Twenty Thoughts on Weight-related Goals

October 5, 2010 in Tips by Joyce Bunderson

We've been there before - and here we are again. I was thinking about my own weigh management, and about my years of counseling those who were overweight and morbidly obese. What did I learn from those experiences? Is there anything that would benefit our readers? I hope, yes.

  1. The American Dietetic Association says that good goal setting and goal planning increases your chances of "making and maintaining improvements in nutrition-related behaviors" by 84 percent. That is a big increase - my personal experience says this is the first big step in the right direction. Don't pass over the planning phase, it's really important.

  2. Plan your strategies with as much detail as possible. Specific Goals like: I'm going to cut this many calories per day, by doing this or that. Not: I'm going to lose weight. Note: Learning to find an enjoyable way of eating that is 500 calories a day fewer than at present equals 52 pounds per year - that's one pound per week in return for an average of 500 fewer calories each day. A reasonable expectation! One or two pounds a week is realistic.
    Setting a goal of losing so many pounds in a given period has never worked for me. I set the goal of what I'm going 'to do' to lead toward weighing less. Does that sound confusing? It works better for me to specifically identify something that I can eat less of, and/or exercise that I can add that effectively gets me to where I want to go. Not just keeping my eye on a goal of a certain number of pounds without doing the specific planning that will support attaining the goal.

  3. If you're serious about losing the weight, don't roll the dice. Decide on specific tactics that you will use. What will I pack for lunch? What snack will I have? How will I get past Suzie's desk that has the candy on it? How will I distract myself from the snacks at the meeting? Will I bring something for myself, or something to share? Will I put a mint in my mouth to keep myself from eating food?

  4. Choose realistic goals. Something that is possible. Can I walk 3 times a day for 10 minutes each time? Can I have only one slice of bread with my lunch (open face sandwich) or half the starchy foods, or half the regular serving of meat, or have meat fewer times per week? Specific, specific, specific.

  5. A food diary is a great place to start. Calculating calories for a while, can help you know specifically know what's going on with your eating/exercise - help you identify exactly where your trouble spots are. It helps you become aware of your habits.

  6. Build your plan from your own preferences. Make changes to your eating plan; changes that you can live with. This is far more successful in maintaining your improvements for life, not doing the 'yo-yo thing' - losing weight and gaining it back. Think of it as whittling (like carving your new self); make some changes, observe your successes and setbacks, and then do some planning; then take the next steps.

  7. I weigh daily. I've done it for years. Weighing at the same time (before breakfast), every day (before I get dressed) helps reduce the variables. It helps me confront what's going on with weight management. Helps me learn what works and what doesn't. Yes, there can be water fluctuations. I've done it for so long; I know if I do a big physical event (shoveling snow, for example) that I may have some edema (holding on to water in my muscles) making my weight bounce up. But overall, I find it to be a benefit. Some people find it to be counter productive - you should choose what you believe will motivate you.
    Vic charts his weight on his iPod Touch; he has an app that makes a great graph (WeightBot) - it can be very motivating when it's going down or discouraging (if you let it) when it's going up. The main thing to remember is that it can be great info about what works and what doesn't work. If you use it as a motivator in watching trends, it can be helpful. If you're eating fewer calorie-dense foods and exercising more, you will eventually see the scale drop.

  8. Get your thinking lined up for success. Can you really lose the weight for good? Can you begin long-term permanent behaviors? Yes, you can!!! It's not simply will power. It's designing specific steps, making individual personal commitments - that's what will increase your likelihood of success.
    Recognize from the beginning that you are not going to rely on 'will power.' You will design new behaviors that will support attaining your goals. Do not try to exercise your 'will power.' Read more about controlling your environment as opposed to exercising your will power: Controlling Your Home Environment - Supports Healthy Weight, in the Library section.

  9. Identify strategies that worked in the past and those that did not work. For example, I know that for me, years ago, I used to give myself, weekends off, which definitely did not work for me. Knowing what works is very valuable. Your past failures do not need to be a waste. Benefit from them. Learn from them. Break the pattern of previous failures and disappointing attempts. Think about what happened; then design an altered plan based on that information.

  10. Avoid diets. Don't begin a narrow and restrictive diet - design for yourself an eating plan that has many choices, lots of variety. All-or-nothing diets (crash diets) are essentially designed to CRASH! Don't set yourself up for failure.

  11. Get out of blaming yourself! Get into confronting situations and deciding what can be done about them. Take responsibility and take charge - this is your eating plan. Be creative. Discover vegetables, fruits and whole grains that work for you.

