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    TINAJANE76   55,982
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Setting Realistic Goals

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Friday, January 10, 2014

With the two-year anniversary of reaching my weight loss goal less than two months away, I've been thinking a lot about the progress I've made and what's been different for me this time compared to my past experiences with weight loss and subsequent regain. While there are many things that I can attribute my ongoing success to, I think that having a more balanced and realistic approach has definitely been one of the most essential and is right up there with my involvement here on SparkPeople in terms of keeping me focused and motivated in the long term.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend here a while back about long-term maintenance. We exchanged some ideas and I told her that I felt developing a sustainable exercise regime was an important component. She said she agreed, but added, "That sounds great, but how do I know what a sustainable exercise regime looks like?" It's not as easy a question to answer as it might seem on the surface, especially since what's sustainable might change many times over the course of our lives depending on our work and family situations, illness, injury and other factors. And if you're anything like me, achieving the right balance is not an easy process. There have been many times over the course of my life when I've started out a weight-loss effort all gung ho and followed my plan to a T. My diet was near perfect and I was exercising almost every day. I saw great and often very quick results to underscore the effectiveness of those efforts, but what was the long-term result? Inevitably, burnout from exercising too much, binges that stemmed from depriving myself, backslides and regain (I also didn't put enough stock into managing the emotional aspects of this process, but that's a topic for another blog).

I've written about this many times in the past, but the farther along I get on maintenance, the more I appreciate the value of balance and setting realistic goals for ourselves. I think just about all of us set out on this journey so that we can live our lives to the fullest and not simply trade a set of issues that comes with being overweight or obese--lack of mobility, diminished energy and self confidence--for another that comes with trying to maintain a very low weight--obsessive exercising, eating without pleasure and avoidance of social situations because of the food-related challenges they present. Yes, losing weight and keeping it off takes discipline and effort and that means we do sometimes have to say "no" to the many temptations that come our way, but if doing that means we're in a constant state of misery, I think we need to ask ourselves if what we're doing is really worth it. I think that there's an important and attainable middle ground that's worth striving for between accepting the idea that we'll always be overweight--so trying to lose weight is not worth the effort--and sucking all the joy out of our lives to get to and stay at a place that might not be the most suitable or healthiest for us.

In my case, there are a few things that I've had to reconcile to get to this place. Firstly, I've accepted that a weight at the lower end of the BMI range is not sustainable. I COULD weigh less, but I've never been able to stay at a lower weight because I have to live a life that's far too restrictive for my comfort level. I'm perfectly fine with being in the middle to upper range because I know that I can maintain there happily and in good health and spirit. Secondly, daily exercise, apart from the kind of activities that are part of a normal day for me like lots of walking, is not sustainable. Exercise has always been an effort for me, and as much as I appreciate its mood boosting qualities and the physical results it produces, devoting one to two hours a day to physical activity sometimes affects other parts of my life in a negative way--it cuts into sleep, time with my husband and other people who are important to me and actually adds more stress to my day instead of reducing it. So now I try to dedicate just two or three days to gym sessions where I get in my strength training to build muscle (and allow me to eat more!) and focus on more intense cardio sessions like interval training. The rest of the time, I just try to move as much as possible and do active things that I really like such as dancing. If I have a lot more time on my hands, like I do during my summer vacations, I'll up the intensity and frequency of my workouts, but with the understanding that it's temporary. And, lastly, connected to my ideal weight range, I've had to decide what's an acceptable eating strategy for me to maintain in the long term. My line in the sand has become about 1,500 calories--and that's my absolute minimum even if I'm trying to drop a few pounds after a vacation where I've put on a few pounds, for example. Eating less than that is not satisfying for me and will typically lead to binges. So if that means my weight will be a little higher, I'm okay with that. I'm not willing to sacrifice feeling physically satisfied to achieve a lower weight. I cringe when I look back at what I used to think was an acceptable amount to eat every day in order to lose weight and I have to admit that I shudder when I see other people aiming to lose tons of weight in a short period of time by eating far too little and/or exercising far too much. I've been there and the end result was never pretty.

