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Set Yourself Up for Success with Realistic Weight Loss Goals

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You no doubt have thought about why you are getting weight loss surgery: to lose weight. But how much weight do you expect to lose, and by when? How will you know whether you are on track, and how much progress you are making?

Setting realistic goals is one more step you can take to improve your weight loss surgery success. can help you succeed. Goals can keep you focused and motivated, but some goals are more helpful than others. This is why and how to set realistic goals after WLS.

Why Does It Matter?

There is an expression that goes, “Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon.” The idea is that if you set your sights high but fall short, you will still achieve something great. The theory may sound good, but it may neglect to consider reality.

The truth is that for many of us, another saying is truer: “Success breeds success.” That is, when you hit one goal, you are motivated to keep working towards your next one. You build momentum as you hit goal after goal, and those goals then act like stepping stones to those proverbial stars.

The Trap of “Too Much, Too Fast”

There is a common tendency overshoot when it comes to weight loss goals. These are some reasons why.

  • We want to lose weight so badly that we think only of the dream goal.

  • Most of us tend to think of ourselves as above average – so we set our weight loss goals at higher than average.

  • We set deadlines that are too short because we are so focused on getting there that we forget to recognize how wonderful the journey is.

  • We set our goals based on what someone else lost.

Classic Failure: “All or Nothing”

One of the surest ways to set yourself up for failure is to set your weight loss goal to be too many pounds within too little time. It is comparable to the “all-or-nothing” mentality that so often comes with dieting: you are doing fine until you eat a cookie, and then you figure that the day is wasted, so you might as well finish the bag of Cookies, skip your workout, and order pizza and breadsticks for dinner.

The same mentality after weight loss surgery can get you into the same trouble. If you aim for an unrealistic 20 or 30 lb. in your first month and instead hit a respectable 5 to 10 lb., the “disappointment” can discourage you so you do not try as hard.

Realistic Weight Loss

The amount of weight you can realistically expect to lose depends on your procedure, how much you have to lose, and your own drive and other individual characteristics. An average gastric bypass or sleeve patient might lose about 50% of excess weight. For example, Someone who is 5’4” tall and weighs 245 lb. has about 100 lb. of “excess” body weight and might set a goal to lose about 50 lb.

Another way to look at it is to take a rough estimate of average weight loss with your procedure for your surgeon’s patients. You might use that number as the basis for your own weight loss goal. You could also look at your final goal – say, 100 lb. down – and divide that by 1 to 2 years – in this case, a seemingly modest 1 to 2 lb. per week.

Setting Realistic Goals

For weight loss or any other goal, you can follow certain guidelines for realistic goal-setting. Set your goal to:

  • Include a realistic amount of weight loss.

  • Leave yourself enough time to achieve that amount.

  • Include interim goals that you can Celebrate and use as motivation.

  • Provide for rewards as you progress, so you stay motivated.

  • Allow enough time for plateaus and setbacks. They will come.

Keep It in Perspective

Strange but true…weight loss is only one of many reasons to get weight loss surgery and follow a healthier lifestyle. What about…?

  • Gaining energy?

  • Getting healthier?

  • Feeling more confident?

  • Participating in more of life?

Along with setting weight loss goals, you can set other goals for healthy eating, working out, and trying new things. You will always have something to chase after and you will be able to see more progress every day.

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Great post. Thanks Alex!

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I like the idea of interim goals -- under 250lb, under 200lb -- but what if I've decided on a finish-line goal that's unrealistic? What factors help me to determine a reasonable finish-line goal? My height? My body type? Should my finish-line goal include extra skin? If so, how do I determine the weight of extra skin?

I don't want to set up myself for disappointment, or worse, feel as though I've failed.

I realize that there is no real finish line because after I reach that almost-magical finish-line goal number, the next leg of my journey is maintenance. (I came up with the term "finish-line goal" because it's a nice visual to break through a finish-line ribbon.)

Edited by Missouri-Lee's Summit

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