What Are SMART Goals and How Can They Help You Lose More Weight?

Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
     
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

Looking to finally lose weight this year? Have you tried and failed in the past? Wondering how to make this year truly different? 

Most people fail at losing weight because they aren't consistent. And they aren't consistent because they make their goals too big, too broad, or don't have a solid plan, to begin with. That's right there's nothing wrong with you, it's your plan that's failing you.

But there is a way, backed by science, that can help you get there and perhaps enjoy the process as you go. Here's everything you need to know about making better weight loss goals and setting yourself up for success this go around.

Why is Goal Setting Important?

Goals give us a finish line - something to work towards and a general direction. Goals can also serve as a way to reinforce desirable behaviors and increase motivation. 

When starting your weight loss journey, you probably have a pretty big goal in mind. You are likely motivated and ready to conquer it. 

But only setting long-term, large goals can hurt us in the long run. 

As your standing on the horizon of your new big goal it can start to feel overwhelming fairly quickly - maybe a little exciting too - but mostly overwhelming when you start to realize how many steps you've got to take to get there and how long this process might actually take. This in itself can defeat a lot of people when they start to realize it. 

Large goals provide a destination, but they don't always give a clear map of your journey. And there are no established rewards along the way to help keep you motivated. Think back to most of your new year's resolutions. You probably had a year-end goal in mind, but did achieve it? Did you map out the smaller steps to get there? Did you prepare for failures and bumps in the road? 

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them

The trick is setting goals that you are more likely to achieve. Keep your big goal, but use small, incremental goals to break it up into a more realistic road map. 

Think Smaller. Small changes are easier to make and can lead to big results if you stick with it. Steps become miles and miles become marathons. Smaller, incremental goals can also help keep you motivated because you are more likely to achieve them. And crushing your goals feels pretty damn good - releasing dopamine, establishing positive reinforcement and helping you feel unstoppable. Dopamine is strongly linked to motivation and creating bursts of dopamine in your brain can not only improve your mood but might also make you more determined if harnessed correctly. 

Visualize your step one. Where can you start? What change can you stick to today, that will help get you closer to your end result? 

Then once you've stuck to this goal for at least two weeks, make another goal and go for it, or increase the difficulty of your first goal. Each small action will build on each other, eventually leading to monumental health changes and significant weight loss

incremental goalsIn addition to smaller goals, you'll also want to make sure you set realistic weight loss goals. Weight loss takes time and rushing to the finish line should not be your overall intention. Be reasonable and set goals that make sense for you. 

How fast can you lose weight?

 

Most people should expect to lose 0.5 to 1% of their body weight per week - this is roughly 1/2 to 2 pounds per week, depending on the person. 

What are SMART Goals?

Your big goal and the small steps you need to reach it can be turned into more measurable achievements with SMART goal setting. 

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

  • Specific - provides a clear description of what you want to achieve. Having vague goals doesn't provide you the direction you need to be successful.
    • An example of a goal that is not specific: "I will get healthy this year"
    • An example of a goal that is specific: "I will increase my intake of fruits and vegetables" 
  • Measurable - uses some sort of metric to document progress or confirm that your goal was achieved. 
    • An example of a goal that is not measurable: "I will lose weight this year"
    • An example of a goal that is measurable: "I will lose 25 pounds this year" 
  • Attainable - is challenging but still realistic and achievable for you.
    • An example of a goal that may not be attainable: "I haven't worked out in 10 years but I plan to run a triathlon this year"
    • An example of a goal that is attainable: "I haven't worked out in 10 years but I plan to walk 5 thousand steps every day this year"
  • Relevant - helps you work towards a larger goal. 
    • An example of a goal that is not relevant: "I want to lose weight. My goal is to make over $100,000 in salary this year"
    • An example of a goal that is relevant: "I want to lose weight. My goal is to decrease my calories from soda and drink more water"
  • Time-Bound - has a start and end date.  
    • An example of a goal that is not time-bound: "I want to lose 25 pounds"
    • An example of a goal that is time-bound: "After New Years, I want to lose 25 pounds by March"

Putting it all together: "I am going to lose 25 pounds in three months, by walking 5 thousand steps daily, eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables at least 3 days a week, eliminating soda, and drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day." 

smart goals

Use smart goal setting for all of your goals, no matter how small. This will help keep you focused and ensure your goals are moving you in the right direction. 

Take Action: Set Your Goals

Structuring your goals is one thing, but there are a few other things you can do to prepare and make your smart goals that much better - helping you prepare for failure, reward yourself appropriately, and become a goal crushing badass. 

Ready to get started? 

Step 1. Write your goals down 

Don't just think about what goals you want to achieve, physically write them down somewhere. Make a plan and keep it close for you to reference when needed. The act of putting it on paper (or in your computer/phone) can actually strengthen your commitment to it. And checking off your goals when you hit them is super satisfying. 

You can also share your intentions on social media, which can help hold you accountable and might even encourage others to join you. 

Step 2. Note Your Strengths

Think about what you've got going for you to help you be more successful. It could be a good social support network, a gym that you love, a well-structured weight loss meal plan, or an abundance of time. 

Make a list of your strengths and use it when you get stuck or come up against an obstacle. 

Step 3. Prepare for Obstacles

You will also have a few things that may hold you back, like lack of time, no access to a gym, friends who sabotage you, a work environment that promotes unhealthy behavior or lack of reliable information. Note these potentials pitfalls and plan for ways around them. 

Can you solve for them with or use your strengths to overcome your obstacles? If there is no way around them, how will you plan on dealing with them? 

structiral tension to achieve goals

Still getting stuck? Forge a new path ahead. Find other areas you can tackle first and keep chipping away at it. Just because you started off with a solid plan, doesn't mean it can't change. 

Step 4: Document Your Progress

Keep track of how far you've come and how things are going with progress photos, journaling, social media updates, etc. This allows you to look back and see what you've accomplished, even if you haven't hit every single goal. Can you visually see a change? How do you feel physically and mentally? What other ways can you measure how well you are doing overall?

The number on the scale is really just one way to measure your weight loss success and shouldn't determine your overall happiness as you move forward. 

Step 5: Reward Your Success

Incentivize yourself with mini rewards as you hit certain milestones or conquer your smaller goals. Creating a series of wins is a great way to stay motivated and can make the journey that much more enjoyable.

Some great, healthy ways to pat yourself on the back include:

  • Post it on social media
  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are
  • Take a day off to relax and rejuvenate
  • Buy yourself a new pair of workout clothes
  • Take yourself out to dinner or a movie

Step 6: Know that You Can Always Start Over

If at first, you don't succeed... try it again. Know that you can always give yourself a fresh start, no matter what. Don't let failure hold you back from ultimately being successful. Failure is your opportunity to learn and grow, and just get better at making healthy decisions. Even if you really go off the deep in, take comfort in the fact that you can create a fresh, clean slate at any time. 

Crush Your Nutrition Goals with Meal Delivery

Want to cut out some of the leg work and make your diet that much easier? Consider opting for a weight loss meal delivery program, like Trifecta, that cooks, and ships all your food right to your door - cutting out a lot of the hard work when it comes to dieting and helping you stay more consistent.

Not to mention, you'll be freed up to put more energy into other goals, helping you lose weight faster

Ready to dial in your nutrition?

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