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setting weight loss goals

Setting Weight Loss Goals – Three Novel Approaches

Posted by Dr. Ray Hinish

Did you know that setting weight loss goals requires different strategies than setting career or financial goals? In fact, if you set your fat loss goals the same way that you set career or financial goals, you could literally be setting yourself up for failure!

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the best approach for setting realistic weight loss goals and how to immunize yourself against the frustration that usually occurs when people use the “S.M.A.R.T Goal” formula for their body-change goals.

Why S.M.A.R.T. Goals Aren’t So Smart For Fat Loss

If you’ve ever heard a weight loss expert discuss setting goals on television, they almost always suggest following the S.M.A.R.T. formula, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.

If you’re like me, you look at this formula and think, “That makes sense.” In fact, it does make sense if you’re setting all other goals but weight loss goal, here’s why…

Weight Loss Is An Ugly Science

The reality is…You have no control over how much weight you lose…

You only have control over what you do and you can’t “do” weight loss. When we say weight loss is an ugly science we mean that we could take 100 people and put them on exactly the same diet and exercise program and see 100 different results. Some people would lose 10 pounds, the person standing right next to them would lose 2 pounds, and the person standing next to them would quit the program because it was too restrictive. The bottom line is S.M.A.R.T. goals would work if weight loss was linear and predictable, but it’s not…it’s totally unpredictable.

This means that we can’t dictate the time it will take to achieve a certain weight loss result for any given person. If we can’t predict how much weight we lose in a set time, that means we can’t predict whether or not a goal is realistic or achievable. So, the best you can do, when it comes to weight loss, is set a “S.M.” goal, and a “Smmmm goal” isn’t quite as catchy as a “S.M.A.R.T.” goal…

Human Beings Make Terrible Psychics

When it comes down to it, we’re trying to predict the future by setting a goal. We’re in essence, estimating what we are capable of achieving, but we leave out one very important factor within that prediction…

That is…our promised effort.

In other words, that result isn’t going to come magically in the night; you’re going to have to do something to achieve that goal and here’s the fatal problem…

Our default programming, as it pertains to estimating future weight loss is not to do “something”, it’s to do “everything”! Let me explain…

So, when we picture ourselves losing 20 pounds by the end of next month, we hardly ever sit down and figure out what we’re going to do to achieve that goal…we just imagine that we’ll do everything, such as, eat perfect food all the time, avoid all sugar, drink nothing but water, exercise every day, all day, park our car 12 blocks away from work so that we’ll be forced to walk, etc.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating to make my point, which actually isn’t much of an exaggeration because the lifestyle that we assume we will follow is usually equally impossible given our busy schedules and endless responsibilities.

The reality is we assume that because we set a motivational goal, that the motivation will propel us through all of our road blocks, and it does for a few days, then our  motivation wanes and we give in to the temptations that stare us in the face every moment of every day…

So, let’s review…

  1. We can’t predict how much weight we can lose in a set time. We can’t even accurately estimate it…
  2. Because we can’t predict weight lost in a set period of time, we have no idea what’s achievable or realistic
  3. We’re terrible at predicting the future and even worst at estimating the amount of effort we’re willing to put into a particular goal

Needless to say, it’s not looking good for setting realistic weight loss goals.

When Does Achieving Your Weight Loss Goal Make You Sad?

I once had a client who came into the office in tears because she had finally achieved her weight loss goal, but when her trainer did her body fat measurement she was fatter than when she started!

She had gone from being fat to being “skinny-fat” and she was even more unhappy than before she had achieved her weight loss goal. This brings us to our next point…

Weight loss is not fat loss…

The weight loss mindset makes more fat people than any other thinking process in the world! Yo-yo dieters, who obsess about weight loss, get fatter and fatter by the year, even if they lose weight on the scale! They’re less happy than before they started dieting  because their body is in biochemical disarray and they look worst than before they lost the weight (looking good is the number one reason for attempting to lose weight)!

The Goal Assention Plan (GAP)

When we’re working with people, we need to help them elevate their thinking, especially around goals. Usually they come to us looking for help achieving their weight loss goals, so we work with them to elevate their thinking.

We start by convincing them to abandon weight loss thinking and instead set fat loss goals, then as we help them achieve their fat loss goals, we elevate their thinking once again to fitness goals because fat loss thinking won’t serve you after you’ve burned the fat.

Thinking about how to get more fit, active, and energetic will serve you much better in the long run. In fact, the only thing that seems to immunize people against regaining burned fat is a very active life and so it’s import to assent above weight loss, and even fat loss thinking into a mindset of activity and health.

Setting Goals For Fat Loss

As I mentioned, the conventional S.M.A.R.T. goal recipe is not helpful for fat loss because we have no control over how much fat or weight we lose. Your chemistry, genetics, physiology, and psychology will dictate how quickly your body releases fat. We only have control of what we eat, how we manage stressful circumstances, how much we move, and how much we sleep.

What’s A Realistic Weight Loss Goal?

Well, if you held a gun to my head and demanded that I tell you what’s a realistic weight loss goal, I’d say “one-half to one pound a week averaged out over a minimum of 6 months with some weeks showing more than one pound, some weeks showing less than one-half pound, some weeks going up, and some weeks staying stubbornly the same.” There…I answered your question, don’t shoot me.

What’s clearly a fantasy is 2 pounds a week, each and every week as long as you cut 500 calories a day from your diet and exercise away 500 calories a day. It sounds logical, after all, a 1,000 calorie deficit would amount to 7,000 calories in 7 days, which should lead to 2 pounds of fat loss…it’s logical but it’s still total bull.

Why 2 Pounds a Week Is Bull

2 pounds a week is bull because the body adapts…

When you’re running a 1,000 calorie deficit every day, the body senses that you’re starving and it adapts. Sure, you may lose 2 pounds for the first week, maybe even the second week, possibly even the third or the fourth or the sixth, but eventually the weight loss will slow and then the only guarantee is that eventually the disappointment will arrive.

Within The World’s Greatest Weight Loss System online program, one of the first things that I have people do is figure out their initial weight loss goal and a “best case scenario” as to when they could expect to achieve their goal. They’re almost always surprised to discover that what they estimated would take them 4 months to achieve will actually take them 1 year to achieve, but you want to hear something very interesting and surprising?

They’re not heart broken…they’re relieved.

Well, maybe not immediately, but after they think about it, they realize that they’re here for a different path and a different solution, and it just so happens that one thing they haven’t tried is setting a realistic goal of one-half to one pound a week, expecting that weight loss to happen in a sporadic fashion (sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes sideways) and enjoying the process rather than hating life as they try to bust through every obstacle that stands in their way all in one final stand! Last stands are never fun.

Realistic Weight Loss Expectations

Realistic expectations are hard to call and it depends on where in your fat loss journey you are starting at. If you have 100 pounds to lose, you may drop 5 or 10 pounds in a week, if you’re 10 pounds from your ideal weight, you may count your losses in ounces rather than pounds.

As a foundation, I think it’s reasonable to expect one-half to one pound averaged out over a six month period with some weeks going up, some going down, and some sideways for no apparent reason…just because weight loss is an ugly science.

If you’re 50-100 pounds overweight, it is very reasonable to expect 60-80 pounds over a one year period. Just know that as you get closer to your goal weight, the weight loss science gets uglier and uglier and the weight loss will slow dramatically.

Goal Setting Strategies for Successful Fat Loss

Strategy #1:Dr. Ray’s Simple 3-Goal Method

I’m a fan of simplicity. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes down to it, the biggest motive for most people is changing their body, or more accurately, how they feel in their body. So I built the 3-goal template for setting weight loss goals.

This approach gives you an achievable picture to work towards and simultaneously helps to prevent you from “snapping back” to your original starting weight.

