The Danger in Setting Weight-Loss Goals

Football Player is Landing on His Right Hand, Holding Football with Left Hand
Setting weight loss goals can be dangerous
because they often cause you to crash and burn.

All of your life, you've been chasing after goals and trying to obtain them. But why? 

What is it that you really want? 

And what do you think losing weight will get you in return? Approval? More attention? Better health? 

Expectations rarely work out the way you think they will, which only turns into disappointment, anxiety, and frustration. Here's how to ditch the anxiety that setting goals brings, so you can start living instead of dieting.

From the moment that you entered this world, people have been pushing their ideas and suggestions at you. 

Maybe, you haven't realized this aspect of life yet, and maybe you have, but either way, one of these many, many suggestions that society shoves in your face is that you:

Need to Set Goals

The idea of setting weight-loss goals is driven by the belief that you will receive a certain reward for having achieved that goal. You'll get something after you're thin. Being different than you are now is supposed to bring approval and relieve your feelings of anxiety and insecurity. 

This is what most people think because this is what we've been taught.

But just how true is it?

Will reaching your weight-loss goal actually relieve you of your guilt and feelings of inadequacy?

If you hate where you are now, you may have designed a low-carb weight-loss action plan to help you get the fast results you're looking for. Whether that happens, or not, setting goals is what you believe you need to do, so you experience this unending, insatiable desire to achieve your goals.

It's almost like an obsession, at times.

The urge to get what you want, exactly when you want it, in return for all of your efforts, is just that strong.

Goals and expectations motivate you to stick to a weight-loss plan. This is how you've been conditioned. You believe you need something outside of yourself to hold yourself accountable. Something to make you do it.

Make you diet.

Being accountable to a weight-loss plan or some group of like-minded folks will help you get what you want. This is true. The reward factor gives you that little boost in courage you need to keep going. 

However, there are several negative effects that occur when you grasp onto the iron rod of goal setting, and it's these negative effects that can be so dangerous to your low-carb diet.

Goals Happen . . . When?

Let's take a moment and look closer at the whole idea of goal setting. Goals are like a cupcake that is dangling out in front of your face. 

Like rabbits, dieters are continuously chasing after that enticing, tasty reward of thinness for having endured the deprivation and suffering it takes to get there.

We Chase After Thinness Even Though We Never Get There

  • You want to be thin.
  • You can see it.
  • You can feel it.
  • You can even taste it.
But you can't quite reach out and grab it.

No matter how fast you run or how much distance you travel toward the goal, that sweet treat is still just beyond your reach. It will ALWAYS be just beyond your reach because that is the nature of goals.

What is the Nature of Weight-Loss Goals?

Weight-loss goals are not about today and what's happening in your life right now.

They are not about making lasting lifestyle changes. They are expectations, the rewards you expect to receive at some point in the future. However, that reward lives in a place that doesn't exist yet.

As a result, goals become something you must have, or must achieve, before you can be happy. Before you can appreciate or approve of yourself, and before you can enjoy your life, you must reach the goal.

I see this all the time.

Many people who choose the Atkins Nutritional Approach say they want Atkins to be a lifestyle change, but lifestyle isn't what they really mean.

Thin Woman Running on Beach Sand
For some odd reason, many low-carb dieters don't care about how much weight they lost during the Atkins Induction phase. Once it's over, the results of completing Phase 1 disappear.

Even those who dropped a whopping 15 pounds in the first two weeks are not satisfied with what they've accomplished so far. 

Instead, their focus is on how far they still have to go. 

They want their future goal to materialize right now. Not in a few weeks or months from now.

Right now!

Maybe, you feel the same way. Maybe, you've stalled short of goal weight and have begun to reconsider the whole lifestyle thing. You're willing to tolerate the diet's requirements, but only if it gives you a reward -- all the time! 

Otherwise, the whole Atkins process of recreating yourself and evolving into a new and better you is no longer worth your time and effort. You don't want to bother with a lifestyle that won't give you results right away!

Is that about right?

It is all or nothing. 

What matters is the end-goal, the final result, the destination of thinness, and what thinness represents for you. What thinness promises you. Or what you've imagined thinness is promising you.

What's important, above all other things, is getting what you believe you deserve for having deprived your self of carby foods for all of these weeks or months. 

Dieting, and especially low-carb dieting, isn't really something you want to do. It's something you're trying to use to gain a little happiness in your life. 

Except . . .

I will be happy when . . .”
I won't be happy until . . .”

Know what? 

For most people, that day never comes.

Nature of Happiness

Lasting happiness is an illusion because happiness is only temporary. It comes and goes.

For most people, happiness occurs when you don't have challenges and things going wrong in your life.

Happiness is when you feel content with things as they are because life is peaceful and nothing is opposing what you want to do or have.

There's nothing wrong with that. 

But eventually, at some point in your life, something is going to disrupt the contentment that you find so valuable. And when it does, you're going to fall off the throne of happiness and into the mud puddle below.

Child Playing in a Mud Puddle
Nature of LIFE brings plenty of mud puddles.

When you do . . . 

