Is Weight Loss Really a Good Goal?

Posted by Karen Archia on
Photo: Ch-Ch-changes by TW Collins
Photo: TW Collins|licensed under cc

Laura SextonLaura Sexton, RD, LDNGuest Blogger: Laura Sexton, RD, LDN, a registered dietician who works at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, wants us to search for meaning. If we’re serious about making changes toward a healthier lifestyle Sexton challenges us to avoid the hype and ask ourselves a few pointed questions. 


I recently scoured the magazines and the internet to find out what folks are seeing and what might influence them to make changes in the new year and beyond. I saw the same ole’ articles about losing quick pounds, making this year the best one yet, but the steps outlined to reach the goal often involved major caloric restriction followed by really challenging exercises that involved a gym membership or the purchase of new equipment or products. While this advice may help someone with short-term weight loss, I think too many magazines, weight loss blogs and articles are missing key points.

Here are three questions I think everyone should ask themselves:

Is this really the right time for me to make changes?

When you are making changes in your life, especially those tied to changing your eating habits, are you doing it because someone else thinks that you should and it’s blasted all over the media, or are you truly ready to make changes? If the answer is no, you may be setting yourself up for failure. In a recent interview, clinical psychologist John Norcross gave great, research-based advice on how to set real, attainable goals. For example, Norcross emphasized making small changes because “grandiose goals beget resignation and early failure.”

Is my goal tied to something meaningful to me?

Creating a fitness goal that is tied to a something personally meaningful will increase your chances of success. Instead of goals like “I’m going to lose 30 pounds” or “I’m going to the gym five days a week,” tie your goals to a reason or objective that will have a specific and personal impact on your life. Then you can set specific smaller goals that are measurable, such as an amount of time spent exercising or a target cholesterol number. These types of goals are more likely to compel you to contemplate real changes.  Some of my clients have set goals such as:

“I would like to be able to get up and down off the ground so I can play with my kids.”

“I don’t want to get diabetes like my mother and be on insulin for the rest of my life.”

“I’d like to be able to walk up the stairs without losing my breath.”

After we set these broad goals, we work together to set smaller goals that we know can realistically be obtained that week. For example, my client who wants to get up and down off of the ground will start with a gentle yoga class to increase mobility and center the mind, while cutting back from five sodas a day to two. These changes are incremental, but they are more achievable for the client, and they don’t get defeated after the first week.

While everyone may be sensitive about weight, a generic focus on weight loss really isn’t concrete enough to make people serious about achieving it. You have to look at what really gets to your emotional core, and losing 30 pounds doesn’t explain why you want to get there. Dig deeper to find that place where weight loss connects with your life.

Can I do this by myself? If not, who can help me?

I’ll be the first person to admit that I need support when it comes to making big changes in my life. I need the help of friends, family, and often co-workers or others who have been successful in reaching their health goals. If you don’t really have those people in your life, begin to seek them out through observation at work, in your social life, or by asking healthcare professionals about community resources. A great way to find people is through community forums or groups such as service clubs or churches.

Chances are, if you are looking for help, someone else is too. I steer people towards online groups as well. My clients and patients like the accountability and support of groups such as daily strength, a free online organization with an extensive list of support groups on a variety topics and issues.

As you think about nutrition or fitness goals and how you want to create healthy changes in your life, I challenge you to think in new ways, with more meaning and purpose. Write down your goals and look at them daily. Search for free resources that help you set goals and plan ahead.

If we reset ourselves with goals that hit home, we give ourselves not only a better chance at success, but more important reasons to be successful.

Photo credit: Ch-ch-Changes by TW Collins: licensed under cc, cropped, re-sized

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