Your Weight Loss Journey: The Exercise of Setting Goals & Keeping Them

During your weight loss journey, you'll need specific goals to help keep you focused. Being vague and deciding to "just lose some weight" means you don't have a clear endpoint. Coming up with specifics like "I will lose 30 pounds by June 1" or "I will fit into my size 10 jeans by my birthday" give you something to aim for so you can track your progress, take specific steps, and alter your plan as needed.

You need to set both big goals and smaller steps within them. According to Nutrition.gov, a healthy weight loss plan consists of a realistic end goal and smaller goals within it related to doing more physical activity, cutting back on your calories, eating healthier foods, eating meals regularly throughout the day, and weighing in on a set schedule to see how well you're doing.

Avoid Fasts and Fads

When you're making your plan, you might be tempted to order the latest fad supplement "guaranteed" to burn off pounds by that pop-up ad or to try a cleanse, fast, all-juice diet or other supposed quick fix. Unfortunately, none of those things really work. If they did, nearly 35 percent of adult Americans wouldn't currently be overweight.

Instead, before you implement your physical exercise plan, exert yourself in the mental exercise of making sensible goals and adding sub-goals and specific steps to help you achieve them. For example, if your main goal is losing 30 pounds within a certain time frame, your sub-goals might include:

  • Get an hour of exercise at least three days a week
  • Eat no more than 1500 calories per day, spread out over three main meals and two snacks

Then, add steps to those sub-goals so you know exactly what you must do. For example, for the exercise, your plan might include walking or jogging outdoors when the weather is nice. Or dust off your old exercise DVDs or health club membership card and do a home routine. Or use the treadmill at the club on days when you can't exercise outside. For your calories and meals, your plan could be to prepare your menu a week in advance and do your grocery shopping on a certain day with a list to keep you away from impulse purchases. You could also plan to track your calories via an app like MyFitnessPal.

Stay on Track With Support

Once you have your goals in place, backed up by a sound plan, how do you make sure you that you stick to it? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends turning to family members and friends for support and reaching out to in-person or online groups. Your health care professional is also a good source of support and can ensure that you're staying healthy as you work toward your goals. Online support sites include MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, and DailyStrength.org. In person groups include Weight Watchers, TOPS, and Overeaters Anonymous. Online support groups are usually free, while many in-person groups require a fee.

As you work through your plan, assess your progress regularly. If you're backsliding or having other problems, don't use that as an excuse to quit. Instead, analyze the circumstances surrounding your slip and add a step to prevent them from happening in the future. Taking this approach allows you to refine your plan instead of getting frustrated and throwing in the towel.

To learn more about being successful through setting goals, check out this video with Valerie Bertinelli on WebPsychology. You can also take this test to see if your eating has an emotional basis. If so, Overeaters Anonymous can be a valuable tool, as can working with a therapist to help you identify and work through the deeper issues that prevent you from following through with your weight loss plan.