Guest contribution by Dr. Joti Samra
Many people, especially at this time of year (post-Christmas and pre-summer) like to set weight loss goals for themselves.
Rather than thinking in terms of any extremes, the first thing you need to do is establish a realistic and healthy weight goal – both for the short-term and long-term.
If you are aiming for a goal that is unhealthy or unrealistic (“lose 40 pounds by summer”), you are setting yourself up for failure. And unfortunately, this can contribute to a yo-yo effect in terms of both dieting behaviours and weight fluctuations.
You can easily find body mass index (BMI) calculators online which can provide you a reasonable approximation of what a healthy weight range should be for your height and sex. Speaking to a physician, dietitian or nutritionist can also help provide you with some guidance.
Once you have revised your target goal, remind yourself that slow and steady definitely wins the race. Guidelines suggest that it is unhealthy to lose any more than 1 to 2 pounds per week – so keep this and your current weight in mind when establishing a weight loss goal.
The principles of weight loss are not complicated, and most people know what it takes to lose weight. Weight loss requires increasing activity, and decreasing caloric intake (through a combination of reducing the amount of food eaten and making healthier food choices).
Be mindful of the types of limits and expectations you put on yourself – often, these are the biggest psychological barriers to not being able to stick to weight loss strategies.
Black or white thinking when it comes to weight or diet changes is never effective – which is part of the reason diets fail more often than not.
Try to not make “all-or-nothing” statements such as “I will only eat a salad when I go out for dinner” or “I will never eat junk food”. Instead, make realistic goals you can stick to, such as “I won’t eat junk food after such-and-such a time at night” or “I will limit alcohol intake when out with friends to a maximum of two drinks”.
These goals are much more realistic, and you are more likely to be successful in sticking to them as you are not depriving yourself. Remember, you can always revise and refine your goals if you aren’t reaching your target weight loss.
Finally remind yourself that weight changes take time.
This article is adapted in part from an article Dr. Samra wrote for The Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/i-keep-sabotaging-my-weight-loss-can-you-help/article555861/).
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational and media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Million Dollar Neighbourhood” and was the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s “The Bachelor Canada”. She has also served as a psychological consultant and expert to a number of other TV shows and news outlets. Dr. Samra maintains a clinical practice in Vancouver. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra