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Dear Dr. Baskett: I have lost about 30 pounds and feel good about that. However, I really want to lose more and can’t seem to make that happen. I’m becoming discouraged. What can I do?

Dear Reader: I can appreciate your sense of discouragement. However, don’t feel that you have failed. Weight loss is very difficult and is a journey that never ends. Realize that you don’t necessarily have to be at your ideal body weight to improve your overall health.

Research has shown that even weight loss of 5 to 10 percent can result in many health benefits such as:

  • 5.0-point increase in HDL or good cholesterol.
  • 5mm Hg decrease in blood pressure.
  • Improvement of 0.5 to 1.0 point in HgbA1c.
  • Decrease in insulin resistance.
  • Improvement in sleep apnea and the ability to get off of a CPAP machine.
  • Decrease in the inflammatory chemicals produced by the fat cells.

A study asked 100 individuals to determine what their dream, happy, acceptable and disappointed weight goals would be. The results were that to reach a dream weight would require up to 38 to 40 percent weight loss, while reaching a disappointed weight would result in a 17 percent weight loss. After 48 weeks of the study, not one person reached their dream weight. However, nine reached their happy weight, 24 reached their acceptable weight and 20 reached their disappointed weight. This means 47 people did not even reach their disappointed weight goal.

My advice would be to make realistic weight-loss goals. What you weighed when you were 20 years old most likely will not be what you weigh at 50. Instead, focus not only on weight loss but improvement in body composition — more muscle on your body relative to fat tissue. Try to prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy weight over the long term — that is success in the field of bariatric medicine!

Dr. Kathleen T. Baskett is medical director of the St. Vincent Healthcare Weight Management Clinic.