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Realistic vs. Unrealistic Expectations

Today’s post is another excerpt from “Best Weight: A Practical Guide to Office-Based Weight Management“, recently published by the Canadian Obesity Network.

This guide is meant for health professionals dealing with obese clients and is NOT a self-management tool or weight-loss program. However, I assume that even general readers may find some of this material of interest.


Realistic vs. Unrealistic Expectations

Take a minute to conduct a reality check before your patient leaves the office. A realistic goal might be to achieve a 5%–10% weight loss at the rate of 0.5–1 kg (1–2 lbs) per week. It is important to emphasize the significant health benefits that can result from a 5%–10% weight loss. Unrealistic goals (e.g., 18 kg or 40 lbs in four weeks) reflect a lack of understanding of the basic principles of energy balance. As the patient’s body becomes smaller, it also burns fewer calories. The initially large caloric deficit produces gradual weight loss but finally reaches a floor, whereupon the body settles into a new caloric equilibrium. Once patients reach this floor, they will need to find new ways to establish a caloric deficit if they want to lose more weight. A simple tool that plots the anticipated rate of weight loss and illustrates when they are likely to reach the floor is an effective management tool.

© Copyright 2010 by Dr. Arya M. Sharma and Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. All rights reserved.
The opinions in this book are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Members of the Canadian Obesity Network can download Best Weight for free.

Best Weight is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles (part of the proceeds from all sales go to support the Canadian Obesity Network)

If you have already read Best Weight, please take a few minutes to leave a review on the Amazon or Barnes & Nobles website.


  1. Where might I find such a “tool,” that helps determine when weight loss is likely to reach a “floor” of caloric deficit effectiveness? I’m about to come up on 20% original weight loss after six years of working on it in stages, but in the last three months I’ve lost about 10% of my October starting weight on my current plan, about 2 pounds a week recently. I’m currently at a BMI just below 36 (was 44 in 2004).

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  2. Finding a fomuls to determine calorie equalibrium would be most beneficial for me Istarte the Weight Wise program in March and by the end of March I was losing one pound per wek average until this month in which I gained 3 1/2 pounds. I feeling kind of down because of that. There were however, one week where my foot (post operatively prohibited light walking) and ten days where cold an snow kept me house bound. While this is an explaination it is still a downer. I started with a BMI 40 and I am now down to 36. While I should be proud of my accomplishments is this part of the unrealistic expectations that you are refering to in todays articale. Thanks

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  3. One problem comes in when we have these BMI thresholds that people are trying to get below. For me, to get below “obese” to the “overweight” category of BMI represents a more than 30% weight loss, when I’m already maintaining a 17% weight loss from my highest weight, or 33% of my “excess weight.” I’ve found an equilibrium that I can maintain, but in the eyes of most people and providers, I’ve failed to lose enough weight.
    I know for me that focusing on living a healthier life will allow me to get the nutrients I need and still get pleasure from eating, as well as have the energy I need for my busy life and energy to be physically active, which I know also supports my health and helps prevent me from gaining weight. I don’t know for sure if I’ll weigh more or less in the future, but I know that the way I eat and the amount I move are helping me to maintain good bone health, good heart health and good mental health.

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