How to Set Weight Loss Goals
Setting weight loss goals is probably one of the more difficult steps of a weight loss program. How much do you need to lose and how do you calculate that number?
The way most of us approach it is to choose a number based on what we used to weigh or, perhaps, what we’ve always wanted to weigh, but is that a realistic goal?
If you’re losing weight for your health, your goal might be more modest, say 5 to 10 percent of your current weight.
But what if you have something more specific in mind like a certain clothing size you want to fit into?
The problem is, there isn’t really a set weight that equates to a clothing size and, for women, clothing sizes differ from company to company.
So, what’s the answer to all of these questions? Your first step is to learn how to set reachable weight loss goals that you can actually measure.
The key to setting weight loss goals is to follow the standard of goal setting, which means it needs to be SMART. A smart goal is: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible.
Go all the way back to the basics and start by figuring out if you really need to lose weight.
Do You Need to Lose Weight?
If you talk to most people, you’ll probably find that everyone feels like they need to lose weight, even people who appear to be at a healthy weight.
Often our weight loss goals are based on what we think we should look like rather than what’s reasonable for our bodies right now.
There are broad parameters to use to figure out if you need to lose weight but, in general, a candidate for weight loss may have the following characteristics:
A BMI of more than 25
A Waist-Hip ratio of higher than .8 for women and higher than 1.0 men
An Abdominal Girth measurement of more than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men
Of course, those aren’t the only clues that tell us we need to lose weight. There are those annoying indications like tight clothes, getting out of breath doing simple activities, or stepping on a scale for the first time in awhile.
However, before you set goals based on what you think you should weigh, talk to your doctor. He or she will usually have access to height-weight charts or other resources that can help you figure out a healthy weight range for your body type.
Setting Your Goals
If you’ve determined you do need to lose weight, your next step is to set a reasonable weight loss goal for yourself.
You can base your goals on any number of factors, but a great place to start would be the general recommendations set out by the American College of Sports Medicine which are 5-10% of body weight or one to two pounds per week.
Calculate Your BMI
Use this free site to learn your correct number.
Keep in mind that these calculations offer guesstimates. There are a number of factors that affect weight, so it’s best to take the results you get with a grain of salt. For example, BMI is affected by how much muscle you have…if you have more muscle, your weight might actually be higher than what is considered healthy on the BMI chart, even though you have a healthy body fat percentage.
In fact, many experts suggest that BMI can be very misleading and it may be better to use your waist-to-hip ratio to set your goals.
Another way to do this is to focus less on a target weight and more on making healthy choices each day to reduce your calories.
One way to look at this is your Lowest Sustainable Weight. In this case, you would create a calorie deficit (with diet and exercise) and let your body respond to that over time. Eventually, you’ll get to a weight you can sustain and feel good about.
Make a Plan
However you determine your weight loss goals, you should record that goal and then make a plan to reach it.
Look at your goal objectively: is it specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible? Here’s a sample to see how it works:
Mary is 5’7″ tall and weighs 160 pounds. According to the calculators above, her BMI is 25.1, which falls under the ‘overweight’ category. If she lost just 10 pounds, her BMI would be healthier at 23.5.
Mary’s Goal: To lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks.To do that she would need to cut or exercise off 300 to 500 calories each day. Using a combination of diet and exercise is the best way to lose weight since dieting along can cause you to lose muscle mass.
Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat, so you want to keep all the muscle you have and add more with strength training.
Mary’s plan to reach her goals:
• Replace her morning Egg McMuffin (300 calories) with a bowl of oatmeal (about 180 calories).
• Replace one Coke (150 calories) with sparkling water (0 calories).
• Walk for at least 30 minutes at 3.5-4.0 mph 3 days a week (approx. 180-240 calories burned).
• Strength train 2 days a week for 30 minutes (approx. 140-280 calories burned)
• Total Calories burned each day: 270 – 550 (depending on whether she exercises).
Looking at this example, you can see that these are fairly modest changes. Mary isn’t revamping her entire diet, she’s simply picking a few things she can change to get started.
What’s interesting is that, as she continues with her healthy behaviors she’ll start to do even more, not just because she wants to lose weight but because she’s going to start feeling better, stronger, more confident.
Try breaking down your goal into specific steps like this and track your progress. Just remember to adjust your goal whenever you need to.
