How to Set Goals for Weight Loss

This is part of our weekly How To series

Earlier this year I wrote about How to Lose 30 Pounds and Keep it Off, based on my experience in 2010.  Well, with January 1st just around the weekend and many of you considering a New Year’s resolution, I thought I would highlight how to set goals for weight loss that will actually stick.

sharon before and after

Before and after photos only 6 months into my weight loss

  1. Do Your Research:  What is a realistic weight or BMI for you?  There are tons of different height/weight charts on the internet to use to help determine a healthy weight and Body Mass Index.  I particularly like this chart because it takes into account frame size so you can finally tell if you are just “big boned”.  If you are currently overweight or obese, I suggest picking a goal weight in the middle or high end of the healthy range for your size.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time and then be specific: Want to lose 30 pounds?  Plan on losing 1 pound a week and then add in a few weeks for the inevitable plateaus.  30 pounds should take you at least 35 weeks.  The longer you work to lose the weight the longer you will have succeeded at keeping it off!
  3. Set action goals:  Instead of just making the goal all about the weight or dress size you are hoping to acheive, focus on the actions that you know will get you there.  When you are eating well and exercizing enough, what does that look like?  For me, if I eat 5 servings of vegetables a day I will end up eating a healthy diet overall.  Sometimes due to hormones and normal body changes you can not control the weight loss on a given day or week, but you can control your actions.
  4. Focus on the positive:  Setting positive goals like “I will walk for at least 20 minutes everyday” keeps you looking towards the healthy you.  When you focus on stopping bad habits from the past like “I will not eat chocolate” it keeps your focus on what you’ve been doing wrong instead of what the healthy you does right.  If you have a trigger food to avoid, consider reframing it as “I will save chocolate as a special treat for Saturday nights”.  Then you can look forward to this once a week indulgence instead of feeling guilty about enjoying something that’s delicious.
  5. Set up non-food related rewards:  Progress thrives on positive reinforcement.  Plan ahead to what milestones will be celebrated and how you can celebrate them in a healthy way.  Reward both the efforts and the results – for instance, consider giving yourself a reward for the first time you accomplish your action goal (walking 20 minutes a day) for an entire week.  Perhaps you get a massage or a trip to the movies or a new pair of running shoes…

Are you planning to lose weight in 2012?  What are your goals?  Feel free to announce them here in the comments so that we can offer our support and suggestions for how to make them stick.  Losing weight can be very difficult and it helps to have support from other people who have been there.


7 responses to “How to Set Goals for Weight Loss

  1. great thoughts 🙂 so true.. way to go 🙂

  2. Great post, Sharon! This is really good advice. I hope to improve my overall health, in particular by eating more fruits and vegetables. I find it much easier to go to the gym or take special classes than it is to change my eating habits so that’s the biggest challenge.

    • So have you set a specific goal for healthy eating? I signed up for a CSA in order to get exposed to more vegetables and learn which ones I like. I also like to use Martha Stewart’s Everyday Foods because they have simple recipes and you can search by an ingredient. Most recipes include the nutrition breakdown too.

  3. Sharon and I both use a website called to record our goals, weight, exercise, etc. We use it on our smart phones/Ipod Touches and laptops and they all sync. Today the coolest thing happened….I was going to enter a yogurt I ate and was going to search for it by brand name, portion size, etc. and the program offered me the option of just SCANNING THE BARCODE!!! Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? I picked the empty carton out of the trash, scanned it and there were my calories on my site! Wow!! The program is free, by the way.

  4. Sharon,

    I have currently lost 8lbs and plan on losing 20 more. I turn 40 on Friday and decided to be fit and forty:) A few friends have joined me on my journey and we use to record our calories and exercise. It helped me realize I was never going to lose anything if I didn’t cut down my calorie intake. Now if I really want something yummy, I know I need to go walk it off.

    • Congratulations on your successful weight loss. As I’m sure you know the hard part is keeping the weight off with new healthy habits, I’ve found it helpful to take a long time to lose the weight so that you have plenty of time to make the new habits stick.

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