How to Set a Realistic Weight Loss Goal

4 tips for measurable, healthy weight loss

We’d all like to lose 10 to 20 pounds in a week, but those kinds of fast weight loss goals are both unrealistic and unhealthy. According to Janet Polivy, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada, smaller, more realistic weight loss goals are the way to go. Read on to learn how to strategically set a realistic weight loss goal, and how to achieve it.

Lose weight slowly

Fast weight loss, like trying to lose 10 or 20 pounds in one week, is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. A realistic weight loss goal is to lose one to two pounds per week, according to Jennifer A. Linde, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. Linde adds that a goal of losing 5 to 10 percent of your start weight is achievable. So if you weigh 180 pounds, a goal of nine to 18 pounds of weight loss is reasonable and achievable.

Set a realistic timeframe

Losing weight the healthy way — slowly — takes time, so don’t plan to drop 25 pounds in as little as two weeks. At one to two pounds per week, losing 25 pounds will take you a little more than 12 weeks, or three months. To lose weight in a healthy manner, you should cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day by eating less and exercising more.

In addition to figuring out a long-term weight loss timeline, you should also set short-range goals. Focus on the first five pounds of weight, and celebrate when you lose it.

Track your progress

Track your progress, such as the amount of weight and inches lost, in whatever way works best for you, be it online or in a hard copy journal. Many studies have shown that keeping a food journal or tracking calories can help you lose weight. It’s hard to eat that grande burrito when you’re staring at the amount of calories it contains on the page in front of you.

What about rapid weight loss?

Sure, losing 20 pounds of weight fast will leave your friends and family amazed at your miraculous weight loss abilities. However, losing that much weight that fast can be dangerous if not done under medical guidance. According to Michael Dansinger, M.D., the doctor for NBC's The Biggest Loser television show, you could theoretically drop up to 20 pounds in one week if you follow a very ambitious eating and exercise plan.

You’d have to devote more than seven hours per week to rigorous exercise under a physician’s care. According to Dansinger, dieters who eat between 1,050 and 1,200 calories and exercise at least one hour per day can lose three to five pounds of weight the first week — two pounds from diet and one pound from exercise each week.

To achieve this fast but healthy method of weight loss, Dansinger recommends lessening your sodium intake and cutting out starches. This will decrease your fluid intake and retention, which can result in up to five pounds of fluid loss.

Bottom line, you can lose a large amount of weight fast, but you need to do it safely and under a doctor’s care. However, the safest weight loss method is to eat less and exercise more, with a plan and goal of losing one to two pounds per week.

Thank you for signing up!

Tell us what you think!
If you'd like to comment on this article, become a member of Gaiam Life.
Click here to create your account.