Julie Nelligan PhD | 3 Reasons Weight Loss Goals Don’t Work and What You Can Do About It
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3 Reasons Weight Loss Goals Don’t Work and What You Can Do About It

We all know being overweight or obese bad it is for your health and if you have been overweight or obese you know the social stigma all too well. However setting a goal of losing weight is a poor choice of a goal. Here’s why…

 

1.  Dieting inevitably means giving up foods you enjoy and taste good. It makes social situations hard (ever been to dinner with friends and not eaten? Can you saw “awkward” and “no fun?”) You’ll have cravings and once you give in you will feel bad about yourself. This is a recipe for failure.

 

2. Exercise is an important component to weight loss and overall health. Exercise hurts, especially if you aren’t an exerciser. This is another recipe for failure–who can consistently do something that is uncomfortable and painful?

 

3. You decided to lose wight for a reason, but it probably wasn’t so you could brag about how much weight you lost. You may have had a health scare or seen yourself in a photo or realized that you can’t do something you enjoy because your weight limits you or causes pain. In essence you came face to face with the reality of your obesity and decided it was time for a change. What you really want is to take away the pain (emotional and/or physical) that your weight is causing. Losing weight is an obvious action to take to get you what you want, but it isn’t what you want. What you want is something you value but is missing in your life: acceptance, health, ease of movement, etc.

 

So, if you are giving up foods you love and causing yourself pain to achieve a goal that isn’t really what you want in the first place, it’s no wonder that your goal to lose weight gets derailed.

 

But it isn’t hopeless.

 

Now that you know that weight loss goals miss the target, you can get back on track.

 

1. Identify what you really want.
2. Figure out all the things you need to get what you want. (Hint: it may be more than weight loss.)
3. Set goals and make plans for the steps you need to do to achieve those goals.
4. Monitor your progress towards getting what you want (see #1).
5. Adjust goals and action items as needed.

 

Here’s an example of how the steps listed above would work for weight loss:

 

Vanessa is more than 100 lbs overweight. She can’t walk very far and feels ashamed of her body. She wants to look nice for her daughter’s wedding in 6 months. She decides that if she loses weight she will look and feel better, she may be able to walk further and traveling to the East Coast for the wedding won’t be so difficult.

 

Step #1: Vanessa’s goal is to look nice and have more stamina by the wedding so she can travel to her daughter’s wedding and feel good.

 

Step #2: In order to achieve her goal she realizes eating well and losing weight will be an important step. But, increasing her fitness will be just as important because she doesn’t want to be limited so much.

 

Step #3: Vanessa decides to join Weight Watchers and start walking regularly. Her plan is to follow the Weight Watchers diet plan and go for a walk (starting at 10 minutes) 5 days per week. She plans to slowly increase the length of each walk so that by the time of the wedding she can walk up to 60 minutes at a time. She also realizes it would be a good idea to talk with her doctor about her plans, since she hasn’t done any regular physical activity in a long time.

 

Step #4: Each day Vanessa logs what she eats and how far she walks. Once per week she attends her Weight Watchers group and participates in the weigh-in.

 

Step #5: About 3 weeks into her walking routine, she starts to notice that her back is hurting. Rather than assume she shouldn’t be walking she goes to her doctor who recommends a few back exercises. She adds these exercises to her routine as prescribed by her doctor and within a week she is feeling better. She keeps walking.

 

Vanessa continues following her plan and making adjustments as necessary. When it is time for the wedding she can review how much weight she lost and how far she can walk.

 

Notice in this example Vanessa focused on what she really wants (look and feel good at her daughter’s wedding), rather than solely on losing weight. She looks forward to the wedding and the wedding is a compelling reason to stick with her plan. Losing weight isn’t something that’s fun to do, so without a compelling reason, it’s easy to be derailed and fail to get what you really want.

 

Bottom line: focus on what you really want. Weight loss may be a way to realize your dream, but it’s not your dream. There may be more to getting what you really want than losing weight.
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