I, like most women in this country, have been either on a diet or talking about being on a diet for at least half my life. I’ve found that I go through various different mind sets about it, either bored with losing weight, excited and in action about it, or totally avoiding the topic. You can loosely group people into a couple different categories in the weight-loss conversation:
The Fast and the Furious – That’s it, you had it, you’re going to do something about your weight right this very second. You trash all the junk food in your house. You join a gym and get a trainer. You take eight Zumba classes in three days. And the second you don’t see phenomenal results on the scale, you throw up your hands and dive into a plate of chicken wings and find yourself back into your Fat Jeans.
The Spectator – You have a standing date every week to watch the Biggest Loser with your two best buddies, Ben and Jerry. You talk with all your friends about how Jillian Michaels’ new book has totally inspired you to start your diet on Monday, and then by Wednesday, that inspiring book serves as a coaster for your triple mocha-choca latte with extra whipped cream. That’s OK though, you’ll get another book and start again on Monday.
The Turtle – You know weight loss is a process and it’s slow going and you have sooooo far to go. You count calories, sort of, you get to the gym as often as you can, sort of. You have some successes, you have some set backs. You’re kind of bored with the process but you keep at it.
The Triumphant – This seemingly rare group of people who achieve their weight-loss goals and seem to be basking in the after-glow of the Skinny Life.
So what is it that makes some people successful at the weight-loss game, and what has others on the sidelines with hit or miss results?
I think it has to do with goal setting.
You see, when you think about it, “I want to lose a few pounds” is a stupid goal. It’s so nebulous, undefined and kind of wimpy. It’s not hard to lose “a few pounds.” Just don’t eat for two days and a few pounds will slide right off the scale. But then, of course, those “few pounds” find you again in a heartbeat.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have goals like “I’m going to lose 30 pounds before my wedding which is four weeks from now.” That is also a stupid goal, not because that can’t be achieved, but because very few people are willing to do what it takes to have that as a result.
In most weight-loss literature, you’ll read that a two pounds-per-week weight loss is a healthy goal. I suspect it’s not really about health, but rather it’s about reality. To achieve such a rapid weight loss, you have to radically shift your diet, balancing reduced calories and adequate nutrition. At the same time, working out becomes like a second job as you need to be burning way more calories than you are eating. Not many people I know can actually spend eight hours a day working out and preparing meals.
Goals are nothing more than a tool to remind you what you’re doing. So why not have goals actually work for you, instead of against you?
If your goal is too far away, you’ll fall into the “oh dear, I had a slice of cake, well, I’ll just finish the whole cake, I can make up for it later this month” mentality. If your goal doesn’t fit with the way you live your life in reality, that doesn’t support you either.
And it’s certainly not going to inspire you to keep at it when your besties Ben and Jerry are knocking from inside the freezer.
Keep your goals time limited, realistic but also inspiring and a wee bit of a stretch. Go out and buy your favorite jeans in the next smaller size, hang them on your bedroom door with a note declaring the date you are going to fit in them. Now that’s a goal worth having.