How are you defining success in your weight loss journey?

Sep 08, 2022

By: Tedi Nikova, MPH, RD

Edited by: Brianna Bavota, RD


How are you defining success in your weight loss journey? 

Is it by the scale? 

The food choices you make? 

or is it how you feel?

As a Dietitian and Health Coach, a mistake I often witness clients make is basing their success on an ‘ideal’ weight loss journey that has been formed by diet culture. Some of these beliefs include…

“I am only successful if the scale moves 1 pound per week”

“I am only successful if I avoid all processed foods and skip dessert”

“I am only successful if I am ALL IN on this eating and movement protocol”

When success is defined by a number on the scale or harsh restricting patterns, this often leads to thoughts of deprivation, animosity towards eating, and ultimately unsustainable habits! 


So how might you want to define your success?

One of the first steps our team encourages is finding clarity on what success looks like for you. We call this Your Success Criteria. So what are Success Criteria? Success Criteria are standards that are set that allow our clients to identify when they have achieved success! 

A word of caution- avoid having success criteria that are based on outcomes you do not have direct control over, such as the number on the scale. Instead, envision how you will know when you are getting closer to the best version of yourself. That woman that has a healthy lifestyle, has no food guilt, and has a healthy relationship with all foods. How would she feel? What would she do? How would she show up daily?

Here is an example of my top 10 success criteria:

  1. I am eating all foods in moderation. I don’t have ‘not allowed foods’.
  2. I am making food choices based on how these foods make my body feel.
  3. I view food as neutral, rather than labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
  4. I can enjoy travelling and spontaneous activities with my loved ones without stressing about what I will eat.
  5. I choose to move my body in enjoyable ways.
  6. I am surrounded by peers that support my health goals.
  7. I feel confident in making balanced food choices in any circumstance.
  8. I honour my body by only eating when I am hungry and stopping at enough. 
  9. I am not using food as a form of comfort when I am bored, stressed, or overwhelmed.
  10. I am making time daily for self-care. 


What is the danger of not defining success?

You get stuck in the comparison trap. When there is a lack of clarity around what success looks like in your journey, you may get stuck in the comparison trap. This trap consists of comparing your success to somebody else’s. This may sound something like this, “See.. that person lost 8 Ibs in their first month of this program. I only lost 2 Ibs!”. Remember-you will have a different rate of weight loss than the person next to you, as weight loss is largely genetically determined.

You will always feel like you are failing. In the book Gap and the Gain, Dan Sullivan describes how as humans we are wired to focus on the Gap; in other words, we are more inclined to focus on what we are missing, not accomplishing, or not doing in our health journey. If you are not clearly defining what success looks like to you, you may get stuck in always feeling like you are not doing enough. Celebrate those small wins!

You get hooked into unsustainable behaviours. When there is no clear success criteria, you may get pulled into fad diets, extreme fitness routines, or develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Slipping into unsustainable habits may lead to short term success in the ‘ideal weight loss journey’, with weight loss on the scale, however these results will most likely be unsustainable. Even more concerning is that these behaviours may pull you further away from how you envision living your best, and most healthy lifestyle!


Now it is your turn, what are your top 10 success criteria?


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