Losing weight — especially when the goal is to lose double-digit amounts — can seem like a daunting task, but a health and wellness expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) said the key is to take it one step at a time.
“If we set lofty weight loss goals, like 10, 20 or 30-plus pounds, and we don’t make progress quickly enough, it’s too easy to get distracted and have our emotions convince us that the goal is not achievable,” said Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., director of UAB Employee Wellness.
Whitt explained that breaking down goals into smaller, more manageable short-term targets, like losing one to two pounds per week, can lead to better chances of success.
“Once those first one or two pounds are lost, you can celebrate,” Whitt added. “Then the next mini-goal can become the focus.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a benefit to these smaller weight-loss goals: People who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping the weight off. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, the CDC recommends reducing caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
Another tactic to target weight management gradually is to stop focusing on losing the weight, but instead on not gaining a pound more.
“Look at the number you are now, and tell yourself you will stay right there,” Whitt said.
Grant Martin, an editor with the UAB Office of Public Relations and Marketing, participated in the state of Alabama’s Scale Back weight-loss contest on a team at UAB, and he used this mindset to help lose 16 pounds over the 10-week contest — six pounds more than the Scale Back goal.
“I started running to help with my weight loss, and I got on the scale every day to make sure I wasn’t going backwards,” Martin said. “Often there wouldn’t be any change, but weighing regularly kept me motivated so that I was able to drop a pound or two each week.”
Martin added that participation in a contest that involved having a team also helped him.
Whitt said a team of people supporting you, whether in a contest or in an individual weight-loss plan, is crucial.
“They are the ones who can pick you up and encourage you on a day when it feels overwhelming,” Whitt said. “These same people will also challenge you to continue to push forward, helping to propel you to greatness and encourage your efforts.”
Lastly, do not focus on failure, Whitt noted. If there is a week where the weight loss plateaus, or the total weight lost at the end of the timeframe set does not meet initial goals, persistence is crucial.
“If you put forth effort to achieve a goal and fall short, you still have accomplished a great amount, so be encouraged,” Whitt said. “Take a moment to be happy with your progress and remember that you still have the opportunity to set a new goal to achieve.”