The secret to success: Set realistic goals

One of the most important ways to succeed at weight control is to establish realistic goals and expectations.

You might have a combination of goals: your weight-loss goal, your health goals, your exercise goals or your daily servings and calorie goals. Goal setting keeps you motivated and helps you stick with your program, so it's important to approach it with a thoughtful plan.

The key is to make your goals your own. The more aligned they are with your likes and dislikes — your preferences and priorities — the greater your chances of success. So while yes, the sky is the limit, it's important to set goals that you can reach and that suit your lifestyle. You can always reassess goals and set more challenging ones as you go along.

Start with outcome goals
An outcome goal is longer term and focuses on the end result. Examples include, "I would like to lose 20 pounds" or "I would like to weigh 125 pounds."

Outcome goals:

  • Guide your planning
  • Build the framework for shorter term, or “process goals”
  • Stretch and inspire you

Move ahead with process goals
Process goals focus on a specific process or action — such as "I will walk 30 minutes every day" or "I will eat four servings of vegetables each day" — rather than a single outcome. Many people find that when they focus on process goals, the outcomes (such as weight loss) take care of themselves.

Process goals:

  • Build success one small step at a time
  • Help you reach your outcome goals
  • Are the most important type of goal for many people

Stay inspired with daily goals
Each day, it's important to set goals for both meal servings and physical activity.

It's also important to set one inspirational goal, such as, "Today I will stop eating before I feel full" or "Today I will focus on positive thinking."

Daily goals:

  • Are the building blocks for weight loss and good health
  • Provide a daily sense of achievement
  • Keep you motivated to keep up with your program

Include enjoyment in your goals
When setting goals, don't forget satisfaction. A study of individuals who maintained their weight after completing a weight-loss program found that satisfaction with the amount and quality of daily activities was an important factor in success.

Remember ...

Make a commitment and don't look too far ahead. What can you do today to make this healthy-living plan work for you?