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Is Your Weight Loss Goal Realistic?

Learn how to set (and meet) healthy goals
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

I once read a story about a woman who complained to her doctor about her frustration with weight loss. The woman had lost 25 pounds but was not satisfied. "I will not be happy until I lose 25 more pounds," she declared.

Her doctor then asked her a series of questions: Are you feeling better? Do you sleep better? Is it easier to climb a flight of stairs? Can you bend over and tie your shoes? Do you feel better about yourself? The patient answered "yes" to all of the questions.

Her doctor was incredulous. The 25-pound weight loss had substantially improved her health and her quality of life, yet the woman was still not satisfied.

It's not uncommon for dieters to set lofty weight loss goals for themselves. Some reach back umpteen years to their wedding day or college weights. Others fantasize about looking like a supermodel, even though their naturally large frames may make this an impossible goal.

A 2001 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that on average, overweight people set a goal of losing 32% of their body mass. That's three times the amount needed to achieve better health. The truth is, it's unlikely that most dieters will be able to lose one-third of their body weight. Setting extreme goals is a setup for disappointment and failure.

You can achieve your goal weight -- as long as it is reasonable and attainable. Remember that you're on a journey to improve your life and health and gain control over your weight. It's not about perfection.

Set Mini-Goals

Instead of shooting for a size that has not been seen in your closet for 10 years, set more attainable goals. Even modest weight loss can improve your blood pressure and your cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels. Losing as little as 10 pounds can put the zip back in your step and make you feel terrific about yourself.

To help keep you motivated toward meeting your ultimate goal, set mini-goals you can reach within a month or so. Track your progress, and reward yourself along the way for improving your eating and exercise habits.

For example, on weeks when you get to the gym five times, treat yourself to flowers, a movie, or a ball game -- whatever feels like a reward to you. This will help keep your attitude positive and remind you of the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

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