Setting Realistic Goals

It’s so easy to set goals that are unattainable. Not only in life, but in weight loss. I was very guilty of setting myself up for failure by setting goals that were absolutely impossible to reach. During my obese years I might say:

♥ I’m going to lose 25 pounds by July 4th (when July 4th was only 6 weeks away)

♥I’m going to lose 5 pounds this week.

♥I’m going to be able to fit into a size 10 pair of pants 60 days from now (when I currently wore a 22)

♥I’m going to get fit by Thanksgiving (when the most exercise I had done in years was walk to the pantry)

Now – I’m all for setting goals. I believe that having definite goals and accompanying plans on how to reach those goals is very important. I love it when I read your blogs and see your goals for the upcoming weeks/months laid out with a plan on how to achieve those goals. That’s fabulous.

I’m not for setting unrealistic goals, especially when it comes to weight loss. One of the things I’ve learned, both from personal experience and from working with people is that weight loss doesn’t operate on a predictable path. There are a lot of unexpected dips and valleys along the way, and setting unrealistic goals are a very good way to dump yourself off the wagon when a valley comes along.

I did a lot of things differently that last time I lost weight. And one of the things I did differently that really helped me succeed was not setting weekly weight loss goals for myself. Instead of focusing on how much I lost each week I focused on how well I handled food that week. And generally, when I handled food well, the scale cooperated. By not getting single mindedly focused on the scale, but rather focusing on the behavior I had success.

Another thing I did, which I see a lot of you doing too, is setting goals that weren’t just about the NUMBER, but rather around behaviors. For example, I set goals for exercise, for social situations, for meal preparation, and for my children’s health. By widening the goals from the number on the scale to my life as a whole I was able to work on improving my all around mental, emotional, and physical health.

What are your thoughts on setting weight goalsDiane

34 thoughts on “Setting Realistic Goals

  1. Susan says:

    As long as they are healthy and realistic goals for weight loss such as 1-2 pounds weekly I think its OK. More than that amount of weight loss is setting yourself up for failure. The only time I ever lost 5 pounds in a week was right after surgery and it came right back the minute I started eating and drinking fluid again:)
    I think its more important to focus on getting healthy, and that includes exercise as well as diet.

  2. Marcelle says:

    Hello there

    Thanks for the comment on my blog, I know a few of my friends have come over to read your amazing blog, I had to share as I get such great motivation from you daily, could not keep that to myself a minute longer!!

    I also see people setting up HUGE goals for themselves and a few weeks later you see how down they are feeling as it was impossible to reach – I set small goals for me…sometimes only daily goals as life happens when you making plans – then you feel guilty cause you cant keep them.

    This week I had a plan for my week…going to eat within my points and train daily…Wednesday I got such bad news from home my life came crashing down around me, I didn’t train, and I stress ate…today, I’m taking it minute for minute…I intend to skip later….but if I dont its okay…tomorrow is another day, cant beat myself up about these sort of things.

    Small goals is what I set out for myself.

  3. Julie Lost and Found says:

    I have done the same thing for sooo long! Last year, we were going to go to Costa Rica to the rainforest. I was going to lose 50 lbs in 10 weeks..that’s 5 lbs per week! We went on an Alaskan Cruise instead…LOL

    I’m the queen of urealistic goals.

    So much, that finally, I am contemplating NOT getting on the scale until the end of this summer. Contemplating setting some health goals and not allowing myself on the scale as I get so obsessed with the numbers and thinking “oooh, let’s see if I can lose 6 lbs by the end of next week..”

    Do you think it’s a bad idea to totally stay OFF the scale for a few months as long as I’m working on other goals?

  4. vickie says:

    I suppose goal settings can be linked to ‘TO DO’ lists and IMPOSSIBLE TO DO lists are self sabotage. I always think of these impossible lists as things like “writing a novel while climbing the alps”. And often these impossible to do lists contain multiple ‘setting oneself up for failure’ things.

    I totally agree that changing behaviors (that will result in weight loss and BETTER HEALTH) is really the way to go. Another blogger used to make one change a week. Often these were tiny changes – but one change a week is a LOT of major change over the course of a year.

    good post.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Little moments =-.

