If getting my mind in the right place was the first order of business to begin the process of weight loss, setting realistic goals was the second.
I tried losing weight so many times. This was always my goal:
I had no plan, no road map, no idea of how to get there; I just wanted to lose weight NOW. And time after time, my efforts to lose weight ended up a big goose egg, leaving me more miserable at being such a failure. I tried things like skipping dinner and eating 10 stalks of celery a day. Both lasted for maybe 2 days.
I did a lot of reading about weight loss. I was searching for that magic tip that would take me from 180 to skinny with no effort. I didn’t find the rabbit hole from fat to skinny, but I did find a sort of road map to help me get there–setting realistic goals. Setting specific, realistic goals.
Realizing that I needed to lose 50 pounds was overwhelming. I mean that’s a stinkin’ amount of weight! How do I even start? Where do I start? Sure, we all know about good nutrition and exercise, but…I mean, 50, and eventually 60, pounds! It was too much to think about.
But reading about goal setting in a weight loss scenario was a light bulb moment. You’ve probably heard about how to eat an elephant, right? You eat an elephant one bite at a time. That’s how you lose weight. One pound, one meal, at a time. I had to break down my big nebulous goal of LOSE WEIGHT into bite sized goals. I learned that I needed both long and short term goals.
Physically writing out my goals was helpful. It made them concrete and in some way, provided some accountability. I mean, if it’s written in black and white, you have to follow through, right?
I started with my long term goal. I knew I needed to lose 60 pounds and it wasn’t going to happen overnight (bummer!). So I had to be realistic about giving my goal a time frame. Remembering that safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, I estimated that if I could lose 8 pounds a month, I could reach my long term goal in 9 months. I decided to give myself a little “wiggle” room in case I didn’t always lose 2 pounds a week.
After I set my long term goal, I created some short term, and then some very short term, goals. I set a monthly weight loss goal of losing 8 pounds. I set a weekly goal of losing 2 pounds, and I set meal by meal goals. I would determine what I was going to eat for that meal and that would be that (I’ll be writing more on being determined later). I set a goal of exercising 5 days a week, and exercise goals of burning x amount of calories on the elliptical or walking for x amount of time.
As I made it through each meal or exercise session, there was such a sense of accomplishment of meeting a goal. That motivated me to keep going. And at the end of the week, seeing the number on the scale go down was motivation again to keep going. I always had my ultimate goal in sight, but my focus was meeting those short term goals. I wasn’t always thinking about those 60 pounds I needed to lose; I was thinking about making good choices for this meal and reaching this exercise goal.
Soon, I’ll write the story of how I actually put the wheels of change in motion, but one of the first steps was just setting realistic goals. If you’re contemplating losing weight, could I just encourage you to set some goals? How much weight do you need to lose? Be realistic in how much time it will take you to meet that goal. You’re only setting yourself up for discouragement if you have unrealistic expectations.
And now, on the other side of fat, I’m discovering the value of specific, realistic goals in other areas of my life as well. I have short term goals I’m working through now in CrossFit. I want to be able to do a strict pull-up by my birthday in July. To that end, I’m doing specific amounts of several exercises every day I’m at the gym to increase my strength and mobility to help me acquire that skill.
What goals are you setting for yourself? Seriously, I’d love to hear from you! Losing weight is hard, but I’m living proof that it can be done. Can I just be your cheerleader and say, “You’ve got this! You can do it!”