My hope is that, with additional time, my body will fully adjust to my new normal and I won't need to worry so much about calories and pounds. But for now, I'm content to use these ideas as the template for my ongoing maintenance. They mean that I don't have to live in a constant state of restriction or stress over what I can't have and what I have to do. More simply, they keep me focused on the realistic, long-term goals I need to keep working on to ensure my continued good health and happiness. There's an awful lot of trial and error that goes into finding that happy balance and it can be a scary place to explore because there are so many unknowns involved. But it's really the only way we can figure out what works best and what doesn't for us in the long run. And I think we constantly need to ask ourselves which pieces of the puzzle are worth dedicating our efforts to and which aren't so that we can live not only healthy lives, but also happy and balanced ones. Because that's what all of this is really about.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MISSUSRIVERRAT 2/15/2014 7:56AM

    Very insightful, wise blog.

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STARDUSTD 1/19/2014 11:59AM

  I'm glad for you that you found a happy balance and that weight loss for you didn't entail trading one set of issues for another.

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EFFRAYECHILDE 1/18/2014 1:51PM

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FITTEREVERYDAY 1/17/2014 7:42PM

    That's interesting to me! I've found day to day exercise sustainable but counting calories is not (I've done more than fine with portion control/eating healthier). I am aiming for the top end of my BMI range because I've never even been able to maintain even the middle without resorting to starving myself and overexercising and the top is fine, I've been there (6-7 years ago) and was happy with it. I wasn't fat by any stretch and could do anything I wanted within limits (bad knees that I've had since childhood).

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HOLLYM48 1/17/2014 1:46PM

    I totally agree with you! I have reached 6 months of maintenance without gaining and I have finally found a place that works for me. The right amount of food and the right balance of exercise. I am so happy for you that you have found the right balance and your are comfortable with it. Thanks for sharing this very insightful blog with all of us! Way to go!

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KMCOOK75 1/17/2014 9:53AM

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CTHCTH1 1/15/2014 11:08PM

  I have been working on balance in my life for over 40 years and it requires continual tweaking for me because my life is rarely static. I loved your blog because it highlights the area I am really focusing on now and affirms what I am trying to achieve, as well as including lots of ideas I hadn't considered. Thanks for sharing your experience! emoticon

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EJB2801 1/15/2014 10:15PM

    This is so true of my life, even though I have yet to get near "goal weight." Some things really are beyond our control so far as what we can fit into the time and commitments we have. My mistake for several years was to allow the overwhelming responsibiities to block any action whatsoever towards improving my health. Thanks for writing these important things down.

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KIMBERLY_Y 1/14/2014 12:57PM

    Way to go! You are truly an inspiration! Spark on!!!!
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GEORGE815 1/14/2014 7:21AM

    Good work. 2 years is a great accomplishment.

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PACKERMANN 1/13/2014 5:25PM

    Great blog post on attaining vs sustainable. i'm in that middle-ground right now. i've lost 45lbs and kept them off for a year...but i'd like to lose 20 more. what to do? i'm trying to watch my eating a little closer and see if i can't lose the rest, although a bit slower than the first year's loss.

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ADVENTURESEEKER 1/13/2014 8:17AM

    Congrats on figuring out (and continuing to do so) what works for you! Isn't it funny how everyone is so different? While you find the exercise portion to take an effort and trying to exercise more than a few times a week to make you miserable, I enjoy working out everyday- boxing, running, lifting, etc. I'd do more if I had the time! The eating is the struggle part for me. However, I find I can eat quite a bit and still lose weight. It's all about finding what works for us!