  5. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    Yesterday I blogged about how I had realized that I should focus on goals I could control. I can’t control the scale or the number on it. I CAN control what I eat, or don’t eat, and my exercise. I have also seen many who want to lose X number of pounds by X date and worry that they are setting themselves up for frustration. Yes, in my mind I have a weight in mind, but I can do everything right and still not reach number X.
    .-= Karen@WaistingTime´s last blog ..It’s my party and I’ll cheat if I want to =-.

  6. MB says:

    I swore this time would be different because it is the last time I will have to lose this weight. I’m not stressing over the scale anymore. It goes up and down but I’m focusing on getting to the gym and eating better. The weight itsn’t coming off fast (this time) but it is dropping so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration. I’m glad to have you showing me how the maintenance part works. I’ve never been able to figure that part out and look forward to getting there and staying there this time.

  7. Emergefit says:

    “Another thing I did, which I see a lot of you doing too, is setting goals that weren’t just about the NUMBER, but rather around behaviors.”

    This is the concept that is missing with 90% people attempting weight-loss — my (expereinced) opinion. I make a huge point when new clients begin with me that I don’t want to know what their goals are — at all. It’s okay for them to have goals — they should, but please “keep them to yourself” I always say.

    I am much more concerned about their daily actions and eating habits than their goals. It’s not a coincidence that those who connect with this ideal — are successful. I have no numbers to quantify this, but I suggest this is a broad brush stroke with accuracy.

    I have one weight-loss client going right now and I just told here this we that she has one job with me, and one job only; to take all the little steps that comprise a journey.
    .-= Emergefit´s last blog ..Blue Zone Thoughts… =-.

  8. Diane says:

    I never set weigh goals ! My body has way too many wild cards going for it. Instead I set a kind of a health goal of living as healthy of a lifestyle as I can , eating as healthy as I can and watching to see what things I am rewarded with. Lower weight, more mobility, looser clothing, better sleep, more energy or so forth. The number on the scale does not tell the whole story – it is simply a guideline to possibilities and potential.
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Pizza for the gluten intolerant =-.

  9. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    I think it is important to set realistic & attainable goals, especially when you have a lot to lose in terms of weight. Behavior goals are crucial too. Will help you survive real life.

    Saying all that at this point in my life, when I was young & lost the wieght, there was no goal except to lose weight & not be fat. I did it BUT I did need to learn all the other stuff after the fact!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Run for Kids! =-.

  10. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Yes, realistic goals are important. And you are so right, weight loss is often somewhat unpredictable, and we may not lose as much as we thought even though we “did everything right.” I also didn’t focus on the number when I lost weight last year but rather on exercise, healthy foods, and how I felt. I actually was “stuck” for quite a while and had I focused on the number, it would have been easy to give up… Instead, I focused on the fact that I was actually getting some rather impressive (for me!) muscle definition in my arms and back, ate wonderful fresh food that made me feel great, and was able to run a few miles and actually enjoyed it! 🙂
    .-= Andrea@WellnessNotes´s last blog ..Eating Your Colors =-.

  11. Tish says:

    Definitely. When you learn about goal-setting in a business situation, you not only have to articulate a goal, but, more importantly, you have to detail the step-by-step actions you will take to reach that goal. My current action plan for my weight loss goal is to drink 8+ cups of water each day. It’s working.
    .-= Tish´s last blog ..I did it! =-.

  12. The Chubby Girl Diaries says:

    This is one area I have a hard time defining. My initial goal was to lose 100 pounds this year. I have “treats” figured out for when I get down to certain weights.

    I guess I am just going with the flow. I don’t mind that this is going slowly. And like you, I am working on changing my behavior toward food and getting to the bottom of the emotional attachment to food. In the long run, that is going to help me lose for the long term.

    Fantastic post! 🙂

    .-= The Chubby Girl Diaries´s last blog ..You can be a Biggest Loser too! =-.

  13. Teresa says:

    Thanks, Diane! I needed this today. I’m facing a recent large weight gain (UGH, lost 88, gained back 74) and I’m at the point of setting some goals right now and getting back into it. I realize that part of my backslide is because I set unrealistic goals and either was discouraged when they weren’t met or excited when they were but let down because I couldn’t keep up the rigorous workouts and eating regime long term. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

  14. says:

    Focusing on a number is not healthy for me. I think with exercise and weight resistance training building more muscle mass it can make my body look smaller at a higher weight.

