Is Your Target Weight Realistic?
How to set health goals that you are likely to achieve
Most digital health tools provide the option to set a personal goal that you want to work toward. Many people focus on reaching an ideal weight, but other goals might involve getting a high daily score, changing body composition, improving sleep, getting off meds, resolving a chronic condition, or simply feeling better.
In the Senza App for Keto & Fasting, we encourage new users to set a Target Weight under their profile, so they can track progress toward that goal. But how do you decide on a number to enter, and is that even the right metric to track? Recently, we asked the people in our keto community how they chose a target weight. Most of the survey respondents said they picked a number that corresponds to when they remember feeling or looking their best.
The problem with this approach is that for many of us, it’s unrealistic to reach the exact size and shape we were in much younger years; and even if we can get there, it may take so long and require so much emotional fortitude that we’re likely to give up before reaching the ultimate state. Attaining health goals is about changing habits, which takes time and determination, plus at least a basic understanding of behavioral psychology. Don’t set yourself up for failure right out of the gate by fixating on an overly ambitious weight goal.
An interim target for the short- to medium-term will allow you to experience the feeling of progress, which builds confidence and helps you stay motivated over time. Whether you are setting your first target weight or building on past experience, consider these seven tips to maximize your success.
#1 Define a "S.M.A.R.T." health goal
In any aspect of life, goals that produce results are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. How does this apply to a health journey following the keto way of eating?
Specific: Whether it’s a certain weight, body fat percent or other state, be precise about what you want to achieve through the lifestyle changes you are making.
Measurable: Document your starting point and know how you will measure the results. The scale is the most common method with keto, but measuring inches, clothing size, body scans for muscle vs. fat, and other techniques may be more relevant for some individuals.
Attainable: Although you may want to keep an ideal weight or size in mind, try to think of your goal as a set of stairs and take it one step at a time. As one Senza user told us:
“I went in 10-lb increments, so as to not set too high a goal. When I lost 10, I reset my goal for 10 more, and so on. Until I lost 31lbs, which I felt was enough. The areas on my body that I wanted to change had changed, so now I maintain.”
Realistic: It took decades for your body to reach its current state and you cannot expect to reverse all the damage overnight. Try to approach the journey in a stair-step way, so that you see progress and stay motivated. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a 10 percent improvement and then set a new goal each time you hit a milestone. The book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is a fantastic resource for learning how to make small changes that add up to big progress.
Timely: Instead of fixating on an ideal size or shape that could take a year or more to achieve, begin with a focus on the short- or medium-term. For example, how much progress could you make in three months, if all goes according to plan? Shorter-term goals reduce the likelihood of procrastination, too. Read “The power of short term goals” for more on this way of thinking.
Pro Tip: If you're serious about achieving a long-term goal, write it down. Get a journal, poster board, or even a post-it note. Then break the goal into smaller milestones that you want to attain along the way. Keep this list somewhere that you'll see it often.
#2 Celebrate non-scale victories
Although a keto diet leads to weight loss for many people, your goal doesn’t have to be a number of pounds. In fact, weight alone is not a great indicator of health - it just happens to be easiest to track. We encourage Senza users to notice changes in body composition, energy, cognition, sleep, stress levels, mood, immune function, and other indicators of progress. In keto lingo, we call these results non-scale victories (NSVs). Recognize these milestones and be sure to celebrate each small win along the way!
Pro Tip: Start keeping track of symptoms you’re wanting to improve as you go through this keto journey and check in on a weekly basis to gauge your improvement.
#3 Expect a bumpy road
Ups and downs are an inevitable part of the journey to optimal health. When going keto, many people expect to lose a drastic and consistent amount of weight each week, and they are discouraged to realize that the body doesn’t work that way. Initial weight loss can be rapid, due to a loss of fluids (called the whoosh) as the body lets go of retained water. After this happens, weight loss slows to an average of 1-2 pounds per week and the rate of loss tapers as you get closer to your goal. Although this may feel like slow progress, steady and sustainable weight loss is more likely to prevent loose skin, keep the weight off, and maintain your hormone balance.
Here are some examples of actual weight graph trend lines from users who've experienced success with the Senza app:
#4 Understand weight loss vs. fat loss
Weight loss is a catch-all term that’s widely used when in reality, the term “fat loss” is more accurate. All body weight is not the same, and losing weight in certain places can actually be problematic. For example, you can lose water weight, muscle mass, bone density, and even weight from your organs - all of which you want to minimize and ideally avoid.
This mindset shift can be discouraging because we’ve been conditioned to chase a number on a scale or a BMI, rather than a certain body composition. When you switch to keto, if you eat adequate protein and add in resistance training, you’ll maintain and build muscle while shedding excess stored fat. Your overall body composition can change drastically, while your weight remains fairly constant.
If you don’t eat enough protein, you’re likely to lose muscle mass, and this can slow metabolism, increase risk for injuries and impair hormone function. Check out this podcast with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon on Revolution Health Radio to hear how important muscle mass is for a healthy metabolism.
So as you’re getting started with your keto journey, understand that weight loss is not the same as fat loss and body composition changes may come before the number on the scale decreases.
Pro Tip: We recommend setting a body fat percentage goal instead of a long-term weight loss goal. A DEXA scan, for example, will help you determine your current body fat percentage, and you can check this regularly to determine how your body composition is changing.
#5 Consider the quality of your calories
Both macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are critical to your success with keto. Aside from hitting your macro goals within Senza, note that the quality of the food you’re eating will contribute to your success or hinder your progress. Nutrient-dense foods are essential if you want to support optimal energy, sleep, hormones, mood, exercise recovery, and stress response. Some of the best options include meat, seafood, eggs, bone broth, butter, sea salt, and organ meats.
Big Food companies are wise to the keto movement, and they want you to buy low-carb processed foods like breads, tortillas, pastas, cereals, diet sodas, protein shakes, protein powders, bars, and other convenience foods. Most of these products contain artificial sweeteners, gums and thickeners, food dyes, synthetic vitamins/minerals and other additives that can interfere with hormone balance, inflammation, digestion, sleep, and more. Avoid these packaged foods as much as possible, even if they “fit your macros,” and choose whole-food ingredients instead.
Pro Tip: Simplify your meal planning, shopping, and meal prep process with one of the free keto meal plans published on The Planet Keto Blog. We also have a Keto Food Shopping List to guide your grocery shopping decisions.
#6 Prepare for daily fluctuations in weight
Daily fluctuations in weight are completely normal. Try not to panic! Stress, sleep, hydration, digestion, and hormones all can affect your exact weight by several pounds day-to-day. Watch the weekly trend to gauge your progress, rather than daily or hourly changes.
Pro Tip: If you do want to weigh yourself on a daily basis, try to do it at the same time each day, ideally, first thing in the morning, when you are fasted.
#7 Nutrition is just one aspect of overall health
Changing to a keto diet can help with fat loss, metabolic function, and many chronic conditions; but if you get stuck, remember there’s more to your health picture than just the food you eat. A past history of restrictive diets, chronic stress, lack of movement, impaired sleep, hormonal imbalances, and other preexisting conditions can make fat loss more challenging. Your success with keto depends on more than just hitting your macros. Weight stalls of a week or two are a normal part of the journey. If you’re finding that your weight stalls are lasting longer than that, it might be time to work on other aspects of your health.
Pro Tip: Find a coach, nutritionist, doctor, or other practitioner who understands and supports your approach to lifestyle health. This kind of 1:1 guidance provides emotional support as well as expertise to put you on a path to success.
Content provided by Senza is not medical advice. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only.