Keep up the awesome work.
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CUDDLYPOLARBEAR 1/13/2014 8:14AM

    great post

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TINY67 1/12/2014 8:39PM

    emoticon emoticon

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MONTREAL12 1/12/2014 8:27PM

  emoticon and congratulations on reaching your goal. Thanks for sharing your most realistic approach to maintaing your life-style. Appreciate it! emoticon

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MARYJEANSL 1/12/2014 6:28PM

  I really like the word 'realistic.' I think that's the hardest thing for any of us (and, of course, probably different for everyone) to do - establish, and then live by, realistic goals for eating and exercise. You seem to be on top of it all, for which I congratulate you.

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JOANNHUNT 1/12/2014 5:25PM

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SUMMIOZ 1/12/2014 4:12PM

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SAMMI-SAM 1/12/2014 3:32PM

    emoticon can't wait to say that-

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SHIDAHB 1/12/2014 2:25PM

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BESYKES 1/12/2014 12:56PM

    Helpful! I share some of the challenges you've faced. This helps. emoticon

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RANNYJ 1/12/2014 11:20AM

    Great post! emoticon

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KANOE10 1/12/2014 10:10AM

    I agree with you. Finding a happy glanced life is the way to go in maintenance. You will accomplish much more if you are not miserable in areas of your life. You have found what works for you to be healthy and happy.

Only two more months for the big anniversary!

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SUNSHINE20113 1/12/2014 7:24AM

    Great insight, and really true! I'm also finding its about what's sustainable, so rather than extreme goals with regard to food and exercise, they've become quite moderate, and extremely do-able in my daily life. Thanks for sharing!

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MAREE1953 1/12/2014 5:53AM

    Balance in my physical well being (exercise, sleep, nutrition) results in a balanced emotional state of being. Too important to ignore. The longer balance is maintained, the more our brains become wired to stay at this "happy state". Thus resulting in a new and achievable "normal". What I've learned, anyway! Congrats on your 2 yr mark!!

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THE_SHAKESHAFT 1/12/2014 4:38AM

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ROXYCARIN 1/12/2014 3:42AM

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BLUEJEAN99 1/12/2014 12:30AM

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CORNERKICK 1/11/2014 11:48PM

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CLAYARTIST 1/11/2014 9:02PM

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LIVELYGIRL2 1/11/2014 7:44PM

  I do understand what youe saying, it's hard to keep that number, md no one wants to diet forever, and think of diet and exercise every minute. On the other hand, those numbers don't always want to stay put. You have some excellent ideas. I hope this works for you and others. emoticon emoticon

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SCRAPBECCA 1/11/2014 6:49PM

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CARRIELYN56 1/11/2014 6:42PM

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PATRICIAANN46 1/11/2014 6:35PM

  It sounds like you have the recipe for success. I wish you the emoticon

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DIANNEMT 1/11/2014 6:24PM

    I wonder what I will be able to keep doing--I don't know if my level of exercise is sustainable in the long run--but i will do it till I cannot! And some foods I just cannot have--I will eat ALL instead of a little.

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ROCKYCPA 1/11/2014 5:59PM

    emoticon emoticon

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NEWTINK 1/11/2014 5:57PM

    Balance is a key here . very good blog emoticon

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WOOFERCOALBOY 1/11/2014 4:37PM

    good reasoning, very sensible.

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SAMMYSWEETPEA 1/11/2014 1:24PM

    Great post! I don't think there's enough information out there on the maintenance phase & I believe that lack of information is part of the reason why so many people re-gain weight. They've lost it, but now what?

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MRSRIGS1 1/11/2014 1:16PM

    emoticon emoticon

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NONNAOF2 1/11/2014 12:22PM

  You have figured it out on making your life work for you! :-)

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TUTUNAN 1/11/2014 12:11PM

    This is a very good, sensible blog. After all, we are in this group because we want to live a healthy, happy life. Thanks for putting it in perspective !

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NEPTUNE1939 1/11/2014 12:05PM

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JIBBIE49 1/11/2014 12:01PM

    emoticon great to see your blog featured in the Spark Mail. You are the emoticon

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IAMAGEMLOVER 1/11/2014 11:51AM

    emoticon I eat about 1250- 1300 calories a day.

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SGCSVCEEC 1/11/2014 11:46AM

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