How to Set Realistic Goals

Do you keep telling yourself “I want to lose weight” but then nothing really happens? Maybe every January of the New Year and before every summer season you say “I will finally lose these extra pounds!” But what happens? Maybe you lose a few pounds, but then it starts to creep back up again and you’re back to where you started, feeling frustrated and discouraged.

The problem with the example of “I want to lose weight” is that it’s vague. To really achieve your goals, you need to be as specific as you possibly can be. Study after study supports this (see below for resources). The more specific you can get with a goal, the more likely you are to make it happen. At Take Care Coaching the way we get more specific is by asking the following questions: Exactly how much weight are you hoping to lose? When would you like to lose this weight? What will you do to lose the weight? If the vague “I want to lose weight” sounds like you, we need to talk.

Creating a S.M.A.R.T. goal can help you get specific and make an action plan for yourself. The letters of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym refer to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Let’s review what these mean, starting with making a goal more specific.

Instead of the vague version of “lose weight,” how about we say “I want to lose 10 pounds of body fat by working out 4x a week, 2 days for weights for 30 minutes and 2 days on the elliptical for 30 minutes. I’ll workout Monday through Thursday at 6 a.m.” That’s super specific! Now we know what we’re working with.

To measure the 10 pound loss, how can we do this? There are a few ways: You can step on a scale, take body measurements, and/or get your body composition tested. Taking measurements will help you track your progress and allow you to celebrate successes when you see how far you’ve come towards reaching your goals.

Next is attainable, or achievable. What this means is, is this a realistic goal you can actually reach? Take Care Coaching believes a steady weight loss of .5-2 pounds max per week is realistic. Anything more and someone is more likely to regain that weight. Take Care Coaching does not believe in diets, but a healthy lifestyle to achieve lasting weight loss. So losing 10 pounds is definitely achievable in a few months’ time.

Now let’s review the R in the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym. R is for relevant. This means we need to choose goals that matter. Why do you want to lose weight? Why is this weight loss important to you? Many clients tell me they want to finally lose weight to be healthy, look good, lower their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Others have told me they want to lose weight to be able to keep up with their kids, enjoy their retirement and/or be around for their grandkids. Tapping into the “whys” will give you your answer here.

Time-based is the last part to make your S.M.A.R.T. goal complete. This is a target date for achieving your goal. For the weight loss goal above, let’s say that in 3 months this person will lose the 10 pounds. Now you have a deadline to meet your goal.

Schedule an appointment with Take Care Coaching to help you write a S.M.A.R.T. goal and create a personalized wellness plan!

For additional resources on S.M.A.R.T. goals, check out the links below:

ACE (2017). Fit facts: A SMART guide to goal setting. American Council on Exercise:

APA (2017). Making lifestyle changes that last. American Psychological Association.

CDC( 2017) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short-term and long-term goal worksheets.

Megan Aronson