A healthy road to weight loss: Starting your journey


Stop setting unsustainable weight-loss goals.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people set goals to lose a specific amount of weight in a specific amount of time, and many — perhaps most — end up not meeting those goals because they come to realize that the journey to get there is unsustainable.

“You don’t want to look at this as “reaching an ideal number on the scale,” said Deviny Mo, manager of UCLA Health Sports Performance powered by Exos. “There’s a pass/fail connotation to that. People either fail to reach their number and lose confidence in themselves or once people reach their ‘ideal’ weight, they go back to old habits that don’t support what they worked hard for and bounce back. I like to tell my clients to look at it as a journey of change.”

Mo offered a key piece of wisdom: Don’t let a number determine your end goal. Instead, weight loss should be embraced as an ongoing venture during which significant changes to the body are made along the way.

Adopting a consistent pattern toward a healthier lifestyle will lead to multiple benefits. “As a result of eating better and being more active, your quality of life is going to get better,” Mo said. “And during the process, you’re losing weight and feeling more energetic at the same time.”

Deviny Mo, manager of UCLA Health Sports Performance powered by Exos, assists athletes and clients with nutrition and exercise. Photo by Joshua Suddock/ UCLA Health

How do I determine how much weight I need to lose?

Don’t make it about your weight. Make it about your “why.”

“A lot of my clients come in telling me they want to lose weight, and the first thing I ask them is ‘why?’” said Mo.

Identifying your “why” can help you determine how much weight you want to lose. Answering that question will pivot your focus from a number on a scale to the internal reasons underlying your desire to lose weight.

“Maybe they are new parents who feel they need more energy to play with their kids,” said Mo. “Or maybe they’re at an age where they don’t feel as capable or strong as they used to, and they know that shedding weight will help. It’s really about reframing the concept of losing weight to what it is you truly want to accomplish beyond weight loss.”

How long will it take me to see results?

As people begin their weight-loss journey, they wonder when they will see results.

That depends.

Body type, age, time committed to exercise, the quality of the food you are eating — all of these factors play a role. Everyone’s journey, as well as their outcomes, will be different.

“I want people to understand that the journey doesn’t stop after eight weeks. What is realistic is to make changes that will last through the rest of your life,” said Mo.

Sustainability is essential.

“We don’t want to set drastic goals just to get us to an arbitrary number and then, once we’ve reached that number, start to slip backwards,” said Mo.

Establishing a healthy relationship with food and exercise over time

Establishing manageable expectations is imperative to the journey. Rather than focusing on what foods to remove from your diet, for example, consider the good things you can add — fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and lean proteins.

Don’t try to supercharge your weight loss by going too hard at the gym, particularly at the start. If you’re just beginning, first check with your doctor to assess your physical condition, and if he or she says it is safe to work out try going two or three days a week for moderate exercise — both cardio and resistance — in addition to making minor adjustments to your nutrition.

Doing so will result in better time management and less stress, said Mo. “If you’re trying to force exercise and diet to lose weight at the expense of other things that are important, like spending time with your family, that’s not going to last. Something is going to give,” she said. “Instead, try to focus on making subtle changes to both diet and exercise so you can stay consistent for the long haul.”

Visit our sports performance page to learn more about weight management or reach out to your primary care physician.