• Theresa Gentile

5 Steps to Achieving Your Health & Weight Loss Goals

Updated: Mar 26



Have you ever set exciting goals where you started out motivated and driven, only to look back and wonder later on how you got derailed? Setting strategic goals and following through with these steps can be a surefire predictor of success if done right.


The most successful people and professionals understand how important goal-setting is before jumping into any important task. Goal-setting is used at work, in counseling, smoking cessation, athletics, weight loss, and other health goals. Goals give meaning to our actions and an anticipated result; effective goals will guide us there with success.


Did you know that you can, essentially, trick yourself into becoming your ideal self?

Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal. Achieving it brings us pleasure. Failure just motivates us further to get to that endpoint.


Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal.

Goal setting is like a recipe for a meal. Each ingredient and direction is important and in the right order. Nor can you expect to run a 26 mile marathon when you’ve only been able to run 2 miles at a time. Just like you can’t expect to lose 30 pounds if you haven’t changed your eating habits or dealt with underlying factors, like emotional eating.


The recipe (or goal) guides you to the end-product with a clear path to get there. It sustains the momentum and enables you to spot interference more easily.


The process is important, as well.


We learn from our mistakes and our brain will remember these instances and try to set itself up for success next time. We are programmed to preserve our own self-esteem. Once you binge on so much chocolate that it makes you nauseous and gives you a headache, you experience the physical and emotional side effects of that. The next time you encounter this situation, you remember this. Your brain will remind you. But you might have to enact your willpower at times, as well.




Achieving goals can boost self-confidence, but don’t overlook the process of getting there. This is where you’ll learn new skills, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and grow the most. It’s in failure that we learn...and remember better for next time.


What are SMART goals?


George T. Doran coined the SMART goals acronym in 1981 in a management research paper. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Below is a brief explanation of each.


Specific. Your goal should be small and clear enough that there’s no question as to what you’re aiming for. Why small? Because we get bogged down and overwhelmed when the task is insurmountably large. Long-term, broad goals are rarely met. If you’d like to lose 50 pounds in one year, then break that down into months...aim for 3-4 pounds per month. That’s much more do-able.


Measurable. A good goal will be measurable. How much weight do you want to lose? How low are you aiming to lower your cholesterol? What blood sugar number are you aiming for? How many days per week will you work out and for how long?


Attainable. Your objective must be attainable but still challenging. If working out 3 days per week is something you already do most of the time, then stretch yourself to 4 times per week. (As opposed to 7 days per week which may not be attainable or reasonable at all.)


Relevant. Your goal should directly align with your overall goal. Try not to throw “repainting the bedrooms” in with a goal of “lowering my blood glucose to normal range within the next 3 months.” Stick with the plan and prioritize goals accordingly.


Timeliness. Create specific timelines for your goals that aren’t too far in the future that you forget about them. If it is a long-term goal, break it down into small pieces so you’re reassessing your progress every few weeks.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*


OK, so you’ve taken your large goal of, say, losing 30 pounds in 8 months. You’ve set SMART goals, you’ve broken down your aim of weight loss of 1 lb per week - now what??


Empirical evidence on how to achieve your goals


In an often-cited study, Dr. Gail Mathews, a professor in Dominican's Department of Psychology, found empirical evidence, “for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” said Dr. Mathews.


Dr. Mathews had 149 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas who completed a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions.


Participants were divided up into 1 of 5 groups. Group 1 was simply asked to think about their goals and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before.


Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same measurements as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.

Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.


So who actually completed their goals?


Matthews found that more than 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend completed their goals or were more than half-way there.

Those who kept their goals to themselves without writing them down were only 35% successful.


How can you be successful in achieving your goals?


1. Write it down. Cement it in your brain by either putting it on paper or creating a visual representation, like a map or vision board.


2. Have a well-planned process with actionable steps.

How are you going to get to a weight loss of 1 pound per week? Well, you may have to cut back on mindless eating, pay more attention to portions or increase the frequency of physical activity. Having a clear process mapped out increases the chances that you will stay on course.


3. Build in accountability

The most successful people in Dr. Mathews’ study not only wrote out SMART goals with a clear plan to get to their target, they also sent a weekly progress report to a friend to hold themselves accountable. A friend or peer is good, but an unbiased coach may be better. Often, a friend may not understand your exact issue, have issues of their own that influence their feedback, or are simply busy with their own life. A coach will have a trained eye for spotting distractions, help you stay on course, and hopefully have extensive knowledge about your issues.


When you fail


I say when, instead of if, because there will certainly be times when you don’t hit your target at your desired timeframe. (Especially with weight loss, which is influenced by so many factors - it’s not always as easy as calories in vs. calories out.)


But don’t get hung up in doubt, shame, and negative thinking. Practice adjusting your mindset to one of growth instead of one that’s fixed. Yes, this will be hard...yes, there will be blips and bumps in the road. But, as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is Figureoutable”.


The whole process of goal-setting and devising an action plan creates resilience and self-confidence you didn’t know you had. Respect the process and stay in the game. It’s a whole lot easier than getting out and trying to join back in later.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*

And if you’re looking for a weight loss or health coach, fill out the inquiry box below, and let’s chat!


Thanks,

Theresa


References:

Frequent goal setting that is focused specifically on diet or physical activity was more predictive of using dietary or physical activity strategies, respectively, than goal setting focused on weight loss overall.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17032703/


Study focuses on strategies for achieving goals, resolutions

https://scholar.dominican.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=news-releases


Gordon ML, Althoff T, Leskovec J. Goal-setting And Achievement In Activity Tracking Apps: A Case Study Of MyFitnessPal. Proc Int World Wide Web Conf. 2019;2019:571-582. doi:10.1145/3308558.3313432



Dennison L, Morrison L, Conway G, Yardley L. Opportunities and challenges for smartphone applications in supporting health behavior change: qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(4):e86. Published 2013 Apr 18. doi:10.2196/jmir.2583


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