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How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals for Weight Loss & Health

Published: 8/19/15

Whether you want to lose a few pounds or make a life change with a big weight loss, the keys to success are the same—be realistic and use health as your ultimate goal. Excess pounds can affect your confidence, but think about the long-term health effects of being overweight, such as arthritis, diabetes, gallstones, stroke, heart disease, and even cancer.

Your motivation for weight loss goals should be driven by a quest for better health and the best approach for this combines sensible eating and exercises that work for your body. This type of plan leads to healthy weight loss that is both achievable and sustainable.

Here is your 5-step process to setting fitness goals for healthy weight loss:


Step #1: Write Your Goals Down

You are far more likely to achieve your goals if you physically write them down and look at them every day. Get a journal dedicated to your healthy weight loss journey and create a page for your goals. The act of writing can help you to see and commit to your goals so you can stick to them. Be as specific as possible with your targeted weight and your achieved athletic goals—maybe it is running a certain distance or mastering a challenging Pilates class. Use specific words in your goals such as specific pounds lost and consider setting a date for reaching your targeted goal. Remember, you can lose weight. The best way to do this is to eat better, choose healthy foods that are low in saturated fat, and exercise regularly.


Step #2: Set Yourself up for Quick Wins

No matter how ambitious your goal is, creating smaller, more attainable milestones on the path to your larger goal can help you avoid procrastination that results from getting overwhelmed by the work ahead of you. Consider measuring actions as well as progress in meeting your milestones. For example, assessing where you need to position your calorie threshold to lose weight can help you with achieving a daily calorie target. You can also set goals for the amount of cardio you accomplish in a week as an attainable milestone. Once you meet your early milestones, you will gain the confidence and motivation to move toward more ambitious milestones.


Step #3: Make Realistic Dietary Goals

Making smart decisions about what and how much you eat is critical to healthy weight loss. Incorporate a variety of lower-fat foods in your diet and be conscious of the nutrients you are getting from your food. Also be mindful of your calories and remember that low-fat foods can still be high-calorie. Eat plenty of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) and fewer animal-based foods (meat and dairy) to help control your fat, cholesterol, and calorie intake. Avoid the urge to drastically reduce your calorie intake because this can negatively disrupt your metabolism.


Step #4: Build in Time for Your Goals

To lose excess body fat you need to increase physical activity. A more active lifestyle often requires a change in routine. Experiment with the best block of time in your day to dedicate for exercise. Healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. Moderate and vigorous activity can be combined throughout the week, but you should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day as a minimum.

Avoid the urge to go crazy with long, hard workouts because this can be hard to fit into your schedule and could lead to injury. Instead, find the right balance for combining weight loss and exercise to achieve a calorie and exercise balance that will allow you to achieve your goals within the time you have set for yourself.


Step #5: Look for Tools to Help

Free apps can help you zero in on the right combination of calorie intake and calorie burning for your body to achieve your desired goal. Consider seeking expert advice from a personal trainer or fitness or nutrition expert to dial-in the right solution for you to achieve healthy, long-lasting weight loss. Remember, diet may have a stronger effect on weight loss in the short-term, but exercise is the key to preventing lost weight from returning.