Have you ever been in a situation where you need to lose weight, maybe a lot of it, but you’re not really sure where to start? Well, other than “eating healthy and exercising” like you’ve heard every health and fitness guru in the world talk about. Today we are going to talk about how to set weight loss goals that you will actually achieve. I’m not a health and fitness expert by any means, but I have been down this road a few times before and I know what strategies work (for me) and which ones will put you back on the couch with a bag of Cheetohs and a defeated attitude. Not that that’s ever happened to me…
As you’re setting your goals, keep in mind that they are YOUR goals. Not someone else’s goals for you, but your own. The quickest way to quit on a goal is by not being committed to it. Before you begin mapping out your weight loss goals, make sure that you are 100% on board with what you’re asking of yourself. Below you will find seven tips to consider when setting weight loss goals for yourself.
When you’re setting your weight loss goals, you need to shoot for the moon while still being realistic about things. Maybe you need to lose 100 pounds. That’s completely doable and I’ve heard of many people that have accomplished that goal. The number isn’t usually the problem when it comes to setting a realistic goal – the timeframe is. You can’t expect that you’re going to lose 100 pounds in just a few months. That would be incredibly unhealthy and probably wouldn’t have the long-lasting effects you’re looking for. Sure, they do it on The Biggest Loser all the time, but let’s be real. They’re also locked on a ranch with nothing to do but exercise, eat healthy food and get yelled at by Bob Harper all day long.
On average, a person can consistently lose 1-2 pounds per week. Some might lose more, especially when they first begin a new eating plan or cut certain things (ahem, sugar) out of their diet. Increased exercise can actually cause a temporary weight gain, but remember, you’re building muscle and as we’ve heard a million times, “Muscle weighs more than fat,” so don’t be discouraged if that’s the case.
Give yourself plenty of time to achieve your goals, but do have a specific timeframe in mind or you might let off the gas a little bit. Get out your calendar and pick a date. This date can be a holiday, your birthday, the start of a vacation, or really, it can just be a random day you pick with your eyes closed. Now circle that date on your calendar and set some goals that you want to achieve by then. Having a date in mind will keep you moving toward that goal with urgency.
Focus on Small Increments
Everyone has a different number in their mind when it comes to weight loss. It might be 5 pounds, it might be 125 pounds, but it’s still your goal. When I set my initial goal, it was 60 pounds and I can’t tell you how daunting that seemed. Ah, who am I kidding? It still seems daunting and I’m a third of the way through it!
The key to making it manageable is breaking it into smaller increments. They say the easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, right? Well, break your weight loss goals into smaller “bites”. (Those are bites of salad, not cheesecake, by the way. We’re trying to lose weight here!)
Personally, I’ve broken my weight loss goals into smaller bites in two different ways: 10 pound increments and milestones. The 10 pound increments are pretty self-explanatory, but the milestones are a little different. I have two big milestones I’m working toward and those are my pre-pregnancy weight and my wedding weight. Those two numbers break up my huge weight loss goal quite nicely. Between my milestones and 10 pound increments, my big number of 60 pounds seems a lot easier to achieve.
Write it Down
It’s a proven fact that you are more likely to follow through with a goal when you write it down. Something about writing out what you want to accomplish makes it real. It’s something that you can hold in your hand and your drive to achieve it increases. So you need to think about your big goal and your bite-sized goals and write them down! After you’ve written them down, post them somewhere. It could be on the refrigerator or somewhere in the kitchen to keep you from grabbing that ice cream or those cookies. It can be on your bathroom mirror where you look at yourself each day and tell yourself that you can do it. You could even put your goals in your car if that will help you refrain from hitting the drive thru!
You also need to write down what you’re eating. Not just a couple of your meals, but every single thing you put in your mouth. Nothing makes me more aware of what I’m eating than when I have to write it down. You might not be a pen and paper kind of person or you’re on the go a lot. Have no fear! There are many great apps that you can download to help you track your food on the go. You can find dozens of apps out there, but I’ve used both My Fitness Pal and the Fitbit app and I like both of them. Find one that fits your needs and USE IT!
Reward Yourself – But NOT with Food
We all love rewards, right? Blame it on our society’s need for instant gratification if you want, but seriously, I will work harder if I know I’m getting something out of it. Especially if it’s something I really want. I’m not alone in that am I? So when you’re setting your weight loss goal and breaking it up into bite-sized pieces, also think about some rewards for getting to those little milestones along the way.
