What’s a Realistic Weight Loss Goal?

So, you’re thinking about losing weight and getting your body into fabulous shape. You’ve been flicking through magazines and have decided you want to look like a reed-thin Victoria Beckham.

As a dietitian I want to shout, STOP! We all have the capacity to lose weight, but most people set their sights on a dream that is unrealistic and end up disappointed.

So, what is a realistic weight loss goal? One you can achieve and maintain long term?

Healthy is best

Every time we lose weight/fat, something sad occurs. The cell that once held that fat never leaves us. It simply lies dormant in our body waiting for the next time we relax the reins so it can restock some more fat back into that cell. Fact is, we can create new fat cells, but we never lose them.

Our body likes to be at a healthy weight. And when we’re at that point, we’re able to maintain our weight without too much difficulty. Our body is not happy being below a healthy weight or being ‘underweight’.

A ‘healthy weight’ is for most people is within the 20-25 BMI. This can be calculated by dividing your mass by your height squared. Working out a healthy weight for your height is often a really great place to start when setting a weight loss goal.

Also read: Calculate your BMI

A realistic goal

For those who have yo-yo’d regularly, another strategy involving your weight history may be more successful. Think of your highest body weight (e.g. 96kg) then your lowest body weight (e.g. 68kg). Work out the weight that is in the middle of these two figures (e.g. 82kg). Once you reach this mid point, you may wish to review your goal again.

Often reaching your healthy goal weight can be a daunting task, especially if you have a lot to lose. I always suggest that people approach their weight loss by setting smaller incremental goals of 5kg at a time. Each of these losses are certainly progressive steps in the right direction and deserving of a pause, reflection and pat on the back.

Also read: 16 Signs You May Be Overtraining

Steady weight loss of about 500g to 1kg each week is great. If you think you’re going to lose 20 kilos in a month, forget about it. Be smart about your goal by considering either your weight history or using a healthy BMI as a good starting guide.

Bottom line is this: your body likes to be healthy and it’s at a healthy body weight that you will be able to maintain long term. So start by setting a healthy goal. Good luck!

Our 12 Week Body Transformation will help you reach your goals, with weekly Meal and Exercise Plans, Shopping lists and more.  Or if you’re looking for a great time-saving option, Voome is the perfect source for great recipes and workouts.  Healthy living has never been easier.

Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

    You may also like


    1. I’ve done the 12week program a couple of times and love it I’m struggling at the moment as my body is staring to hurt every where not muscle soreness but aches and pains I had a couple of xrays and u/s but it didn’t show up anything. My back legs and elbows are all hurting some days more than others I’m 48 and was exercising 5/6days a week with boot camps and running. Feeling frustrated at the moment and unsure where to go from here

      1. Hi Chris – Great job in maintaining a healthy lifestyle – we are sorry to hear of your aches and pains however 🙁 Away from the usual muscle soreness you can expect post-exercising, acute, worsening, or persistent pain or discomfort that cannot be clearly explained can be a strong hint from you body to pull back on the reins a bit. On 12WBT we ask members devote at least one workout per week to flexibility/core strength, and this day along with your designated rest day are super important to allow the muscles to heal and grow, and also to reduce the risk of injury. If you are keeping fit with Bootcamps and running across 5-6 days in your week, that’s pounding your body pretty hard with little chance to recover! If your medical team are ok with you continuing to exercise, maybe dropping your workouts back to 4-5 per week and making one of those a stretch/core workout (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, BODYBALANCE, Pilates, etc.) will help to settle your symptoms. Swapping a running day for swimming or aqua-jogging is a good idea too – you’ll still get the cardio benefit but without the impact on your muscles and joints!

        Additionally, to function optimally, please check that you’re also eating and hydrating sufficiently throughout your day too, and keep your doctor and/or physio updated on how you progress!

        Wishing you all the best,
        12WBT Support Crew

    2. Hi Lisa, thanks for your advice. I have set a realistic goal weight – 62kg in 3 months (which is a total loss of 6kg). However, I also want to set a goal relating to my waist measurement. Since turning 30, I have noticed that I have started to put on weight in the ‘danger zone’ around my middle. I recently measured my waist, and I was shocked to learn that it is 78cm (only 2cm off the unhealthy range). So… I am doing this program for my health. I have never participated in a weight loss program before, so I am unsure about how to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal relating to reducing my waist measurement. Appreciate any advice you may have – thanks.

