Setting realistic weight loss goals

Many people believe that unless they lose all of their excess weight to achieve an ideal body weight then there is no point bothering. This, however, has been clearly established not to be the case. The general global consensus about the benefits of losing weight is that a 5-10% loss in body weight will hold significant health benefits1,2.

The health benefits of a 10% weight loss are outlined below1:

Benefits of 10% weight loss


20% fall in total mortality

30% fall in diabetes related deaths

  • Almost 19% of the UAE3 population and 13% of the KSA4 population are living with diabetes

40% fall in obesity cancer deaths

Blood Pressure

Fall of 10mmHg systolic and 20mmHg diastolic pressure


50% fall in fasting glucose


10% decrease in total cholesterol

15% decrease in LDL

30% decrease in triglycerides

8% increase in HDL

In guidelines for Lifestyle Weight Management Services recently published by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) in the UK, emphasis is placed on discussion of realistic weight-loss goals5.

It is recommended by NICE, that the expectations and information needs of adults thinking about joining a lifestyle weight management programme are addressed as follows:

People should understand that there are many more benefits to losing weight than just weight loss per se e.g. reduction of risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, both highly prevalent in the MENA region3.4. Five of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world are from the Arab Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, KSA and UAE.
Changes in diet and physical activity levels should be for the long-term.
The more weight they lose, the greater the health benefits, particularly if someone loses more than 5% of their body weight and maintains this for life.
On average, people attending a lifestyle weight management programme lose around 3% of their body weight, but this varies from one individual to another.
Preventing future weight gain and maintaining a lower weight trajectory leads to overall health benefits.
The need for effort and commitment by the patient – they need to play their part too!



  1. Jung R. (1997) Obesity as a disease. Br Med Bull 53: 307-321
  2. Pietrzykowska NB. Benefits of a five to ten percent weight loss. Accessed on line August 2014 at:>
  3. World Health Organisation (2011) Plan of action for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region Accessed on line August 2014 at:
  4. International Diabetes Federation Middle East & Borth Africa. Saudi Arabia Accessed August 2014 at:
  5. NICE (2014) Managing overweight and obesity in adults – lifestyle weight management services. NICE public health guidance 53 Accessed on line August 2014 at: