How to set weight loss goals and what it really takes to achieve them.
73% - 92% - It's an important statistic to remember when it comes to achieving your fitness goals.
Whilst figures vary, the range of people who fail to achieve their goals is thought to be from 73% up to 92%. I'm sure you'll agree that is exceptionally high.
There are a number of reasons why people give up before achieving their goals, the main ones being:
- Not setting the right goals
- Not understanding what it takes to achieve those goals
- Not understanding how long it takes to achieve those goals
In this article, I'll cover those issues and try to set out what I've found
works for my clients who have successfully achieved their goals.
Setting The Right Goal
If you work in a business or office environment, there's a good chance you have come across the acronym SMART. It's a frame work for setting up goals and has a few variations. My tweaked version is SMARTE:
Specific: Is your goal well defined so can you tell someone exactly what you want to achieve? For example, if your goal is to "lose weight", well if you lose 1lb you've lost weight is your goal achieved? No? Ok, so if you want to lose weight, tone up etc, think about exactly what that means. There's a big difference between saying "I want to lose some weight" and "I am going to lose 20 pounds and drop 2 dress sizes".
Measureable: How do you plan on tracking your progress to know if you have reached your specific goal? This is where making a specific goal helps no end because it practically determines how you will measure your progress. If you want to lose 20 lbs, use a scale. If you want to drop 2 dress sizes, gauge your clothes. If you want to lift so much weight for an exercise, record the amount you are lifting.
Attainable: Are you likely to be successful at reaching your goal? This isn't to piss on anyone's parade, quite the opposite. It's to avoid setting you up for disappointment. For example, in setting up your goals are you going to have to break a few world records to do it? Do you have the current skills, knowledge and resources to get in the sort of shape or achieve the fitness goals you want? (unsubtle hint: hiring a Personal Trainer will greatly improve your chances).
Relevant: Is the goal you're setting what you really want to do or is it something you just set yourself every year out of habit with no real commitment to achieving it? The main question is why you want to achieve this goal - more on this in a bit.
Timely: Setting a deadline to your goals gives you a sense of urgency and kicks your butt into taking action to reaching those goals. So again, there is a big difference between "I want to lose some weight" and "I am going to lose 20lbs in 5 months." With setting the deadline, ensure you keep the attainable goal in mind.
Realistically, you can look to lose an average of 0.5lb to 2lbs of weight each week if your training and nutrition is in order. So if your goal means you're having to lose an average of 4 -5 lbs a week, you may need to rethink your goal or your deadline.
Emotion: Why are you looking to achieve that goal? This is often overlooked and yet can act as the big driver to spur you on when the motivation starts to drop.
Write your goal down according to the SMART framework and then ask yourself "Why do I want to achieve this?".
Write that answer down and then continue to ask the why question another 4 - 6 times to reveal the real reason why you want to achieve those goals.
Hopefully you can see there is a big difference between setting some typical "I want to lose weight and tone up" type goal and setting one up around the SMARTE method.
Give your goal some real meaning, write it down and keep it handy so you can remind yourself of it often.
What it takes to achieve your goals
Let me get the big disappointment out the way first - there isn't some kind of "magic bullet" or "secret" to getting in great shape.
The closest I can get to a "magic bullet" is consistency.
You need to be consistently eating and drinking the right things in the right amounts for most meals
You need to be consistently working out 2 - 4 times most weeks and being a bit more active during the day
You need to be consistently putting in the hard work and effort in those workouts
You need to be consistently getting enough sleep and recovering from the workouts
And finally, you need to be consistently taking action on the above, and (outside of medical conditions) you will see results.
That combination of consistency and taking action are the real keys and also where most people fall down.
It's also easy to see why so many people get confused about what to eat and how to train as there are so many different diets / ways to eat / ways to train and throw in the media also saying what you should and shouldn't eat.
It's easy to be hit by overwhelm and give up before you even start.
There is no one right or wrong answer for what to eat and how to train, only what is right for you.
I'll even lay out the general foundation of what you should be doing around 80% - 90% of the time and you can take that and work in to what suits you:
Calories - To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you are consuming less calories than you burn. Use scale weight / measurements mirror to determine if you're going the right way. If you're not, then either your daily activities or what you eat needs to be tweaked.
Meals - want to be a mix of lean protein (chicken, beef, fish, eggs, etc); smart carb choices (vegetables; fruit; potatoes; etc) and healthy fats (from meats and dairy, oils; avocado, nuts, and seeds etc).
The exact mix and what portions you put on your plate comes down to personal preferences and goals which is why I am only advising with general guidelines here.
Water - At least 8 glasses a day is recommended. If you're larger or sweat a lot, more than this is likely required.
Sleep - Around 7 - 8 hours most nights is ideal. You can still achieve your fitness goals on less but it stacks up against you.
Training - A mix of some strength work, endurance work and cardio. Again I'm keeping it pretty general because personal preferences and goals have a massive role in what you choose to do.
The key is to pick exercises that work well for you and consistency progress in those exercises. It's no good sticking at the same weight for the same reps and sets for 6 months and wondering why you're getting nowhere.
Improving your NEAT - Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - Fancy way of saying these are the calories you burn through activities not relating to exercising. They can add an extra 200 - 900 calorie burn to your day.
Think about what you can do during the day to burn more calories such as: take the stairs; park further away from the shops / place of work / gym (I mean seriously, you're going to take up a parent & child space to be closer to the gym and then do something like go on the treadmill for 30 minutes? Have a word with yourself. End of rant.); aim to walk 10,000 steps a day.
The final part to understanding why consistently doing the right things is so important, think of it this way:
You have a set of habits and behaviours you are consistently doing right now which have lead you to being in your current state.
If you're not happy with how you're looking and feeling, you need to change those habits and behaviours to new ones which drive you towards the goal YOU want and then consistently do them.
If you do not keep working on the new habits, you will slip back into what you were previously doing and end up back to where you were. That is another reason why so many people fail at their goals.
How long it takes to achieve your goals
It's likely you've seen some crappy infomercial promising X results in 6 - 8 weeks or someone who has achieved above average results in a short space of time.
Whilst it is possible for some people to achieve incredible results in such a short timeframe. You need to understand that for most people (myself included), it takes a long time to achieve noticeable results.
I briefly mentioned it earlier and I'll repeat it here, you can look to lose an average of 0.5lb to 2lbs of weight each week. This is providing you are eating the right things, training the right amount with enough effort and generally being a bit more active.
Some of you might scoff at 0.5lbs per week. However, if you were to consistently lose about 0.5lbs each week for 6 months that would be 12lbs lost. Are you saying that if you want to lose weight, you wouldn't look and feel better being 12lbs lighter?
Now, what does kill motivation is the following:
When you first start exercising and eating properly, it's easy to drop a higher than normal amount of weight. I've known people to drop 4 - 5 lbs in a week to begin with.
After the first few weeks, you will notice this start to slow down to maybe 2 - 3lbs, then around 1lb a week. Then some weeks, the weight won't move at all.
It's never a straight line from A to B, there will be bad days and times when you hit plateaus. Sometimes changing up your exercising will work. Other times you may need to amend what you eat (remember that as your weight decreases, the amount of calories you require will decrease too).
By knowing and understanding what is in this article, I don't want you to give up at the first sign of things getting difficult or thinking you are not getting anywhere. Even if it feels like you're spinning your wheels, stick at it and continue to work hard in the gym and incrementally improve your nutrition and you WILL get there.
This is my, mostly, Personal Trainer musings and information which I hope you'll find helpful!