When it comes to weight loss, most individuals seem to be unaware of how to set a REAL goal. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone reading this article has, at some point in time, either said or heard another person saying something similar to the following statements: “Tonight I will just eat as much as I want, and then will never eat cookies again,” “I will focus on losing weight as soon as my life settles down,” or “It’s time for me to go on a diet to lose weight for my beach trip next month!” Statements such as these create an illusion of setting a goal, but rarely lead to goal achievement. If the goal you set is not real, (i.e. based on realistic expectations, backed by commitment, and granted a high priority status), real change simply cannot be accomplished. Therefore, the remainder of this discussion will be dedicated to sharing how successful individuals lose weight, based on my own personal experiences and research as a full-time Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer.
To start, set your number goal. This can be a number on the scale and/or circumference measurements and body fat percentages. I always suggest using all three methods when possible. The scale represents only a small fraction of what your health and fitness endeavors are accomplishing. Make sure that your numbers are realistic. For example, on your very best behavior, plan on dropping an average of 1-2 pounds per week, about 1-inch off your entire body per pound lost, and anywhere between 1-4% body fat per month. Be sure to also specify a time frame. My most successful clients typically give themselves a time frame between 3-6 months.
The next step is to strategically plan exactly HOW you will accomplish your number goal. Weight loss is all about making good habits and breaking bad habits. Therefore, identify the most significant barriers you must address in order to accomplish your number goal, and then map out how you will overcome them. For example, if one of your barriers is forgetting to drink enough water, then commit yourself to consuming adequate amounts of water (a minimum of 64-72 ounces) each day. If you know you are a mindless eater who grazes all day long and regularly skips normal meals, set a goal to become a more mindful, consistent eater. After this step, you must outline how you achieve these supporting goals. Commit to building simple, meaningful habits that will allow you drink more water, become a mindful eater, or to achieve whatever behavior change you need to in order to overcome the barriers standing between you and your number goal. Finally, set up an accountability system. Report to someone, write your targets and progress down on paper, and take it seriously. Accountability is the foundation of this whole process. Without it, you will likely crumble back to where you started. Don’t let that happen.
Losing weight is not easy or quick, but it is also not complicated or impossible. You have to be patient and focus on the solution (i.e. the behaviors that will allow you to achieve your number goals) instead of the problem (the busy life, the yummy treats, or the number on the scale that has not budged for a long time). You can do it. All you need is a good plan and a willingness to do the work.