Realistic Goals

This topic is somewhat of an overlap to previous articles (setting success goals, dimmer switch and coping with a lapse), but setting day to day realistic goals warrants its own discussion.

Humans in general and dieters in particular, tend to be perfectionists and as a result try to be perfect all the time. If they slip on their diet they feel guilty and suffer from a loss of self worth, which often sets off a negative viscous cycle of overeating.

The negative emotional response usually occurs as a result of initial goal setting. If we say that we will never slip on a diet and a slip occurs, we feel guilty which often leads to thoughts about giving up and quitting. If we expect to exercise every day and we miss one day, once again, failure thoughts occur, leading to wanting to give up exercise altogether. In addition, expectations to lose weight each week sets one up for discouragement, self-blame and thoughts of “throwing in the towel” if the scale doesn’t go down every week.

Working more with “realism” instead of “perfectionism” has helped a great many of my patients. Learning to set more realistic goals in the first place is a key in preventing negative guilt feelings. (Remember: Guilt is often measured by the difference between the goal that we set and the degree of achievement of that goal).

Changing, “I will never slip” to, “I will follow the diet the best I can”, leads to satisfaction and a desire to do even better. Instead of a rigid goal of exercising every day, try increasing your level of activity at your own level and pace. You will find that the increase is steady and you will feel a sense of pride in doing something positive. Instead of expecting weight loss every week, accept a more realistic goal of perhaps a loss ten out of twelve weeks. You will realize that you will lose weight most weeks and will feel good about your hard work.

Once again, by being realistic, you have a great chance of achieving your goals. You will break the negative guilty viscous cycle, feel good about yourself and make a significant positive impact in your weight control efforts.

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