weight loss strategy will also incorporate exercise, especially aerobic exercise that burns fat and strengthens your heart. Your exercise regimen should be incremental. If you’ve been sedentary with no form of regular exercise, don’t expect to run ten miles your first day. Instead, ramp up slowly and add a bit more daily. Maybe start by walking two blocks, increasing a block every day.
Also, don’t forget to rest. Even the best athletes give themselves a day off occasionally. You will need at least one rest day weekly to allow your body a chance to recover. In time, you’ll notice that you can endure more and more exercise. Remember, any progress – no matter how slow – is still progress.
Weight loss is as much a mental struggle as it is a physical endeavor. It is crucial to keep a positive attitude throughout the process and refrain from chastising yourself over human lapses. If you miss a few days of exercise or make an unhealthy food choice, resolve to do better in the future – whether that’s the next day or simply the next meal – rather than beating yourself up over the mistakes.
Use weekly weigh-ins to monitor your progress rather than daily checks. Your weight varies daily based on the type of foods you eat, how well hydrated you are, and even the ambient temperature. A weekly weight check will give you more useful information. Also, try to measure your weight at the same time each week.
The Benefits of Setting Realistic Weight Loss Goals
Although many people resolve to lose weight to improve their appearance or overall sense of well-being, there are multiple other reasons to pursue weight loss. Doctors have demonstrated that maintaining a healthy weight is important for everything from cardiac health to lowering the risk of cancer. In fact, a recent study provided evidence that sustained weight loss cuts breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. However, the best motivation for weight loss may be that a healthy weight makes you feel better, both physically and mentally, and allows you to take more enjoyment from life.
Beginning a weight loss journey may seem overwhelming, but remember that your primary care doctor is the best place to start. Schedule a consultation to get the new year, and healthier you, on the right track.
If you’re in Connecticut and would like to find a doctor near you, you can locate a board-certified PACT primary care physician using our searchable list here.