About Fogdog's Weight Loss

Don't Focus on the Goal...

If you've followed this blog you know that I've struggled for many years with improving my health. I've finally reached a point where I've managed to maintain a small amount of success. Now it's time to take the next step, but I believe it requires a new way of thinking.

Instead of trying to get healthy, why not shift focus toward learning how to build healthy habits instead. Follow me as I try to teach myself how to Engineer healthy habits that will allow me to take my health to the next level. Let's see where this experiment goes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Set SMART Weight Loss Goals

I’ve already shared my main goal to get to 199 pounds, but is that it? What about timing? Is this a good goal? Fortunately for me my profession has given me lots of experience setting goals. As an engineer I manage a lot of projects. Projects always have objectives and goals that must be achieved. Good objectives should be SMART. SMART is actually an acronym for the 5 main components of a good objective. It stands for:

Specific – Objectives should specify exactly what they want to achieve.

Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.

Achievable - Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable (is it possible)?

Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives?

Time – How long will it take to achieve the set objectives?

So for example, if I said my objective was to lose a lot of weight, that would not be a good goal. It’s not specific and it has no time component. It’s measurable, but I have no idea if it is achievable or realistic. What if my goal was to get to 199 pounds? Saying that my goal is to get to 199 pounds is better because it is specific, but it is still missing the time component.

What if I said I wanted to reach and maintain a weight of 199 or less before I turn 40? Its very specific, and obviously you can measure it. Is it achievable? Well I’m 6’ tall with a medium build (I’ve always told myself that I have a large frame but It’s always been one of those myths that help me to justify my weight). 199 might be tough, but my body should be able to physically reach that number so it is achievable. Is it realistic? Well I’m 37 right now so it will be 32 months before I hit 40. 98 pounds in 32 months? I think most experts would agree that this goal is achievable. And finally it has a time component so it is a good goal

Short term vs Long term goals

My goal to get to (and maintain) 199 by the time I’m 40 is a good goal, but it will take me 3 years to get there! That’s a long time to wait to see if I met my goal. In order to track my progress I need to set some short terms goals.

How much time you should have between short term goals is really up to the person setting them. There should be enough short term goals to help keep you motivated, but not so many as to take away from the final result. There’s a few things to keep in mind when setting short term goals:

1. They still need to use the SMART format

2. They should not conflict with the long term goal. For instance, if I set a short term goal to lose 2 pounds each month, it would be in conflict with my long term goal to lose 98 pounds in 32 months (2 pounds/month x 32 months = only 64 pounds).

3. Whenever possible try to avoid setting short term goals that build off each other. For example, what if I said I wanted to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year (short term goal #1) and then 60 pounds by the end of march (short term goal #2)? if I miss my first goal it gets that much harder to meet my second goal because the second goal assumes that I met the first. A better choice would be to set a goal to lose 30 pounds every 3 months.

4. Short term goals should be harder than the long term goal. The idea is to push yourself in these short bursts in order to set you up to reach your final goal. A goal of losing 6 pounds each month is tough and much more than needed to reach my ultimate goal. But by doing that I know that if I don’t meet my goal every month, I still have a chance to come out on top in the end.

5. Short term goals can be dynamic. You don’t have to set all of your short term goals at once. Instead you can wait to see how well you perform on one short term goal and then use that knowledge to adjust and set a new short term goal. Maybe after trying to lose 6 pounds each month for 3 months, you see that you missed you goal every month. You could then adjust for the next 3 month to a new level. It’s possible that the goal you set was not Realistic.


So what should you do when you meet your goals? For some people just the recognition that they achieved something they set out to do is reward enough. For the rest of us something more tangible is needed. Maybe a reward for losing weight could be to take trip you always wanted, or maybe you could buy new clothes. There’s a few things to keep in mind when deciding rewards:

First, rewards should be on the same scale as the goal. Taking a trip to Jamaica because you lost 5 pounds doesn’t seem to fit nor does buying a new ball cap after you lose 100. Maybe you can take that trip when you reach your final goal. Make sure your rewards fit your goals.

Also, rewards shouldn’t conflict with your ultimate goal. Eating a 5 gallon bucket of ice cream every time you lose 5 pounds is a sure fire way to keep you from losing 100. Now before I get a bunch of comments calling me a hypocrite because I said I would cut myself some slack on the weekends if I meet my weekly goal, let me clarify a little. You need to give yourself a break once in a while. If you take things too seriously, eventually you will crack and then things get a lot worse. I’ve learned this painfully through experience. A little treat now and then is OK, but it shouldn’t be your driver for success. If you allow yourself to live a little now and then that’s OK. When I post my goals you will see that this minor indulgence is not the driver for my overall journey.

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