Today, I want to talk about setting realistic, obtainable goals. Over the last 35 years, I have watched my patients, family and friends set grandiose goals and then fail to reach those goals. I have been guilty of the same. My patients have taught me many lessons and I want to share two patients’ histories with you.

Paul was morbidly obese. He had been on multiple diets, losing hundreds of pounds and ultimately finding what he had lost plus some. This time Paul’s stated goal was 75 pounds. I pleaded with Paul, requesting that he adjust his goal to a more realistic and sustainable number. I like 10 pound goals. Ten pounds is relatively easy to lose. I told Paul that once he lost his ten pounds, he could go for another ten if he so chose. Paul was insistent on losing 75 pounds.

Paul lost 50 pounds and then hit a plateau. He just couldn’t manage to lose his last 25 pounds. As he struggled, he got more frustrated. He lost sight of how good he looked and how much better he felt. He saw himself as a loser. One month into his plateau, Paul’s dedication to losing 75 pounds faltered. He started gaining weight. Today, Paul has found the 50 pounds he lost plus twenty more.

Had Paul set a realistic, obtainable goal of ten pounds, he would have won the battle five times. He would have been able to revel in success. He would be ten pounds from his next goal and been able to survive his plateau. Often, we set ourselves up for failure when, in fact, we had achieved a great success.

Joan decided she needed to exercise. She was overweight and truly out of shape at the ripe old age of 35. She had been athletic in high school and college. Her mind remembered what being in shape felt like, but her body did not. Joan decided to buy an exercise routine from the internet, PX90. Her desire to exercise was laudable but her chosen method questionable. On the fourth day of her newfound exercise routine, Joan presented to the office with severe abdominal pain. Two days and many hundreds of dollars later, it was determined that Joan’s pain stemmed from a severe muscular strain caused from intensively exercising out of shape muscles.

Both of these patients had the right idea. Both wanted to be healthy. Both live in a world whose inhabitants strive for instant gratification. Both set very high goals. Both failed. If you look at life as a sprint to the finish line, Paul and Joan got out of the blocks quickly. If you look at life as an endurance race, neither paced themselves and both failed to reach the finish line. It’s the story of the tortoise and the hare all over again.

From a doctor’s point of view, life should definitely be a marathon race. It’s not how fast you get to the end of the race; it’s how long can you run. Setting long -term goals makes sense. The proverbial chicken gets to the other side of the road 1 step at a time.

The next time you decide to exercise, start by walking just 10 minutes and stretching 10 minutes a day. After a week, increase to 15 – 20 minutes a day, then to 30. When you can walk 30 minutes without hurting, pick up the pace. When you can run at four miles an hour for 30 minutes, you are ready to add light resistance training. In high school, the saying was, “No pain, no gain!” In the adult world, it should be “Pain, no gain!”

The next time you decide to lose weight, be happy losing 10 pounds. Ten pounds is a significant win! Ten pounds lowers your risk of hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol problems. You can revel in your success. If you want, you can go for ten more. Most people never really lose weight; they just misplace it. Resolve that what comes off stays off.

Most of all, don’t set yourself up for failure. Be happy, be healthy and run a very long race!

Here’s today’s joke:

I went on the vodka diet recently.

I lost three days in one week.

One more:

So I’m at Walmart picking up a bag of dog food for my dog. Waiting in the long line the lady behind me strikes up a conversation. She asks if I have a dog, and I think, why else would I be carrying this big bag of dog food?
Then I said “No, I’m starting the dog food diet again. Even though I ended up in the hospital last time.” She looked horrified. I continued, “But I had lost 50lbs before I woke up in the hospital with IV’s and feeding tube and a broken arm and pelvis and a concussion.”
“Oh Dear!” She said. I told her that it was the perfect diet, that you fill your pockets with the nuggets and when you feel hungry you just pop a couple and eat them. And since the dog food is nutritionally complete it works great, and I really want to try it again.
Now everyone in line is listening to me and our discussion. She asked, “Well, was it the dog food that put you in the hospital?”
“Oh, no,” I answered, “I stepped off the curb to sniff a poodle’s butt and a truck hit me…”
I thought the guy behind her was gonna have a heart attack he was laughing so hard…

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