How to Start Losing Weight

Make sure you take the right "first steps" to lose weight successfully

South Beach Diet Phase 3 exercise
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Do you want to start losing weight today? Have you resolved to lose weight in the New Year? You're not alone. Weight loss is one of the most popular resolutions we make in the beginning of January.  But by February, many of us will already have quit our programs. So what's the difference between a successful resolution and one that is doomed to fail? The way you define your goal might hold the key to success.

The First Step to Start Losing Weight

No diet or weight loss program will work until you set a goal for success. A solid goal serves as a road map for the entire weight loss journey. Without this guide, you're like a driver who hops in her car and starts driving without any idea of where she is going. You're not likely to go far until you quit and go home.

So how to you set a goal that keeps your program on track? Many coaches, trainers and lifestyle experts use a process called S.M.A.R.T. goal setting to set up programs for their clients.  The system is used often in corporate settings because it helps workers define clear strategies and outcomes for their success. But it can be useful for dieters as well. 

How to Set a SMART Goal

Let's walk through a typical weight loss resolution and apply the S.M.A.R.T. goal strategy.  If you take just ten minutes to walk through this process you'll start losing weight with more confidence and direction.

  Use this process as an example, then tailor your own goal using the same principles.

Typical resolution: "I want to lose weight in the new year"

Now let's adjust this goal using S.M.A.R.T. guidelines. Each letter stands for a different element.  Notice how the goal is adjusted for each element until the final goal is a S.M.A.R.T goal.

Specific.  Avoid setting goals that are too broad.  The first step in your goal-setting process is to refine your goal into a specific accomplishment or milestone that you'd like to reach.  One way to help refine your goal is to speak to your doctor.  If you are considering weight loss, your doctor may be able to tell you how losing a certain amount of weight will improve your health. You may be able to reduce your risk for disease or reduce dependence on medications if you slim down to a specific goal weight or BMI.  If your weight does not affect your health, you may set a specific goal to lose the amount of weight that you gained over the past few years or during the holidays. 

Adjusted resolution: "I want to lose 30 pounds in the new year."

Measurable.  In order to track your progress during the weight loss journey, the goal you set needs to be measurable. Define how you will measure your success as you move through your journey.  For example, some dieters may choose to monitor their BMI (body mass index).

  Others might choose a specific number on the scale or a dress size that they'd like to fit into.  People who have access to body composition tools may choose to monitor body fat percent.  Each of these is a different way to measure changes to your body's size. Be specific about which measurement you will use. 

Adjusted resolution: "I want to lose 30 pounds in the new year. I will measure my weight on the scale to track my progress."

Attainable.  To make your weight loss goal attainable, you should evaluate your past history losing weight. If you've never been able to lose more than ten pounds, then a weight loss goal of 30 pounds might not be reasonable.  Remember that once you reach a goal, you can always set a new one. All goals should be challenging but they shouldn't be so difficult that they are overwhelming.  Adjust your goal so that it is reasonable. 

Adjusted resolution: "I want to lose 10 pounds in the new year. I will measure my weight on the scale to track my progress. Once I reach 10 pounds, I will re-evaluate and consider setting a new goal for continued weight loss."

Relevant.  Your goal needs to matter in your life.  Defining why the goal matters may help you stay motivated when complacency sets in.  For example, if you visited your doctor in the beginning of your weight loss process, write down how weight loss will affect your health.  You might want to slim down to fit more comfortably in your clothes.  Or you may even want to lose weight to improve your marriage or other relationships.  Define how weight loss is relevant in your life and remind yourself of these reasons when you are tempted to quit.

Adjusted resolution: "I want to lose 10 pounds in the new year. I will measure my weight on the scale to track my progress. Once I reach 10 pounds, I will re-evaluate and consider setting a new goal for continued weight loss. Losing this weight will help reduce my risk for diabetes and will help me to move more comfortably when I go hiking with my friends."

Time-bound. Each resolution should have a time limit.  That is, you should decide on a reasonable amount of time that you'll take to reach your goal.  For dieters, keep in mind that a 1-2 pound weight loss is generally considered reasonable, although short periods of quick weight loss can be used by dieters as well. 

Adjusted resolution:  "I want to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months. I will measure my weight on the scale to track my progress. Once I reach 10 pounds, I will re-evaluate and consider setting a new goal for continued weight loss. Losing this weight will help reduce my risk for diabetes and will help me to move more comfortably when I go hiking with my friends."

Start Losing Weight Today

Even though S.M.A.R.T goal setting is a critical step in your weight loss journey, it is not the only step in your weight loss process.  Once your goal is in place, you need to choose a diet and put your plan into action to start losing weight.  Use the resources below to move forward and reach your goals in the new year.

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