You see, if you’re 100 pounds overweight and you decide to fit a bikini in 1 year, it’s going to be hard to maintain your motivation because your goal is so far away and the journey will be filled with obstacles that may derail you along the way.

If you try despite the warning, and you successfully lose 70 pounds out of the 100 before getting derailed, then you will snap back to the only set-point reality that you know…the 100 pound overweight version of yourself.

If, however, we can separate your journey into three chunks, and change your perception of yourself along the way, then we can increase your likelihood of success and simultaneously decrease the chances that you’ll just give up and snap back to the 100 pound overweight version of yourself.

In essence, there are three goals for women and three goals for men. These goals must be achieved sequentially, you can’t skip any of them, you simply must dedicate your efforts to the next goal. Once you achieve it, you can then work towards the next goal in line…

For women, the three goals are:

  1. Feel Good In Skinny Jeans
  2. Feel Good In A One-Piece Bathing Suit
  3. Feel Good In A Bikini

For men, the goals are:

  1. Feel good in a business suit
  2. Feel good in a t-shirt
  3. Feel good in a bathing suit

Most women go from their current body type to aiming for the Bikini body and this is a big mistake (unless you’re already feeling good in a one-piece). You see, when you shoot for the bikini body, as soon as your mind doubts that you can achieve that imagined goal, then you will give up and guess where you’ll snap back to? If you guessed your starting body/weight, you are correct.

Now, let’s look at a scenario where you use the 3-goal method…

Let’s say that you’re starting 30 pounds away from the weight when you fit those skinny jeans that hang tauntingly in your closet and after 6 months of hard work you achieve your goal and go out for a night on the town with the girls wearing those defeated skinny jeans! Wonderful! The next morning you awaken and decide to begin your journey to the one-piece bathing suit!

So, after a month or two, you’re closer to your one-piece goal when your mother falls ill and derails your weight loss effort. So, you snap back, but not to your starting weight, you snap back to your skinny-jean weight because that’s the new perception of your starting point and you spent 6 months mastering the skinny-jean lifestyle! Then when you’re ready, you can restart your journey to the land of the one-piece!

The three-goal approach helps you to change your psychological set-point as you achieve your goals! In addition, although it’s hard to imagine what “weight loss” looks like, what losing 1 pound of fat looks like for example, it’s easy to imagine feeling good in skinny-jeans, or a one-piece or a bikini.

This goal approach has many advantages and few negative points. You can still combine this with weight loss goals, like losing 1 pound a week for 90 days. You just use the numerical goals as shorter-term weight loss goals.

Strategy #2: The Hard Core Approach For Highly Motivated Individuals

At this time I will introduce you to the golden formula…

Here it is: Determine what you want, decide on the price that you will need to pay to achieve it, and get to work paying the price in full and in advance before you expect to achieve the payout.”

Here’s a question for you, “Who determines the price you’ll need to pay to achieve your fat loss goals?”

The answer is, NATURE.

Your body, your genetics, your biochemistry all determines the price that you need to pay to achieve fat loss. You have no say in the price tag. This is a big misconception for many people and believing that you have a say in the price is the shortcut to weight loss failure. They say, “Here’s what I’m going to pay, and here’s what I’m going to get for that effort.” Nature laughs diabolically and responds, “Good luck with that.”

Never Buy A Bottle of Wine Without A Price Tag

I learned the hard way to never to buy a bottle of wine that doesn’t have a price tag.

As I discovered, the liquor store owners intentionally leave price tags off of the expensive bottles because they know that you’ll see the bottles with $5.99 and $7.99 price tags surrounding the bottle in question and assume that the one without the tag will be in that same price range.

They also know that when the price comes up $19.99 that you’re not going to embarrass yourself by saying that you can’t afford that.

