The best way to get started on any weight loss program is to set goals. The reason many people wander off track and lose motivation is not having clear, attainable and step by step goals to guide them and focus their efforts. So if youíre just starting out making changes to your diet and exercise routines, or if youíve been struggling to stick to plans youíve already made, itís time to reassess what you want to achieve. As well as a long-term target, you should create medium- and short-term goals that you can check off along the way, focusing on actions and achievements that will help you get to your final destination. Hereís how to create a weight loss plan that will get you real resultsÖ
Features of effective goals
Action-focused. Itís important that your goals can be broken down into specific actions you can take to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 kilos, you need to focus on what steps will help you to actually achieve this. You might decide to set a sub-goal of aiming to take a 45-minute walk five times a week, or to make an effort to replace your unhealthy snacks with fruits and vegetables. Concentrating on the day-to-day lifestyle actions you can take makes your goal more achievable and will keep your motivation high.
Attainable. Choose a goal that you can actually see yourself achieving. Donít promise to exercise two hours each day if you know you donít actually have time to do that. And aiming to lose 10 kilos in two weeks is not only very difficult to achieve, itís also unhealthy. By setting unrealistic goals, youíll only be more likely to judge yourself harshly and lose motivation quickly. Itís better to set a smaller intermediate goal, and extend on that once you have achieved it.
Challenging. Although itís important to choose a goal that is realistic and attainable, you should also make sure youíre actually challenging yourself. Take small, progressive steps towards your target, but choose steps that are going to push you to extend yourself beyond where you already are. If itís too easy, you wonít see results as fast, which is likely to discourage you.
Specific. Your goals should be concrete and specific, making it easier to assess whether you have achieved it or not. For example, planning to Ďexercise moreí is a less effective goal than deciding to exercise four times a week. Similarly, Ďeating less junkí is harder to follow than aiming to limit yourself to one chocolate treat each week. Set yourself specific targets and youíll have more direction and motivation.
Time-limited. Set yourself a deadline, so you a clear target to work towards, which will help to keep your momentum going. This is why itís important to have both short and long term goals. If your final target weight will take you a while to achieve healthily, set yourself some milestone goals along the way. It will give you a sense of urgency that will propel you to act now. It also makes your larger goal seem less daunting and will keep you focused on the real steps you can take to get there, and gives you a sense of what you are achieving at each step.
Measurable. A good goal should be measurable, so you can break it down into steps of action and track your progress. This will help you to stay motivated, because it will remind you that small steps along the way are achievements in themselves, and youíll see the progress you are making towards your final goal.
Positive. Frame your goal in positive terms. The human brain responds better to doing things rather than not doing things or avoiding things. For example, instead of planning not to snack on chocolate, decide to focus on eating healthy snacks. If you think of it as a substitution rather than depriving yourself, it will be easier to stick to and youíll feel happier about it. Think about each step as introducing positive changes into your life.
Write it down
Keeping all this points in mind, write down your goals to crystallise what you want to achieve. Itís important to actually write out your plan rather than just think it or talk about it, because it forces you to think about it in more detail and to give you a real roadmap you can refer to along the way. Youíll probably be forced to assess your priorities, which will help to give you a sense of commitment. Writing down your goals also means that you can harness your ambitions and gain control over what you want to achieve, rather than feeling overwhelmed by it all.
Once your goals are in writing, make sure that you refer to them regularly. Each time you do, you can consider if you need to review and revise them. You should also think about the progress you have made towards reaching them, and keep track of what youíve done- whether itís positive or negative, as you can use this information to help make changes to your current behaviour patterns if necessary.Keep visualising your goal to remind yourself why youíre doing all this hard work- and that it will be worth it in the end. Stay positive and in no time youíll be working towards looking and feeling your best.
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