Weight loss seems like the right goal.
Millions of people have invested a great deal of time, energy, and money into losing weight. Weight loss is a huge industry. The vast majority of weight loss programs work very well…at least for a while. This is true whether they are fads of they are based on sound nutritional science.
The vast majority of weight loss programs work…at least for a while.
As Hamlet said, “Aye, there’s the rub”.
The principles of weight loss are simple, easily understood, and everyone knows them:
- Eat a little less.
- Restrict high calorie, low nutrition foods.
- Exercise at least a little bit more.
Unfortunately, people who do only those things have a tendency to lose weight and then put it back on again.
Setting an overly specific specific weight loss goal.
Losing 37 pounds seems like the right goal, but…it’s a set up for long term failure.
Why would setting a very specific goal make it more likely for someone on a weight loss program to eventually put the weight back on? They might even end up adding on a little bit more!
The psychology of goal setting is simple. Once we reach a goal, we stop doing the things that got us to the goal. For example, Joe trained for weeks to get ready to run a marathon. After he finished the race, he stopped training.
We all know someone like Jane. She worked very hard to drop 42 pounds. She exercised. She stopped eating sweets. She went a little hungry. Once she was 42 pounds lighter, she went back to her normal eating and non-exercising routines. She rebounded to her original weight plus an additional 7 pounds. That kind of up and down fluctuation of weight is both unhealthy and frustrating.
Harvey decided that he was going to be a marathon runner (a long term goal). After running his first marathon, he went back into training. Harvey ran four marathons that first year, improving his time in each race.
We all know someone like Allison. She dropped 27 pounds 6 years ago, and she is still just as thin as she was when she finished her diet. Allison’s weight loss goal was to change her overall eating and activity patterns for the long haul. Getting 27 pounds lighter was an interim goal. Adjusting how much she ate, and exercising regularly in ways that she enjoyed was her long-term goal.
We can learn from Allison’s success.
A parting thought:
Make one of your long term goals for weight loss that your new ways of eating and your physical activity patterns are pleasant. Pleasant habits are sustainable.