Don’t be disappointed: Set practical weight loss goals

In keeping well through the Covid crisis and beyond, Martina Gallivan warns about the pitfalls of weight loss perfectionism.

If you’ve previously lost weight, were you successful in doing so? And if you were, how successful were you in keeping your excess weight off?

Many of my clients continually strive for perfection in weight loss. Often, they express disappointment when they don’t reach their objective on the scales. And although it’s important to set a goal, your target shouldn’t be unrealistic or unachievable. In reality your body won’t and cannot perform to a specific command.

“You shouldn’t expect your weight to reduce overnight. It takes time and patience, diligence and strategy”

However, if you’re following a set food plan diligently there’s no need to worry, you’ll get the results you’re looking for eventually.

A lifestyle decision

Most people who set impractical weight loss goals are doomed to what they perceive to be personal failure. But the truth is there is no failure in weight loss. There’s no time limitation either because losing weight has to be a personal choice you make in order to change your lifestyle.

Recently I had a client who expressed dismay when I weighed her. She believed she should have lost 6lbs, but had only lost a couple of lbs at the very most. I was surprised at this because before I weighed her, I had asked how her week went.

She said it was great but there had been what she described as an indiscretion at a weekend family barbeque. Everything was going well with her food choices. There had been healthy chicken and vegetable skewers on offer which she chose. I remarked on how healthy those choices were.

However, she then informed me she had got caught up in the event and since everyone else was tucking in to triple burgers and beer, she had felt a little left out and decided to join in. Subsequently, she overate and drank too much.

The following day, she not only felt hungover but also felt terribly guilty and therefore decided since things had already been messed up, she would continue to comfort eat. I explained the fact that in doing all of that, to even lose 2lbs was an achievement in itself. Most people wouldn’t even lose that much weight after having such a weekend.

Think ahead

I explained, it would have been a far better solution to check in with herself when she was first tempted into consuming burgers and beer. Had she thought of it logically, burgers and beer won’t succeed in getting the results she so desired.

That’s why one of the more important lessons I teach in client sessions is when you’re losing weight and are faced with a trigger- try to think ahead. Think of the consequences your actions could potentially have if you give in. if you do this, you may be able to intervene in time saving yourself from unnecessary anger and angst.

Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. It happens usually over a prolonged period of time. And therefore, equally you shouldn’t expect your weight to reduce overnight. It takes time and patience, diligence and strategy.

With weight loss the focus should be to lose the first 10lbs. But don’t be tempted to put a time limitation on it. See how your body reacts and more importantly how you feel.

For example, are you able to handle your food plan? Are you adhering to portion sizes? Have you shopped correctly so that you don’t get caught out and possibly be tempted into ordering take-out meals? Incorporate a weight loss strategy into your life.

When losing weight, you have to think of it as a continuous journey. It shouldn’t be a quick solution to getting your weight off and then forgetting about it, because that’s a sure pathway to probably regaining all of your weight. And if that happens, you’ll eventually find yourself on a weight loss hobby horse once again and that’s when it all becomes very monotonous.

You also have to live your life as normally as possible. We’re aware that there are very restrictive diets which purport to guarantee a fast weight loss, but they’re not realistic and you will probably regain the weight again relatively quickly.

It is possible to enjoy the process of losing weight. However, it is a state of mind. Weight loss can either be as difficult or as easy as you want it to be. Therefore, if you venture into this area, thinking about the things you’ll miss will likely cause undue stress and resentment. It’s a much more productive strategy if you go in with an open mind and enjoy the process. Begin to look at it in a different way and I guarantee it will be a lot easier for you to handle.

Total perfectionism in weight loss is impossible to achieve. Striving to be 100pc all of the time puts an unnecessary ultimatum on oneself and can lead to self-defeat and a sense of deflation and depression.

Losing weight should be for all the right reasons. Health always being your fundamental goal. Thinking about how you’ll feel, how you’ll look, and how you’ll succeed in gaining control over your food consumption as opposed to the other way around.

And in all of this it’s crucial that you cut yourself some slack and in doing so, it will be a far more enjoyable process.

Martina Gallivan is a nutritionist and director of RK Cardiology Healthy Living Ltd. If you are interested in learning more about health and lifestyle medicine for you or your family contact her at or follow @rvkelly