In this article we’re breaking down how to get clear about what healthy weight loss looks like, and how to set a healthy weight loss goal that you can achieve and maintain.
You’ve probably fallen into the trap before of setting lofty weight loss goals to have them fail time and time again. Or perhaps you’ve been successful in losing weight only to regain when you could no longer sustain a restrictive diet or extreme exercise regimen. Unfortunately these types of goals are unrealistic and only set us up for disappointment and frustration, rather than success.
Do a quick search for “weight loss” and you’ll encounter hundreds of products, programs, diets, cleanses, supplements, and outright quick fix scams. Many of these promise that the pounds will melt off effortlessly. And if you check out the best-selling diet and weight loss books on Amazon, you’ll see phrases like “rapid,” “burn fat,” and other seductive words that have us clammoring to get that magic pill. But the key to successful, sustainable weight loss doesn’t involve quick, effort-free solutions. It involves a lifestyle that includes steady changes over time. This means eating a balanced diet, getting regular activity, managing stress, practicing good sleep hygeine and more. But you might wonder how to get all of these areas of your life in order so you can finally start losing weight and keeping it off.
We know that habits don’t form overnight, and reshaping your habits will be an ongoing process. When we want to see results on the scale, a slow and steady approach may be the last strategy you’d want to adopt. But this is the approach that works best, so patience is essential. Patience and a plan, that is. Let’s look at how to set a healthy weight loss goal and create a weight loss plan.
What is a Healthy Weight Loss Goal?
Making the decision to lose weight is a big commitment. It’s an invesement in your future health and the goals you set need some careful consideration. While you might be tempted to just throw out a number (I want to lose 30 pounds), it’s best to think through what a healthy weight would be for you. To figure this out, you’ll want to run a few numbers. The first numbers you need are your weight and height. These are the two important factors used to calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI. A healthy or normal BMI ranges anywhere from 18.5 to 24.9 for most (slightly less for people of Asian descent). To calculate BMI, you divide a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. If that seems like a little too much math for you, you can find BMI tools online that will do it for you quickly or use the BMI calculator below.
Why is the number so important? Well, the BMI is a good indicator of health concerns generally linked to overweight or obesity. It’s not a diagnotic or predictive tool; just an informational one. It has an association with several conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer to mention a few. So, it’s a good idea to know your BMI and strive to keep it within a healthy range.
If you want to become more active, you don’t have to join the gym or train for a marathon. Start simple with exercise equipment that can help you be more active on your own schedule. Here are our favorite tools for building an active lifestyle:
So, as you set a healthy weight loss goal, you want to use your current weight and BMI as the starting point and calculate what a healthy BMI might be based on your height (the variable that can’t change). For instance, if you are an individual with a BMI of 29.5, you might want to determine what your weight would need to be to bring it within the healthy range. Your doctor can help you determine what a healthy weight would be for you; however, you’ll have to take the initiative to work on lowering your weight and BMI through lifestyle changes.
With your healthy weight range in mind, you’ll now have a well-informed healthy weight goal to work towards, rather than a random weight that you plucked out of thin air. But the question is still how you will get to your healthier weight (and BMI). We’re covering that next.
Creating an Action Plan When You Set a Healthy Weight Loss Goal
When you set a healthy weight loss goal, it’s important to determine what you need to do to arrive at that goal. You might instantly think that “eating healthier” and “exercising more” are what matters. And these behaviors are absolutely a necessary part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. But in order to bring these behaviors to life, it’s super important to develop an action plan. This action plan determines what each of these behaviors will look like in day to day life, making it clear what steps you need to take to get to your weight loss goal.
While you may have heard about creating SMART Goals, it’s actually a misnomer. Yes, it’s important to create a smart goal, but what’s even more important is that you create an Action Plan that tells you how to achieve your goal. Your action plan will contain the elements that make it clear what is expected. Think of it this way. Your overall Goal is the destination you’re moving towards; while your Action Plan is the journey or directions for how you’ll get there. Your action plan musy contain 5 crucial elements to make your goal successsful. Here’s a breakdown of what a SMART Goal or a SMART Action Plan looks like:
S – Specific
Be clear. When you’re working to set a healthy weight loss goal, you need to be specific. The aim is to make your goal so clear that it cannot be confused. Write your goal down. Don’t say, “I’ll start exercising.” Rather, be more specific in setting your goals. Really spell it out: “I will go to the gym and do cardio 30 minutes 3 times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5 pm.”
M – Measurable
You can’t gauge progress if you don’t know where you started. When you set a goal – for example, losing 10 pounds – weigh yourself at the beginning and then at regular intervals to track your progress. Use a system to track this. There are many apps you can download to help you, or simply keep a written log. Caution: don’t obsess over the scale. Also focus on how you are feeling, your energy level, and the way you look. These are also great “measures” of success.
A – Attainable
Set your goal within a range that you can accomplish. It’s wise to break larger goal down to smaller milestones. A quick win is what you’re shooting for. When your larger overall goal seems too far down the road, it may be demotivating. Keeping your goal smaller and more immediate will help motivate you to keep moving forward as you see the results of your hard work paying off.