You're going to experience anxiety, disappointment, hurt, and then start looking around for someone or something to blame.

More often, than not, the blame goes to a low-carb lifestyle.

Low carb isn't doing what you want it to do. It's moved from being a viable method or tool you can use to get the happiness you believe you deserve to blocking your way. Low carb is preventing you from reaching the end-goal.

There is no such thing as, “I will be happy once I've lost the weight.” 

You're either happy now, or you are not.

Challenges won't stop coming into your life once you reach the weight you want to be. 

You'll still have to live with yourself exactly as you are. 

You will still have people in your life that do not like you, appreciate you, or approve of what you say and do. These people won't magically change how they feel about you, just because you become thin.

You will still receive nasty comments, experience rude or jealous people, listen to others judge you. You'll also likely discover that most people will continue to be more concerned with their own welfare and personal desires than they are with yours. 

None of that will change just because you become thinner. Becoming thin has nothing to do with happiness.

What Happens When You Set Up Weight-Loss Goals?

I don't know who first decided that setting up a goal weight was a fantastic thing to do, but goal setting has almost become a disease of modern society.

Everywhere I turn, I'm bombarded with folks trying to sell me on the idea that I need to set up some type of goal, so I can work on improving my self. 
Target with Arrows Missing the Center of the Target

No, I don't.

Setting goals is like a virus. The idea takes on a life of its own. Goal setting ideology has been repeated and repeated for so long now, no one even remembers who first came up with the wacky plan.

And yeah, the idea of setting goals is wacky.


Because the outcome of goal setting is almost always anxiety, misery, and pain.  

That's what you really get for going through the goal-making and goal-striving process. And since few people ever reach the weight they want to be, most people only experience the negative effects of dieting. 

They never get to the good stuff.

Instead, you fear that you won't achieve your weight-loss goal, so you become anxious and frantic when stepping on the scale. If the number isn't what you want to see, you grow even more anxious, and start to worry that you might have made a mistake by using a low-carb diet instead of some other weight-loss plan.

When the scale doesn't drop a pound or two every single time you communicate with it, if the weight doesn't come off fast enough to soothe the anxiety and fear, you get disappointed, hurt, upset, and start running around looking for who or what to blame for your stall.

Never mind that a pause in weight loss isn't defined as a stall until you've gone at least 6 to 8 weeks without having lost any pounds or inches. 

It's been 3 days and you want to see those numbers going down right now, or else! 

If the scale doesn't get with the program, you're going to quit your low-carb diet and try something else.


Because the Atkins Nutritional Approach is only a method to achieve the goal. The goal means more than anything else.

Do you really WANT to quit your low-carb diet? Or are you just using another method (demanding) to try and control the process?

What Happens to Those Who Do Reach Maintenance?

For those who somehow manage to reach their weight-loss goal, the anxiety and fears you had during the weight-loss phase do not magically dissolve. Although you're thin now, you are so anxious and fearful that you'll gain the weight back, that you still obsess about each and every pound you gain or lose.

Self-discipline is needed to maintain your losses, but I can't help wondering if the cost of being thin is worth the price of all that anxiety and fear. 

If anxiety is what thinness is really like, then you'll have exactly the same negative mindset that you have today. You'll still feel deprived, insecure, and resentful because of what you have to do, or not do, to maintain your loss.

How you think and what you feel won't change when you reach goal weight.You're going to be the exact same person you are today.

If losing weight is a physical game for you, a numbers game, then your expectations are going to bury you in a whirlwind of uncomfortable emotion and dissatisfaction when you discover what weight management actually costs.

You've reach your goal, you're now thin, but what have you actually achieved?

Expectations always result in anxiety, disappointment, and other uncomfortable emotions when those expectations are not realized.

How to Break Free of the Vicious Cycle of Goal Setting

The emotional cycle of expectation, struggling for the ideal, not reaching it, feeling hurt and disappointed, and then running around looking for blame just keeps you living in misery. It's a vicious circle.

The truth?

Goals bring misery, and that misery increases stress hormone levels. The crazy emotional cycle is forever ongoing. It never ends. You just go around and around in a circle, chasing your own tail.

There is only one way out of the misery that goals and expectations create:
  1. Stop setting goals.
  2. Stop setting up expectations.
  3. Stop living in the future.
  4. Accept yourself as you are, right now.
  5. Enjoy what you're experiencing today.
Tomorrow will take care of itself, especially if you're serious about making your low-carb diet a lifestyle change.

If low carb is your life, then take personal responsibility and make it your life.

What Low-Carb Dieters Don't Know About Maintenance

If low carb isn't your life, if you're using a low-carb diet as a temporary fix or some type of crash diet to achieve what you think you want, you're going to be sadly disappointed when you get there.

The amount of calories you can eat at maintenance won't be what you're expecting. 

You'll never be able to eat like you could before. 

In fact, you'll have to eat less than what others can eat at the same weight. Most online calculators won't work for you any more.

Statistics show that 80 percent of those who reach what they want to weigh are not able to maintain the weight loss for even a year because they don't understand what physically, mentally, and emotionally happens once they shed the fat. This is especially true for low-carb dieters because you are using the starvation pathway to achieve your goal. 