Just like the liquor store owner, Nature dictates price, not you. Unfortunately, nature also hides the price tag. So, a lot of your job is to discover the price that you’ll need to pay. This is where the second guiding principle of Cut The Fat comes in…”There’s only one true fat loss formula, and, it’s different for everyone.” The only way to discover your price is through trial and error. Sure, you want to start with what is most likely to work, but in the end the CATAA approach is the only way to discover your formula.

Most of us have some idea how our body responds to specific changes to diet and exercise routine. So, the next step is to sit down with a pen and paper and answer the following question…

“What would I have to do to virtually GUARANTEE that I’ll achieve my fat loss goals in a set time if I had an endless supply of time, energy, and willpower.”

Just list out everything that you’d need to do to guarantee the result in an ideal world where you have an endless supply of willpower and time. Then you can decide if you’re willing to pay such a price. If you are, then stop reading and get to work…

If you aren’t willing to do everything on that list, then the next step is to start to haggle with nature…

Every Weight Loss Program Is About Haggling With Nature

Now that we know what we’d need to commit to to achieve the level of leanness that we want, and we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re not willing to do all of those things, we need to start making concessions.

Let’s say that you want to look like a cover model in a magazine, but after doing the exercise above, you’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no way that you can do everything needed to achieve that goal.

We might say, “Ok, instead of the cover model body, I’m willing to accept the body that I had back in my Freshman year of college if that means that I can have a cheat meal on Friday nights and some sweet potato fries with dinner.”

The point is, 99 out of 100 people aren’t willing to do what they need to do to achieve the body of a fitness model (it’s VERY hard work), that doesn’t stop them from making that their goal, so we have to then decide what body composition we’d be happy with that would still allow us to enjoy certain “privileges” in life.

In essence, we must haggle with nature!

Look, if you look at the requirements needed to achieve your goal and you come to the honest realization that you’re not willing to do it, you have one of two choices…either your goal needs to change or you have to commit to the price that nature demands. Most people unfortunately choose the unadvertised third option…complain and jump from diet plan to diet plan with hopes that one of them will work.

So, what’s your choice?

Accept or haggle, it’s your choice!

The only thing that you need to accept in its totality is the truth that you get no say in the price you need to pay to achieve a certain goal, only in whether or not your willing to pay it!

Strategy 3: The Collateral Achievement Method

This is probably the funnest approach to setting and achieving your weight loss goals.

In a nutshell, the collateral achievement goal method is to achieve your weight loss goals by not setting any!

Instead, you set health, fitness, and fun goals; so many, in fact, that there’s no chance that you won’t lose weight along the way. In other words, weight loss becomes a collateral effect of achieving a fit and fun life full of activity and healthy food!

For example, you might set a series of fitness and fun challenges such as:

  • Play a season of flag football
  • Earn my black belt
  • Go scuba diving
  • Learn to dance salsa
  • Become a Certified Tae Bo Instructor
  • Get my personal training certification (even if you don’t plan on being a trainer)
  • Go 90 days without eating sugar
  • Go 6 months without eating anything with white flour
  • Run a 5K
  • Run a half marathon
  • Go 1 year without eating a doughnut in then office break-room
  • Join a kickball league
  • Join the office softball league

One blogger by the name of Mary, AMerryLife.com, has followed this approach and you can follower her journey at http://amerrylife.com/goals-progress/. I also noticed that she has a life list as well, in essence, she’s connected her life success with her weight loss and health success. Here’s a link to the life list: http://amerrylife.com/goals-progress/life-list/

You may also want to check out this blog post called the Fitness Bucket List!

Those are the three novel approaches to setting weight loss goals! In future posts, we’ll cover more focused topics within the weight loss goal topic. Please ask questions in the comments area below so that we know what topics to write about for all you Fat Cutters out there!

Dr. Ray Hinish About the Author
Dr. Ray Hinish is a nutritional pharmacist, certified personal trainer, & certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. He currently practices in Baltimore, MD, where he owns and operates a wellness center and natural foods restaurant. His mission is to help folks to live their health potential so that they can pursue their passions with confidence and endless supplies of energy!
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