I get a ton of questions about weight loss, especially in the warmer months, when folks want to display their best physiques at the beach. Weight loss can be a tough nut to crack because there is so much misinformation about it on the internet. That’s why I do what I do—to cut through the misleading drivel and deliver information that actually works.
With this in mind, I think one of the most important aspects of weight loss is goal setting. I like to think of a goal as your end destination on a GPS, because if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you figure out how to get there?
Many people have heard of the “SMART” acronym when it comes to goal setting, though it’s often used in the context of personal finance or business. I recently wrote about applying SMART goal setting for muscle gain, but you can also use it for weight loss. Let’s jump in.
SMART Goal Setting
First, a quick refresher. The SMART acronym is probably the most common template for setting goals. SMART stands for:
Applying SMART Goals To Weight Loss
How do you use these five factors to create weight-loss goals you can achieve? Let’s break them down one by one.
When it comes to weight loss, I often hear people simply say, “I want to lose weight.” Well, that’s pretty ambiguous! How much weight? How long are you giving yourself to lose this weight? Would you like to lose muscle or fat? All of these components roll into the specificity of goals. Don’t just say “weight”—give yourself a number!
As we go through the other components of the SMART acronym, we’ll start to compile the fully fleshed-out goal. For now, let’s set a goal of losing 20 pounds of body fat to use as an example.
When it comes to fitness goals, specific and measurable often mean the same thing. As long as you outline a goal that’s specific, it’s probably going to be measurable as well. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds of body fat, for example, you’ll measure it using a scale and body composition tool.
The one thing I would recommend with your goal measuring is that you use the same tool(s) throughout your tracking process. If you use the scale at your house to measure your weight change, always use that scale at the same time on the same day each week to get a consistent measurement. If you’re always hopping around on scales, you could think you’ve lost or gained a few extra pounds simply due to the variance in them.
When it comes to weight loss, I think attainability is the most important component. You have to set goals that are realistic in the time frame you’re giving yourself. Recall the example goal of losing 20 pounds. This is a realistic goal for many people who are looking to lose weight; however, the time frame you give yourself is really what dictates the attainability of this goal. If you say, “I want to lose 20 pounds in one week,” there’s really no healthy way to do that. We’ll get into this more in the last section, but for now, remember that setting realistic goals is a must if you want to succeed. Otherwise, you’ll fail again and again.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. We’re already talking about setting goals for weight loss, which is relevant to anyone reading this article or interested in losing weight. If your ultimate desire is to lose weight, you wouldn’t make a SMART goal about how many dogs you plan on petting throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong: That’s a nice goal to set, but it just wouldn’t be relevant and would distract you from your primary objective.
Timeliness is probably the second most important aspect of setting goals, and especially important when it comes to weight loss. If you say you want to lose 20 pounds but don’t give yourself a timeline, how can you adhere to a plan? Defining the limits on your goal keeps you motivated throughout that period and also creates time in which you’re not focused on that goal.
Say you give yourself three months to lose 20 pounds. That’s a decently strict window, but it’s attainable within healthy parameters of weight loss of one to two pounds per week. Whether or not you fulfill your goal, you can always set a new fitness goal for the next three months to keep your exercise routine interesting.
The Bottom Line
Setting goals and creating plans play a huge role in achieving weight-loss results. They go hand in hand. The road to results can get bumpy if you only focus on the destination, so it’s important to engage fully in the process when setting goals for yourself. By optimizing parts of the process—like exercise, nutrition, hydration, rest, and stress maintenance—you’ll be more successful in losing weight. If you’re constantly focused on where you want to be in six months, you’ll always be disappointed with your day-to-day results.
Known as ‘The Muscle Ph.D.,’ Dr. Jacob Wilson has a knack for transforming challenging, complex concepts into understandable lessons that can support your body composition and health goals. A skeletal muscle physiologist and sports nutrition expert, Wilson is a leader in muscle sports nutrition. As the CEO of The Applied Science & Performance Institute and researches supplementation, nutrition, and their impact on muscle size, strength, and power.