The Downside to Setting Weight Loss Goals

I remember the feeling of starting a new weight loss program so well. Whether it was the first or the fiftieth time that I had gotten myself all revved up to shed the fat, I had this surge of energy and focused determination. I was going to do it this time. I was going to feel so good about myself, and look so different. I was going to beat the statistics that said I would once again fail. I was on the verge of serious change and my heart was pumped with excitement.

This is a great feeling that many people feel when they first start out on the journey of weight loss. The problem is that there is no clear cut path that leads to a lower weight on the scale. Our bodies are mysterious things and there will always be weeks you work your butt off in the gym only to see a one pound gain or no change at all. Things like this are extremely disheartening, and they are also what leads to many people giving up entirely.

I have done it myself quite a few times in the past. The scale doesn’t say what I think it should, so I think “what’s the point? Why am I doing this?” Or, I slip up and have a big binge and think “I’ve ruined it now! Might as well eat whatever I want!”

Once again, I get in my own way! Self-Sabotage is a very real part of weight loss for many people, but the trick is to keep pushing ahead despite these setbacks. Maybe your setbacks will be a little different the ones I just described, but rest assured things are not going to go completely according to the plan you design at the beginning.

Part of this self-sabotaging pattern is the goals we set when first starting out. Some of us are unsure how much we can actually lose in a week so we aim big without realizing it. Maybe others know they are shooting for the stars, but they feel so good and so determined in the beginning that they really feel they can do it.

Then, when things do not go according to that plan we had in our head or written down somewhere we get frustrated, feel we have failed, and end up destroying all the progress we did actually make along the way. As stupid and pointless as this sounds, it is a mental game that leads millions of people to regaining lost weight every single year.

It is important to understand a few things about losing weight right from the start:

  1. This overly ambitious determination you feel at the starting line is not going to always be there. When motivation and inspiration fail, you will have to depend on sheer determination and commitment to get you through to the next burst of positive energy.
  2. The number you see on the scale is not the most accurate predictor of the progress you are making. There are so many factors that go into your weight any given moment of any given day that you cannot take it as the absolute word on whether you have failed or succeeded each week.
  3. Taking your measurements and figuring your Hip to Waist Ratio will give you the real progress report, so measure yourself every month or two to see how you are progressing for real.
  4. Pay attention to how your clothes fit more than the scale.
    3500 calories equals a pound of fat. That is how many calories you need to burn in excess to lose a pound, and how much you would have to eat in excess to gain a pound. Keep that in mind when the scale jumps up three pounds unexpectedly. Did you eat an extra 10,500 calories? If not, then shrug it off or go take your measurements if you need reassurance. Do NOT let the whims of a scale defeat you!
  5. If you are continually falling short of your goals, then reassess. Maybe your goals are unrealistic or you need to kick up your exercise or get stricter with your food. Don’t feel like a failure. Just find the problem and fix it.
  6. Goals are a great thing to have when you are first starting out, but you cannot lay out the road map for your weight loss journey and expect everything to go as planned. Set realistic goals that you believe are attainable, and then get specific on what you will do every single day to reach those goals. This is the missing link for many people!

It’s very easy to say I want to lose two pounds this week. It’s another thing entirely to say I want to lose 2 pounds and here is exactly what I will do to get there.


Here are some things to consider when setting goals:

  1. They must be realistic. It may sound real good to say I’m going to lose five pounds every week for the next two months, but how likely is that to actually happen? Setting goals that simply cannot happen will only set you up for disappointment in the end. Stick to something you are sure can actually be accomplished and watch as smaller successes stack up and your confidence grows, instead of deflating.
  2. Think beyond scale goals. What would happen if you focused on other goals that were not attached to the scale? Maybe this week my goal is to walk two miles on the track four times and next week I am so thrilled with that success that I up it to five times a week. You can also set calorie range goals or small goals that work up to eating a cleaner diet. The number of non-weight goals you can set is endless. They should be driven by your own desires and ambitions, thus truly yours alone.
  3. Don’t go beyond your own capabilities. If you know you are not a morning person, then don’t set a goal to get up at the crack of dawn to exercise next week. It’s simply not likely to happen most days. If you have to work crazy hours over the weekend, then don’t say you want to run twenty miles that weekend. It’s simple: don’t set yourself up for a failure!
    Get specific. Once you have your long term and short term goals set, write down exactly what you will do each and every week and day to get there. Remember, losing 2 pounds is more than a wish. It’s a goal that you have to actually work for.