For most people, the body fights hard to refill its fat stores once you begin to introduce additional carbs or calories. 

If you're still in a deprivation mindset at pre-maintenance and resent what you have to do to embrace your goal and stay thin, then you'll probably be of that 80 percent and return to your old self.

Dr. Atkins never handed out any mental or emotional tools that I'm aware of to help people cope with the mental and emotional aspects of weight management, other than a variety of nutritional approaches

His focus was always on overturning the physical problems that interfere with weight loss, which is exactly what most thought-leaders within the low-carb community are also focusing on today.

Everyone is talking about how to lose the weight and not about what you have to do to maintain it.

The Atkins Nutritionals company does have a pre-maintenance and maintenance plan. They've pretty much held to Dr. Atkins beliefs in that aspect. 

Those who are slightly above goal weight can start returning healthy carbs to their diet, 10-net carbs per day at a time, until weight loss stabilizes  -- that's maintenance.

But what they don't tell you is that when you add carbs back, you have to lower your fat calories, to compensate for the carb calories, or you'll start to regain. 

This is the biggest reason why most people haven't been able to return very many carbs to their diet. They are adding more food.

Weight management is a numbers game. 

Returning carbs to the diet is just another way to jack up your calories, so if you want to be able to eat more carbs, you have to eat less fat.

Weight Management is a Different Game

Huge Soccer Ball with 2 Men Trying to Play Soccer with It
Weight management is not as easy
as you think it will be.

Weight management is more difficult than simply stuffing your mouth with low-carb foods whenever you feel the urge to binge. 

While overeating low-carb foods might work as you're shedding the pounds, resulting in a temporary setback, overeating won't work once you stop dieting. 

In fact, the amount of calories that a dieted-down person can eat to avoid weight regain is quite shocking. It won't be anything like what you could eat at the beginning of your low-carb diet.

If your mind and emotions haven't evolved along with your body, so that food becomes less important to you than living, if what you believe and how you think about food hasn't changed, weight management will be extremely difficult.

Probably, impossible.

For that reason, it's best to go into the Atkins Nutritional Approach, or whatever low-carb diet you've chosen to adopt, with a goal-free attitude. 

Instead of trying to tell your body what to do, and demand that it live up to your expectations, let go of the misery of goal setting and just accept what a low-carb approach can do for you – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • Let go of your expectations.
  • Let go of the urge to see the scale move every day.
  • Let go of the false idea that a diet works or doesn't work.
Instead of worrying about some arbitrary goal weight, stand back from what you're doing and take a long, deep breath. When it comes to making lifestyle changes, how fast the pounds dissolve – if they even do – isn't important.

The intent of a low-carb diet is not fast weight loss. The reason why you restrict carbohydrates is to correct any metabolic imbalances that might be interfering with your ability to lose the weight using a standard low-calorie diet.

Non-hunger is where it's at.

Low carb makes it easier for you to make healthy food choices and eat at a calorie deficit. 

If you quit your low-carb diet because it isn't working fast enough, or because you don't want to count calories, then what's the alternative?


  1. Great article! We've all suffered because of goal-setting, especially when we set unrealistic
    expectations and expect instant gratification. Your article is timely for me as I have recently come to the same conclusions and have felt much better about my life as a result. I'm now attempting to bring my loved ones to see this as well! Thanks for such a heartfelt article!

    1. Thanks for sharing your insights. And good luck with helping your family. Unrealistic expectations can be a large hurdle.

  2. Love this post and the images that explain the point.

    In addition, I agree with you on your ideas. I've had similar experiences over the last 40 years. At this point, I'm tired of "dieting."

    My mind use to be occupied with the weight loss goal and the supposed vision of what I would look like. And those times I thought I achieved the vision, it was only for a short time. Hence I've been on diets for so many years. Each time thinking this is the last time.

    Keeping the weight off always became an issue.
    What's interesting is how the mind tricks you into believing in "endings." I finally realized that there isn't an "ending" to anything. It's still a process, though, such as life. Things keep changing.

    I like how you summed up the real purpose of low carbohydrate plans: to address metabolic changes that underlie weight.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. The need of "having" to reach that weight-loss goal really tripped me up. No endings. I can remember Agent Gibbs of NCIS saying something similar: "The game never ends Dinozzo." At the time, I thought, gosh. I don't want to HEAR that. But you are so right. There's no end to anything really. Things change, adapt, evolve, but nothing ever stays the same.

      I keep thinking that our mindset, and what we believe about diets as well as ourselves, affects our weight-loss efforts more than we realize.

  3. I think one of the reasons why we're driven to give in to this goal-setting goal is because of the pressure of the people around us and our urge to prove ourselves, or prove them wrong. This mindset diverts all your attention to achieving that goal instead of losing weight to become healthy and live happily in your life. Honestly, we live our own life so we should stop seeking for other's approval and start living our lives to the fullest.

    1. Wonderful insights. Thanks for sharing them. Living our lives to the fullest is really what life is all about.


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