Weight-loss goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Realistic, well-planned weight-loss goals keep you focused and motivated. They provide a plan for change as you think about and transition into your healthy lifestyle.
But not all weight-loss goals are helpful. Unrealistic and overly aggressive weight-loss goals – for example, losing 10 pounds each week or fitting into your high school jeans from 20 years back — can undermine your efforts. They’re difficult, if not impossible, to meet. And if your weight-loss goals are beyond reach, you’re more likely to feel frustrated and discouraged and give up on your dieting plans.
It’s OK to dream big. Just use these 10 tips for creating weight-loss goals that will help you achieve your big dreams.
1. Personalize your goals. Set goals that are within your capabilities and that take into account your limitations. Also, consider your personal fitness level, health concerns, available time and motivation. Tailoring your expectations to your personal situation helps you set achievable goals.
2. Aim for realistic weight loss. Healthy weight loss usually occurs slowly and steadily. In general, plan to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week (0.5 to 1 kilogram) — even if your initial weight loss is a little faster in the first week or two. To do this, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day. Also, don’t expect to lose more of your body weight than is realistic. For instance, set a goal of losing 10 percent of your current weight, rather than 30 percent.
3. Focus on the process. Make most of your goals process goals, rather than outcome goals. “Exercise regularly” is an example of a process goal, while “weigh 145 pounds” is an example of an outcome goal. It’s changing your processes — your daily behaviors and habits — that’s key to weight loss, not necessarily focusing on a specific number on the scale. Just make sure that your process goals are specific, measurable and realistic, too.
4. Think short term and long term. Short-term goals keep you engaged on a daily basis, but long-term goals motivate you over the long haul. Your short-term goals can become stepping stones to reaching long-term goals. Because healthy, permanent weight loss can be a long process, your goals need to be feasible for the long term.
5. Write it down. When planning your goals, write down everything and go through all the details. When and where will you do it? How will you fit a walk into your schedule? What do you need to get started? What snacks can you cut out each day? Then track your progress to see if you’re meeting your goals.
6. Pick a date. Timing is crucial, often making the difference between success and failure. Choose a definite start date for your weight-loss program and don’t put that date off for anything. Be sure to account for life circumstances that might hamper your efforts, such as work or school demands, vacations or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting.
7. Start small. It’s helpful to plan a series of small goals that build on each other instead of one big, all-encompassing goal. Remember that you’re in this for the long haul. Anything you undertake too intensely or too vigorously will quickly become uncomfortable, and you’re more likely to give it up.
8. Plan for setbacks. Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes changes in his or her life has experienced setbacks. Identifying potential roadblocks — a big holiday meal or office party, for example — and brainstorming specific strategies to overcome them can help you stay on course or get back on course.
9. Evaluate your progress. Review your goals each week. Were you able to successfully meet your goals last week? Think about what worked and what didn’t. Make plans for how you will reach your goals both today and during the course of the week.
10. Reassess and adjust your goals as needed. Be willing to change your goals as you make progress in your weight-loss plan. If you started small, you might be ready to take on larger challenges. Or, you might find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle. If you find that you have to make frequent adjustments downward or constantly scale back, you may not be setting realistic weight-loss goals in the first place – head back to tip No. 1.