    3. I have done the 12 week program before and had to compromise on some of the meal choices with a young child however I did lose 8 KG and went from a size 14 to 12 in pants. I have been a bit lapse with the exercise but not completely. Some of the weight has come back and I also struggle with some of the exercises from one leg being larger then the other. Do I just do some of the weight bearing sets on one leg, mainly quads without making it any bigger or is there different exercises I should be aiming for. I enjoy doing the running/walking for 30 mins sprinting then 1 minute recovery but think its increasing my leg width further.

      1. Hi Naomi,

        Great job on your achievements on the program! An 8kg loss is awesome – especially as you have to make a few modifications when considering your little one too. Nice work! For future reference, here’s a handy resource for you: …no need to compromise – word straight from the mouths of the little peeps can’t be wrong 😉

        When it comes to your training, to even out muscle imbalances head for the free weights rather that the machines. Isolation exercises using one side/arm/leg at a time and using the same weight and reps for each can help pull you back into equilibrium. If sleeker thighs are your goal, then running longer distances over flat surfaces is the way to go! If running isn’t your thing, then swimming, cycling, or rowing, (once again – longer distances, moderate-high intensity with little or no resistance), are all good options. Try to avoid powering up your workouts – hills, interval sprints, and explosive movements, despite being a fantastic way to workout – can work against your end goal.

        Finally, embrace the stretch! Regular and consistent stretching not only relieves tight and bunched muscles, it also reduces the risk of injury, and increases your range of motion. By increasing your flexibility, you’re also lengthening your muscles, and that can change the appearance of them too!

        Wishing you all the best 🙂

        12WBT Support Crew

    4. Hi
      I also have an under active Thyroid. Currently medicated. I mentioned to my Dr recently my constant battle to lose and maintain weight. 1300-1400 cals (even with constant exercise) is my “maintenance”!!! Hence why I feel like I am always on a diet and always starving. My Dr has increased my meds, not seeing any real impact yet, but just thought I’d share with others that this “sucks”! I’d liove any dietary advice re this condition too.

      1. Hi Deann,

        Medications combined with an underactive thyroid is a tricky combination for weightloss… BUT it can still happen! You need to think of yourself as an ultra marathon runner, and all other people are 100m sprinters. So they are going to finish their weight loss race in a shorter time than you – but you are still in the race! Your race is the same race, it’s just in a different format. Fill up on plenty of non-starchy vegetables and include protein snacks to keep you fuller for longer. Don’t give up – everything you do to improve your health with have a positive impact in the long term AND will eventually get you to goal weight

    5. Great advice as always Lisa!

    6. I’ve done the 12week program a couple of times and love it I’m struggling at the moment as my body is staring to hurt every where not muscle soreness but aches and pains I had a couple of xrays and u/s but it didn’t show up anything. My back legs and elbows are all hurting some days more than others I’m 48 and was exercising 5/6days a week with boot camps and running. Feeling frustrated at the moment and unsure where to go from here

      1. Hi Tracey,

        We’re so sorry to hear of your discomfort right now – you poor thing! If you’re not experiencing your usual DOMS, then it’s time to re-evaluate your journey, because it seems that your poor bod is not happy with the path it’s taking! First off, great job in consulting your medical team for assessment. For acute or adverse events like this it’s really important to get the professionals on board first. Although the X-ray results didn’t provide a definitive diagnosis, no doubt they ruled out a few issues at least… Why not take a snapshot of your week to see if you’re overdoing things? -For example, are you eating well and eating frequently throughout the day? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you ensuring one of those training days is dedicated to core and flexibility work and are you completing the stretches each day as well? Five to six days of running & Boot Camp is enough to run anyone into the ground! Are you drinking enough water? Have you considered regular deep tissue massages (most people treat their cars better than their bodies!)? Does a reduction in the intensity or duration of your workouts improve your symptoms? Do some exercises trigger this reaction more so than others? What about working out different times of the day? The answers to all these things can help knuckle down on the underlying issue, so don’t be shy in feeding this back to your doc! In the mean time, I’d suggest dropping a workout or two and don’t push so hard in those you keep on. Take time to stretch and relax, and consider some pool workouts until you can figure out what’s going on. These can still challenge your fitness but are much kinder to your joints 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better soon.

        12WBT Support Crew

    7. I would be interested in any advice similar to Grace’s question (13/4)regarding HasHimoto’s, as I too have this and while I feel healthy just cannot shift kilos or centimetres.

    8. What can you recommend to people with thyroiditis or Hashimotos? I have it and am following the March round of 12wbt doing the 10km running, I have not lost a gram of weight or any cms when I did the 4 week measure. On the good side I do feel a lot better and my fitness is increasing too.

    Comments are closed.

    More in Fitness