  12. Detoxing the house: What are some of the first things that we can do to have a successful and healthy New Year? I'd say, detox the house! Did you receive lots of fatty, sugary, salty, calorie-laden snacks as gifts? Do they call your name, all the way from the other end of the house, or even while hiding inside the freezer? Get rid of them! Can't throw them out? Give them away. The highest priority is to get it out of your sight. Organize the refrigerator so you can't see items that you want to keep, but not nibble on each time you open the door.
    Remember, the goal is not to see how strong your 'will power' is. Be nice to yourself; design your environment for success. I used to give my children their treats to put in their own room - keeping it out of my sight.
    Stocking the house: Get the fish, veggies, fruit and whole grains into the house; foods that you can fill up on, that help you stay full longer, on fewer calories (not to mention nourishing.) One of the standard meals that we enjoy for weight management is a salad meal; but I need to have the fresh vegetables and ingredients in the house, ready to go. Controlling our environment (the food in our home) is not just about getting the challenging foods out, but getting the supportive foods in. See the recipe - A Salad to the Rescue.
    Another example is having fish on hand; I keep it in the freezer. An example that I used to teach, illustrates how many calories could be saved by just making a menu choice. When beef is chosen it is between 100 to 125 calories per ounce for most cuts. When fish is chosen, it is between 25 calories (white fish) and 37 (fattier fish like salmon or tuna) per ounce. Just by switching from beef to fish, you could save 300 to 500 calories per 4 or 5 ounce serving.
    Note: A 300 calories per day saving is 31 pounds per year; a 500 calories per day saving is 52 pounds per year. I'm not suggesting that you eat fish every single day, but it is one easy place to start - consider planning some fish days.

  13. Managing Failure: One of the most poignant memories from my years of counseling, which still touches my heart, is remembering how many patients struggled so to deal with failure. It was so difficult for many of them to turn their thinking around, when there was a 'failure' - an event that was not planned; it was difficult for them to remain motivated. Some wanted to give up on their plan the very first time they 'slipped up.'
    A 'slip up' is such a good opportunity, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Don't wait! Maybe a little self-talk - 'that wasn't the way I wanted it to go! Yikes! That was really not great! But O.K., that's behind me. What can I learn from this experience? What can I do next time I'm in this situation? What can I do right now? I can immediately go forward with my plan. No delay - right back at it.
    When an eating or exercise experience doesn't turn out right don't decide to start later. Start right now - go immediately back to your plan. Don't put it off - don't wait until next Monday, next Month or next New Year. This is an every day thing, your new individually designed fitness and eating behaviors.
    There will be setbacks! Think of my Melting Pot experience! Think of it as an opportunity to add to your experiences to strengthen your resolve and your success. In the December Dr. Grandma's Blog Archive there is an article titled: On Witches, Wizards and Water.

  14. Anticipating obstacles to standard eating experiences does not work 100% of the time. The Melting Pot article referred to in the last line of point 12. Above is a great example of someone (that's me) who has been working for decades at managing weight. I was not prepared for this one, but now I am much better armed for a follow-up visit to that restaurant or a similar one. It was a small detour, not the end of weight management road.

  15. Eating and maintaining normal weight is very, very complex in our society. It is rarely achieved by one big change, but by a series of small changes that add up to successful weight management.

  16. The more successful decisions you make, the bigger your bank of successful experiences you have to draw upon. For example, you choose a certain meal, now you know that meal works for you. You have a fallback plan that makes you feel good. You have nourished yourself for fewer calories; it's building a cycle toward success. The more good experiences you have the more successful experiences you will have in your weight management bank. But don't forget to use your 'failures' as fodder for new plans - new successes.

  17. Part of success is when your new behavior becomes routine; it's automatic. This really reduces the stress of decision-making for food choices. For example, not eating chips in a Mexican restaurant, or eating a pre-determined certain number of chips. After you make up your mind, you discover that you just automatically, move the basket of chips away from you, because it is your routine. It makes you feel empowered - successful.

  18. As related to exercise, start somewhere. If you need to make a goal to exercise 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunchtime, and end the day with another 10 minutes, that's much better than not doing anything. Sometimes, breaking up a large goal into smaller pieces, makes it more likely that you can make it happen.

  19. If you want to join a gym or buy a stair stepper, that great, but don't wait to get started. Go walking in a mall, if it's too cold, or bundle up and go around the block, one time, two times or as many as you can. In my native Southern California, I could comfortably walk outside all year long - thoughts of winters past.

  20. Over 90 percent of successful weight losers use walking as their primary form of exercise. Get some steady walking shoes. Once you're got the habit, you can decide to go farther, longer, faster, or up a grade, to challenge yourself. Of course, if you're not used to doing exercise, you should check with your physician first.

  21. An easy place to start is to make a commitment to not skip meals. It may take a little planning, but you can do it. When I used to take the train to Los Angeles from Moorpark (a suburb of a suburb), I had to get up at 4:30 A.M. to get my exercise done and make it to the train stop in time for the 6:30 A.M. train. I didn't like getting up so early, but I was devoted to not skipping breakfast. I had a banana (or other fruit), a container of yogurt and a slice of my favorite sunflower whole wheat bread. None of it was toasted or cooked, but all of it was nourishing. I wasn't overly hungry when I walked past the 'goodies' in the office. You can look at your situation and make accommodations that work for you. You CAN DO IT!
    Be sure to check Dr. Grandma's blog, because there will be on-going hints posted there, about specific behaviors, recipes and choices that you may want to consider. Best wishes for success in achieving your goals.