    I will know the right weight by the way my clothes fit and how I feel. I have no time frame limits. I am doing my best every day and I am happy with the results I am getting.

    I am focusing on changing my unhealthy eating habits and thought patterns.
    .-=´s last blog ..Marathon Shopping =-.

  15. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    My weight losses were random so the best goals for me were how I handled the week. Did I emotionally eat? Did I over do it? Did I get in activity? Did I eat with purpose instead of mindfully?

    Those goals I could measure and feel good about even if the scale didn’t reward me. Those I could reward myself for with a song from iTunes or a bit of savings for a fitness thing I wanted. And if I was diligent in this the weight would come off.

  16. Siobhan says:

    I look at goals the way I look at my to-do list. I write down what I want to accomplish, but, unless there is a fixed deadline (i.e. in my to-do list), there is no time-line attached to any item.
    .-= Siobhan´s last blog ..the lite version =-.

  17. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I’m with you. My goals this year mean that I need to lose 1 pound a week for a year. Currently I am ‘maintaining’ during a difficult time. Since I’m ahead of schedule, I don’t feel like a failure!
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog ..#LongHardDay =-.

  18. Don Doornbos says:

    I’m pretty lack in setting specific weight goals. As long as my trend is downward and / or maintaining I’m content. At some point I WOULD like to crossover into ONEderland and enter what is statistically considered to be “normal” weight range which begins around 194 for me. However I am pretty content with my 200-210 range. Especially considering my highs of 350 to 450! 🙂


  19. Carla says:

    I do have goals in mind, but I don’t like to give time limits. I don’t need the pressure of having to lose x number of pounds by x date. It’s silly really. It’s a lifestyle change, not a race! I agree with what you say – focus on healthy eating and exercise.
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..A beautiful weekend in Ottawa =-.

  20. Taryl says:

    Ooooh, this is one of my hot button topics! I cant stand it when I see people set unreAlistic goals for themselves, it is a recipe for discouragement and failure. Heck, almost any time based goal, in my experience, sets me up for disappointment and failure. It becomes about having ‘only lost 1.7 pounds :(‘ when the goal was 2.0, instead of being exultant for another great week with a healthy loss. It becomes more about negatives than positives. It isn’t a kind attitude go have for ourselves.

    As I mentioned on my most recent blog, I am within my daily calorie totals for the most part, but I really could be doing better on the nutritional composition of those calories. Especially when it is impossible to measure myself reasonably with a scale or measuring tape, it becomes all the more Important to focus on what I CAN manage than the things that will take care of themselves.

    So my goal, right now, is to persist in exercising, and make sure I get more roughage today during lunch and dinner. Easy, attainable, and steps in the right direction – exactly how I like it 🙂
    .-= Taryl´s last blog ..Note to self: =-.

  21. zaababy says:

    I’ve always set the ridiculous goals too. But this time, the only goal I made was how much I wanted to weigh at some point in the future. I did kind of hope I would lose 100 pounds in a year but I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I didn’t make that. I like to see if I can go faster up a hill than I did before, or go farther on my bike, silly stuff like that.
    I’m glad things are different in this area. I never really thought about it until I read your post. Every one of your posts makes me nod my head in agreement!
    .-= zaababy´s last blog ..Day 366–A Most Righteous Anniversary Post–I Want to Tell You About Me =-.

  22. 'Drea says:

    I like setting small goals — like losing three pounds to get to the next landmark like a five — 175 etc.

    You said a mouthful though: weight loss doesn’t operate on a predictable path. That’s beyond true…
    .-= ‘Drea´s last blog ..Outsize Me =-.

  23. Leah says:

    I’ve been very scared of setting too specific goals. As you know, my original goal when I started my journey was to buy a new dress for my husband’s graduation that was NOT in the plus sizes section of the store. This could be a size 14 or a size 8. Though my progress has been slow I’m confident I’ll get there.

    Great post!
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..The Final Chapter =-.

  24. John says:

    If it’s a realistic goal you are more likely to continue on the path of weight loss,etc. If it’s not and you miss the goal it may lead you to quitting.

  25. Dan says:

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
    Works also on mobile, and syncs with Evernote.

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