7 Steps to a New You

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., March/April 2007

How one couple lost more than 100 pounds between them and how you can too.

Step 2: Set Goals

To kick off VTrim, the Blittersdorfs met weekly with about 15 others and then-program director Beth Casey Gold, M.S., R.D. The group plotted the course their lives would take for the next six months and beyond. But at the time, it felt more like they were planning to get through a single week. “That’s the principle behind behavioral intervention,” explains Harvey-Berino. “You don’t say, ‘I have to lose 60 pounds for this cruise I’m taking in December’—that’s too overwhelming. Instead,” she continues, “you set short-term, manageable, achievable goals. You achieve one, then you move on to the next.”

Although they’d dreamed of losing much more, the Blittersdorfs decided to aim to take off 20 pounds each by the end of the six-month program, losing at the slow, steady rate research shows is most sustainable: one to two pounds a week. Working with Gold, they set specific weekly behavior goals—such as squeeze in a 10-minute walk at lunchtime on at least three workdays, or snack on a piece of fruit instead of chips. “It’s this focus on the ‘hows’ of everyday life that makes this approach work,” says Harvey-Berino. “You really have to get that specific to change behavior.”

Gold also helped the Blittersdorfs set daily calorie goals, based on how many calories they needed just to maintain their current weights. A simple formula gave them a ballpark range: their current weight in pounds, times 12. Since one pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, they’d need to cut 3,500 calories on average—about 500 per day—to lose one pound a week (see “Calculate Your Calorie Goal”). Doubling that to 1,000 fewer daily calories would let them lose approximately two pounds per week. (The lowest calorie goal on the plan is 1,200 daily calories; below that level, “it’s hard to meet your daily nutrition needs,” explains Harvey-Berino.)

“The calculations were so simple, but they really worked,” says Jan. David concurs: “As an engineer, I understand formulas. You play by the rules, and the formula works.”

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