If you find you’re not losing weight as quickly as you thought (and this is very normal), change your goal weight or the length of time to reach it. Remember, your goal needs to be attainable, so be willing to set new goals if the old ones aren’t working for you.
How to Set Exercise and Weight Loss Goals for Beginners
If you’re trying to lose weight, get healthy, build muscle or get better at sports you probably know the first thing you need to do: Set some goals.
That sounds easy enough, but when you get down to it setting the right kinds of goals may be harder than you think. Too often, we set a goal and it stays there, hanging over us if we don’t reach it. Rather than look at that goal and think of a different one, we end up punishing ourselves for not reach it in the first place.
Think about losing weight. While many of us focus on a certain weight we’d like to get to, that isn’t always the best approach. We often pick an arbitrary number, maybe a weight we used to be or a weight we’ve always wanted to be, leaving us frustrated when we end up failing.
The number on a scale is never going to tell the entire story and, if you’ve ever lost weight before, you’ve probably figured out that the process isn’t always linear. Your weight fluctuates from day to day, even from hour to hour.
So, if that’s the case, what do you do? If you really want to get results, you need goals that will actually work for you.
If you’ve done any kind of goal-setting, you’ve probably run across the acronym SMART goals.
That term stands for goals that are:
When you don’t have a specific goal, it’s difficult to keep exercising and to track your progress to see how far you’ve come.
Similarly, if you have a goal that’s out of reach – Say getting back to the weight you were 20 years ago or fitting into a clothing size you wore in high school, there’s nothing to keep you going day after day.
If your weight doesn’t change or that clothing size just isn’t fitting right, you may even quit altogether.
That’s why it’s good to have a variety of goals so you always have something tangible to track.
Choosing Your Goals
A lot of us talk about weight loss goals and that’s fine, especially if that’s a long-term goal. You can keep your eye on the finish line but it helps to keep your focus on what you’re actually doing to lose the weight rather than on the end result.
Other goals to consider include:
• Completing all your workouts for the week
• Trying to do something active every day
• Use a tracker and try to get a certain number of steps
• Set a goal to stand up and stretch or walk every hour
• Take a walk after dinner instead of watching TV
Sometimes just one healthy choice can lead to more healthy choices and keeping them simple makes them easier to stick with.
Checking Your Goals
As you think of your goals, take some time to answer the following questions:
• What do I want to accomplish with this exercise program?
• Is my goal realistic and attainable?
• Do I know how to reach my goal?
• Do I have a timeline for reaching my goal?
• How will I reward myself when I get there?
For example, is it reasonable to want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months? It’s possible, but may not be reasonable unless you eat well and exercise every single day for the next 6 months.
Weight loss is often harder than we think and it’s usually slower as well. Experts recommend that you lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week, but it isn’t likely that you’ll lose 2 pounds every single week and many people find they actually lose about .5 to 1 pound on a good week.
Facts to Consider About Weight Loss Goals
The more weight you lose, the harder it will be to lose weight. The less weight your body has to move around, the fewer calories it will burn doing so.
The closer you get to your goal, the harder it is to reach it. There may be several reasons why you’re not losing weight and being aware of those pitfalls can help you avoid them, or manage them when they happen.
The weight you can maintain may not be the weight you want to be. We all have an exercise threshold – The amount of exercise we can comfortably fit into our lives. We can often stretch that threshold, but it’s important to know exactly where it is so you can decide if that’s realistic for you.
The scale isn’t always the best way to track progress. The scale won’t tell you what you’ve lost and/or gained and, sometimes, it can even lie to you. Be sure to use other tools to track your progress.
Weight loss isn’t the only goal you can have and may not even be the most motivating. Giving up the Weight Loss Obsession may be your first step to success.
After you set your goal, your next step is to find out how to reach it. If you want to lose weight or become better at a sport, you need to do some research to figure out where to start.
It’s helpful to know what you have to do before you get started. You may be surprised at the daily effort it takes to reach your goals and you may not realize that your body isn’t ready for the amount of exercise you need to reach your goals.
It takes time to build strength, endurance, coordination and it also takes time to get used to making exercise a part of your life.
How to Stick With Your Goals
Once you settle on realistic goals, you’ll need a few tricks up your sleeve to make your exercise routine a habit.
Part of sticking with exercise is making it as easy as possible to do your workouts. That means setting goals you can reach, doing workouts you know you can complete, and giving yourself some incentive to keep going.