R – Realistic
Remaining realistic is the next element of a SMART goal or action plan. When you work on weight loss, you might want to set a goal of losing a great amount of weight ASAP. But keep in mind that the aim is to set a healthy weight loss goal, so that you lose at a rate that is sustainable. This might be slower that you’d like, but will lead to lasting, sustainable weight loss. Rather than compare yourself to others, set a goal that is realistic for you to achieve. Understand what your body is capable of doing and work with what you have. You’re not competing with anyone; only trying to become the best version of yourself.
T – Timely
Your goal will be more achievable if you track it. Keep your goal in the forefront of your mind by focusing on a target date. Seeing your target date on the calendar will be a motivator to move your forward.
In addition, here are some more tips to help you shed pounds and succeed with your wellness goals for the upcoming year (and beyond).
How to Make Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Weight Loss
1. Create a sustainable plan.
Know that there is no perfect weight for everyone. How much weight do you want to lose? Break your total down into a series of smaller attainable milestones. For example, “I plan to lose ____ pounds by ____ (date).” Make your goals realistic, and then follow a plan of diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle changes to achieve them. Set your overall goal and then outline a few objectives (or steps) that you’ll need to have in place to get there. If you’re unclear how to do this, consider working with a health coach who can help you get clear and stay focused on your goals.
- Be flexible with your plan. Goal achievement is not usually a linear process. While some may appear to be taking the Beeline, most of us are on a scenic path. Remain focused on your goal, but also allow room to accommodate anything that may come up in your lifestyle.
- Write your goals down somewhere visible, and review them every day.
2. Change your diet.
When you set a healthy weight loss goal, it is important to look at your diet. What foods are you consuming that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Keep a record of your eating patterns. What’s going when you reach for that bowl of ice cream at midnight? Are you tired? Stressed? These factors and more are related to achieving a healthy weight.
- Reducing your daily calorie intake will require healthy eating choices. If you’re more of a “numbers person,” consult a registered dietitian, nutritionist or your physician for recommended nutritional guides, and choose the one that works best for you.
- Use the right tools. You might like the idea of downloading an app to help nudge you along. There are many to choose from including apps that track your habits as well as ingredient checkers. The key is to use tools that are comfortable for you and that you will actually use to stay on track with reaching your goals.
3. Get moving.
Setting healthy weight loss goals involves making changes in more than one area of life. Starting a physical activity schedule is a definite tool to add to your plan. Develop a reasonable exercise schedule that works for you. Start off with less (remember, baby steps) and work your way up from there. Consult with your physician before you start any exercise program. Here are a few tips:
Keep your exercise goals realistic.
Start small if you need to, and then increase your regimen’s to more intensity, frequency, and duration. For example, if your goal is to run 5 miles, you might start by walking 1 mile. Do what’s feasible for you and start where your body and fitness levels are. Starting off at a slower pace is a smart way to approach your goal and helps build up some stamina and confidence, one mile at a time.
Don’t make major changes.
Setting goals that are too extreme and outside of your normal activities will only be discouraging and make you abandon course. Start off with activities that are closely aligned with your usual routines. By working you’re your current resources and schedule (rather than doing a complete overhaul) you have a better chance to succeed. So, instead of joining the CrossFit way across town; start by exercising in the park that’s on your way home from work. And start small! Build up your time and stamina so you will be able to stick to the new habits and reap the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight.
Exercise a little bit each day or multiple times per week to increase your energy and help you become healthier. There are many ways you can do this without investing in a gym membership if gyms are not your favorite place to hang out. Consider affordable at-home equipment, walking in your neighborhood, or that park I mentioned earlier. Get creative and make your new routine something you look forward to doing!
4. Make it social.
Accountability is a definite key to successful goal achievement. Get friends and family involved. The people who are most successful in losing weight (or achieving other goals for that matter) are the ones who have support. Tap into your natural support systems and enlist cheerleaders to help keep you accountable and motivated.
- Your Pep Squad will help you to remain focused, and who knows, they might become workout buddies to motivate you even further along your journey.
- Celebrating your milestones with others will make them that much more meaningful.
Some people find it helpful to have professional support as they tackle their wellness and fitness goals. You might join an online group or consider working with a Certified Health Coach to help you set and achieve your goals.
Set a Healthy Weight Loss Goal
Getting healthier shouldn’t be hard. And achieving a healthy body weight doesn’t have to be something you put on your wish list. With a few simple steps and smart strategies, a healthier, leaner, more energized and less stressed you could be right around the corner. All of this is possible for anyone who approaches it with a clear vision in mind, a solid plan, and the right support system. With some careful preparation and determination, your healthy lifestyle goals can certainly become a reality.
Do you need support in building a healthier lifestyle? Contact me for a free consultation to see if Lifestyle & Health Coaching may be a good fit for you. If you’re interested in psychotherapy, I no longer offer these services, but I’d be happy to refer you to a colleague.