Weight loss goals: set yourself up for success

Well-planned goals can help you turn your thoughts into action. Here’s how to create successful weight loss goals.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Weight loss goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Well planned and realistic weight loss goals keep you focused and motivated. They provide a plan for change as you move toward a healthier lifestyle.

But not all weight loss goals are helpful. Unrealistic and overly difficult weight loss goals can undermine your efforts. Use the tips below to set goals to help you lose weight and improve your overall health.

Focus on process goals.

Weight loss goals can focus on results or process. An outcome goal, what you hope to achieve in the end, might be to lose a certain amount of weight. While this goal may give you a goal, it does not focus on how you will achieve it.

A process goal is a necessary step to achieve a desired result. For example, a process goal might be to eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day. Or it could be walking 30 minutes a day or drinking water with every meal. Process goals can be helpful for weight loss because they focus on changing the behaviors and habits that are necessary for weight loss.

Set SMART goals

A good strategy for setting goals is the SMART goal checklist. Make sure your weight loss goals, whether it’s a process goal or an outcome goal, meet the following criteria:

  • specific. A good goal includes specific details. For example, the goal to exercise more is not specific. But the goal of walking 30 minutes after work every day is specific. You are declaring what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.
  • Measurable. If you can measure a goal, then you can objectively track your progress toward that goal. The goal of eating better is not easily measured. But you can measure a goal of eating 1,200 calories a day. Or try eating up to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The goal of riding a bicycle cannot be measured. But the goal of riding a bike for 30 minutes three days a week is measurable.
  • reachable. An achievable goal is one for which you have enough time and resources. For example, if your work schedule doesn’t allow you to spend an hour in the gym every day, then that would not be an achievable goal. But two weekday trips to the gym and two weekend trips might be possible. If a certain type of exercise, like running, is physically too hard for you, then running every day would not be an achievable goal.
  • Important. It is important to set goals that are relevant and meaningful to you and where you are in your life right now. Don’t set goals that someone else wants you to do. Ask yourself what is most important to you. Then choose your goals. Is weight loss a priority for you? If so, ask your provider to help you decide on a daily calorie goal based on your current weight and health.
  • Limited time. Choose your goal and set a deadline. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), circle a goal line on a calendar and aim for that. Giving yourself a time limit can motivate you to get started and stay on track.

Long and short term goals

Long-term goals help you focus on the big picture. They can change your thinking from just being on a diet to making lifestyle changes. But long-term goals can seem too difficult or too far away. It can be helpful to break down a long-term goal into a series of smaller, short-term goals.

If your long-term results goal is to lose 15 pounds (7 kilograms) in three months, you can break it down into separate shorter goals for each month. For example, try to lose 7 pounds (3 kilograms) in the first month. Then try to lose 4 pounds (2 kilograms) in each of the last two months. Try to lose less each month in the second two months because early weight loss is usually faster. An example of a short-term process goal might be to start eating one more vegetable or fruit each day. And then continue to add more vegetables or fruits as time goes on.

If you currently don’t walk often, you may want to walk 15 minutes a day for two weeks. Then add five minutes to your walk each week. Including physical activity is an important part of losing weight, along with your diet. To lose weight, try to get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity.

allow setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes life changes has experienced setbacks. It is better to expect setbacks and develop a plan to deal with them. Identifying potential barriers, like a big holiday potluck or an office party, and brainstorming specific ways to overcome them can help you stay on track or get back on track.

Re-evaluate and adjust your goals as needed

Be willing to change your goals as you progress through your weight loss plan. If you started small and achieved success, you may be ready to take on bigger challenges. Or you may find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle.

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