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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Behavior Self! Setting the Right Goals for Weight Loss


photo by sailing nomad

Successful weight loss usually begins with a goal...to lose a certain number of pounds. Most people will decide to cut out some junk food, maybe eat "healthier" foods and just see what happens. At first, it's easy, the motivation to lose the weight is strong, but after a week or so, the motivation starts to wane and the diet is out the door. Unrealistic expectations coupled with a lack of smaller, achievable steps leading up to the weight loss leads to another "diet failure".

It's what you do that will get you there

The key is to set behavior-based goals, not just milestone goals. What good is it setting a goal of losing 10 pounds if you don't plan how to get there? Whether you are trying to lose 5 pounds or 100 pounds, you must determine what behaviors will lead to those goals and make a smaller, daily goal of incorporating those behaviors into your activities. For instance, trying lose 100 pounds can seem to be an impossible, overwhelming task, but going for a 30 minute walk seems much more achievable. Here are some smaller, daily goals that you can use that will lead to losing weight:

  • Eat 1500 calories of healthy foods in 6 small meals spread throughout the day (you may have to adjust the calorie level up or down)
  • Go for a 30 minute walk
  • Strength train for 30 minutes
  • Skip the usual doughnut and eat a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, instead
  • Snack on fruit and yogurt in the afternoon instead of raiding the vending machine
  • Bring a healthy lunch to work
  • Drink water instead of soft drinks

Each day, focus on hitting one or more of these small goals and the weight will take care of itself. If it is going to be 100 degrees outside, then maybe that would be a good day to focus on your eating. Take your plan for the day into consideration when choosing which daily goal on which to focus.

Notice that none of these goals mention weight loss. I would suggest not making goals such as, "Lose 5 pounds this week". Those types of goals are unrealistic and don't take individual differences into consideration. Climbing mountains is a tough, arduous task, but taking a single, small step is not. If you take enough of those small steps, they accumulate and you might just find yourself at the top of a very big mountain.

Do you set small daily goals? Or do you just throw caution to the wind and try to stick to a loose plan? What has worked, or not worked for you, in terms of goal -setting?

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S William said...

One thing that helped me was to eat 5 meals a day, and to eat the same thing each meal. It helped me turn eating into a health thing. On the weekends I still ate the same calories, but different foods to give my head a break.

Fit Club Scott said...

One of the things mentioned in the National Weight Control Registry is that people who kept weight off for years limited the variety of foods that they ate. They found the things that worked for them and stuck with those same foods.