The Best Way to Go About Weight Loss: Set Realistic Expectations

When you're ready to lose weight, it's normal to be so excited that you set lofty goals and try to crunch them into the smallest time frame possible. Unfortunately, if you try to lose too much too soon, you're doomed for failure.

The right way to go about weight loss is to set realistic expectations. Craft a plan around those expectations, get support to help you follow it, and you've got the perfect set-up for success.

What's Realistic?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that your chance of success is highest if you aim for a weekly loss of one to two pounds. That means four to eight pounds by the end of one month. Since 3,500 calories are equal to one pound, your plan should cut your calories by 500 to 1,000 per day to reach your goal. Do this through a custom combination of cutting back on high-calorie/high-fat foods and working regular exercise into your schedule.

Four to eight pounds might not sound like much, but think about how it adds up. If you're able to follow your plan for three months, you'll be 12 to 24 pounds slimmer. Keep it up for six months and your loss will skyrocket to 24 to 48 pounds. At the upper range, that means you've shed almost the equivalent of five bowling balls!

How to Set Your Plan

Every good plan starts with a goal that allows you to work your way backward. Use the CDC guidelines to set a realistic weight loss goal, with checkpoints at the one, three, and six month marks. Calculate the number of calories you need to burn off or eliminate from your diet each week and decide how you'll accomplish it. Since the best weight loss plan is to move more and eat less, choose a combination of healthy eating and exercises that works for you.

The U.S. Government's nutrition website spells out five keys to successful weight loss:

  1. Reducing calorie and fat intake
  2. Getting regular physical activity
  3. Eating regular meals, including breakfast
  4. Regular weigh-ins
  5. Not using slip-ups as a reason to quit

These are all important components of a sound weight loss plan, and building a strong support system will help you follow them effectively.

You don't have to pay for weight loss support; instead, join a free online community like MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople. They offer valuable tools like calorie and exercise tracking, recipes and healthy living tips, but they also bring you together with other like-minded people. Their communities are made up of beginners and people who have lost weight effectively and are willing to mentor the newcomers. Use this support system to help you follow your plan, hold yourself accountable, and to get yourself on track quickly if you should give in to that pint of ice cream calling your name in the freezer.

Remember the Human Factor

Speaking of those slip-ups, build the "human factor" into your expectations. Calorie burning formulas are objective. They don't factor in the possibility of having a few bad days during the month or seasonal temptations like Halloween candy at work, Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas cookies, and Valentine's Day chocolates. Give yourself a margin of error; that way, if you don't follow your plan perfectly every single day, you can still meet your goal. If you manage to follow it to the letter, you'll be proud of yourself for the bonus weight loss.