When it comes to setting weight loss or fitness goals, most people just do the bare minimum of setting a goal to “lose weight” or “get fit”. What happens with such a non specific goal is that it gets blown out of the water at the sight of a glazed doughnut or a plate of hot wings. There’s no meaning or purpose to the goal. There’s nothing memorable about it. It just won’t “stick”.
Some people state a simple weight loss goal. “Lose 25lbs.” That’s a bit better but it doesn’t really have much to grab on to. And trust me there is much more to just getting rid of 25lbs, you need to keep it off, which means lifestyle change.
If you want to set yourself up for success, you need to set a SMART goal. I’m going to show you how to make a SMART weight loss goal — and I’m going to show you some “tricks to make it stick.”
The acronym SMART stands for:
It’s a great way to set goals that have meaning and purpose.
So, let’s take the “lose weight” goal and make it a SMART goal?
A goal needs to be specific. You do that by asking yourself these questions:
- Why are you creating the goal? In other words, what are the benefits? How will it make you feel?
- How will you reach that goal?
A good goal includes specific details. For example, a goal to exercise more is not specific, but a goal to go to the gym for 30 minutes after work every day is specific. You’re declaring what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.
Once you have something specific here’s the first trick to make it stick: turn the goal into a sentence or positive affirmation and say it in a way as if it’s already happened. Picture yourself in the future having accomplished the goal.
A goal needs to be measurable. If you can measure a goal, then you can objectively determine how successful you are at meeting the goal. A goal of eating better is not easily measured, but a goal of eating 1,200 calories a day can be measured. A goal of riding your bike is not measurable. A goal of riding your bike for 30 minutes three days a week is measurable.
An attainable goal is one that you have enough time and resources to achieve. For example, if your work schedule doesn’t allow spending an hour at the gym every day, then it wouldn’t be an attainable goal. However, two weekday trips to the gym and two weekend trips might be attainable. If a particular type of exercise, such as running, is physically too difficult for you, then running every day would not be an attainable goal.
5. Relevant and Realistic
A goal has to have meaning for you and be relevant/realistic to your abilities and interests. For most people, a realistic outcome goal is losing 5 to 10 percent of their current weight. Process goals must also be realistic. For example, your doctor or nutritionist can help you determine a daily calorie goal based on your current weight and health. Setting an unrealistic goal may result in disappointment or the temptation to give up altogether
If your goal doesn’t have a time limit, you will have trouble starting and staying motivated until the end. So give yourself a target date to work toward. It may end up taking longer, but once you start seeing results on the scale and with how clothing fits, it will motivate you to achieve your ultimate goal.
Long-term and short term-goals
Long-term goals help you focus on the big picture. They can shift your thinking from simply being on a diet to making lifestyle changes. But long-term goals may seem too difficult or too far away. You may benefit from breaking down a long-term goal into a series of smaller, short-term goals.
If your outcome goal is to lose 15 pounds in three months, you may break it down into separate goals for each month, perhaps 7 pounds for the first month and 4 pounds for each of the last two months because early weight loss is often faster. An example of a process goal might be to walk 30 minutes a day. If you currently don’t walk regularly at all, you may want to walk 15 minutes a day for two weeks and then add five minutes to your walk each week.
Allow for setbacks
Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes changes in his or her life has experienced setbacks. It’s better to expect them and develop a plan for dealing with them. 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.
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 and achieved success, 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.
Make a “red flag” list
Include habits that have derailed you in the past (like stopping for an a.m. doughnut or putting off grocery shopping). Post it somewhere visible, like your bathroom mirror, so it’ll be easier to spot (and stop!) old habits pronto.
More Tricks to Make It Stick
Now, it’s your turn. I want you to create a SMART weight loss goal — and I want you to do it using a pen (or pencil) and paper. Studies have shown that when you put pen to paper, you make your brain say, “Hey, something important is happening. I better pay attention!”
Once you’ve got it down into a sentence or affirmation, I want you to write it down on an index card. Carry that index card around with you and read it whenever you need motivation. You don’t feel like exercising? Read that index card. The office vending machine is tempting you? Read that index card.
Read it first thing in the morning. Read it before you go to bed. Make copies and put it up wherever it makes sense: on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, at the office. Wherever you can.
Seek help when you are feeling overwhelmed or need guidance. You don’t have to go it alone. Family, friends, a trainer, or a nutritionist are great resources and motivators to help you keep on track and accountable.
And that, my friends, is the SMART way to set a weight loss goal.