Another diet myth bites the dust! While conventional wisdom warns against setting “unrealistic” weight-loss goals, new research shows that women who go for big losses shed more pounds than those with more modest expectations.

The University of Minnesota study compared the weight-loss goals of 1,801 obese subjects with their achieved losses 2 years later and found that the biggest losers were those who aimed to lose more than the standard, “realistic” 10% of body weight. Study author Dr. Jennifer Linde told us: “For women, a 10-pound difference in goal weight was associated with 6 more pounds lost over the two-year period. So, for example, a woman with a goal weight 20 pounds lower than her friend might expect to lose 12 pounds more than her friend, on average, over two years.”

Why were the big dreamers better at dropping pounds? Says Linde, “Having higher goals for weight loss may help motivate people to make changes over a long period of time to lose more weight.” The message to dieters with a lot to lose: To downsize yourself, don’t downsize your goals. Even if you don’t reach your magic number, you’ll get a lot closer by pursuing your ideal. Successful losers rely on winning strategies, like filling up with fruit and veggies, keeping a weight chart, and exercising daily to burn calories and curb hunger.

Published July 1, 2008