But listen to me because I’m going to get a little uncharacteristically loud here. DO NOT MAKE YOUR REWARD FOOD!! I’m saying that as much for myself as I’m saying it for you. I’m the world’s worst about saying, “Oh hey, I lost 2 pounds this week! How about some ice cream to celebrate?!” There are so many things wrong with using food as a reward. One being that you’re reversing any momentum you had going with eating right. I think you get the idea. Food reward = bad reward. Just don’t do it, ok?
Since we’re NOT rewarding ourselves with food, let’s think about some other rewards. There’s a joke in our house that the way to my heart is not with jewelry or clothes, it’s with anything that has a charging cable. I’m a tech geek and I love gadgets, so I tend to lean that direction when it comes to choosing rewards for myself. Your rewards don’t have to be expensive or even cost anything. A really great one might be an evening where your husband takes the kids and you get to take a nice, long, uninterrupted bath. Everyone is different, so make your rewards fit your personality and your budget and have fun with it!
Track Your Progress
Other than the actual loss of weight, I tend to think that tracking my progress is the most fun part of shedding some pounds. I will admit, I’m a nerd and I love making lists and collecting data. In fact, I am tracking my weight loss in three different places: in my bullet journal, on a chart in my closet and on the Fitbit app on my phone. Excessive? Probably. Fun for me? Absolutely!
Keeping track of your progress not only shows you how much farther you have to go, but it shows you how far you’ve already come. There aren’t many feelings better than crossing off another number on my weight loss chart or coloring in a circle in the weight loss jar in my journal. Tracking your progress gives you a feeling of accomplishment and that extra push to keep going. When you cross off one number, you are automatically focused on crossing off the next one.
When you are choosing a way to track your progress, keep your personality in mind. Do you prefer things simple? Then maybe just writing down how many pounds you need to lose and crossing them off as you lose them will be a great tracking method for you. Are you artsy and enjoy making things pretty? Then get out your markers and make a beautiful tracker for yourself! If your method of tracking fits your personality, then you are far more likely to use it and enjoy the process.
I seriously considered leaving this section out of this post because consistent is not a word I use to describe myself very often, at least as far as weight loss goes. In fact, consistency is the main reason that I haven’t already reached my goal of losing 60 pounds. I’m great at planning out what I should do and tracking my progress as I go, but actually following through with eating right and exercising? Yeah, I’m not very good at that and it’s something I need to work on.
Consistency is the foundation of achieving weight loss that sticks. When you make the conscious choice to choose grilled chicken and salad over fried chicken and mashed potatoes, you’ve made a good decision. When you make that choice over and over again, regardless of the circumstances, you’re being consistent. And you know what? Consistency is hard!
There always seems to be another reason popping up for why you can’t make a good food choice or why you can’t get your workout in. Holidays. Birthday parties. Dinner plans. The baby was up in the night and you’re exhausted. You had to work late and just want to grab something fast today. Trust me, I’ve used every excuse in the book and you know where those excuses have gotten me? Sitting here, still overweight and regretting the food choices I’ve made the last couple of days. I don’t want you to feel the same way, and if you already do, then join me in choosing to work harder to be more consistent in my eating and exercise. Maybe if we encourage one another we can make some real progress towards our weight loss goals!
Set Non-Scale Goals Too
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been doing exactly what you should food and exercise-wise, but the scale just won’t budge? I have, and it’s incredibly frustrating. It’s almost discouraging enough to make you want to throw in the towel and binge on Mexican food. That’s why setting goals that have nothing to do with the scale is just as important as a weight goal. Chances are, if you’re eating right and exercising, your body is changing in ways that the scale may not reflect.
Here are some of the non-scale victories that I’ve been able to celebrate and some that I’m still working to achieve:
- inches lost
- clothes fitting looser
- no more maternity clothes
- ran a 5K
- wedding rings fit
- become more flexible
- complete a sprint triathlon
As you see yourself becoming healthier and your clothes getting looser, it will encourage you to keep working and making good food and exercise choices. Another great way to measure your goals is by taking or finding pictures of yourself at the beginning of your weight loss and then taking pictures as you go. You might not notice that your face is thinner when you look at it in the mirror every morning, but when you compare a picture of yourself six months ago to one you took last week, you’ll probably notice a difference.
Now Get Started!
I’m sure there are many other strategies out there for setting weight loss goals that are achievable. These are just a few of the ways I’ve been able to set goals and keep myself on track so far. Now it’s your turn! Find the methods that work best for you and stick with them. Whether you are just beginning or need a kick in the pants to keep going, I would love to hear your weight loss goals (if you’re willing to share them). Leave a comment and let’s chat!