When you are feeling depressed or “a failure” because you’ve not lost any weight for a while, it’s hard to get goal-setting on your radar. And yet, if you can find a scrap of paper and a pen, setting goals can give you long term vision and short term motivation to achieve weight loss.
Let’s take a goal: “I want to lose 5 stones (70 lbs)” and plan how we are going to achieve that goal.
1. The first task is to determine realistically how long this is going to take. If you lose one pound each week it is going to take you 70 weeks, so you’ll reach your goal on 26th August 2013. Are you prepared to plug away for 70 weeks or do you want to speed up your weight loss? Say 2 lbs per week and take just 35 weeks so you’ll reach your target by 24th December 2012. What a great Christmas present to yourself!
2. You’ve decided to go for the 2 lbs even though this will mean you are going to have to work harder at controlling your energy input and increasing your energy expenditure. As one pound of fat equates to about 3,500 calories, you’ve got to reduce your calorie intake and increase your activity levels so that, together, they amount to a saving of around 7,000 calories each week. Put another way, you have to create an “energy deficit” of 1000 calories every day. You could do this by saving 800 calories from food and drinks and by walking for 30 minutes (which uses about 200 calories).
3. Each week you need a meal plan and a physical activity plan. Contact our nutritionist Goli Keffel if you need help with your diet plan and Chrissie Twigg if you need help with a physical activity plan.
4. Your next step is to plan out events over the next 35 weeks in some detail.
5. Timetabling events so they don’t come as a surprise means you can avoid sabotaging your diet. If you normally go out for a meal on your birthday, you could decide to give it a miss this year and go to the theatre/concert instead. If you visit your mum for a huge Sunday lunch, you’ll need to have an alternative strategy for saying no to platefuls of food. This may mean having to say NO to lunch together and taking her for a drive or outing instead.
6. Recognise that you may have to avoid certain people for a while (even mum) if all you do with them is eat and drink. This can be tough – but you need 100% commitment if you are to achieve your goal of 5 stones weight loss in six months. Remember: You count as much as anyone else so what you want is important. Don’t let others make you feel bad because you are putting your needs first.
7. Once you have your 35 week plan, focus on the week ahead and then on the day ahead. Set yourself performance goals i.e. today I will swim 20 lengths; today I will avoid alcohol; today I’ll spend 30 minutes reading a motivational book to keep me upbeat. Plan it all on your 35 week timetable.
8. Every week find time (Sunday evening is a good time) to review your week. Look back over the highs and lows. If you have a particular habit (e.g. making for the cheese in the fridge the minute you come home from work) you need to work out ways to avoid this (no cheese in the fridge; have a substitute snack ready and waiting; break the habit of going home directly from work etc)
Weight loss success doesn’t “just happen” but with weight loss planning it will happen. When you’ve achieved a goal take the time to savour it and enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. It’s all worth it. You deserve a whopping big Christmas present.
Dr David Ashton MD PhD
27th April 2012