I love setting goals - for myself and for others. In fact, it's one of the first things I tell my members to do. I ask them to consider their ultimate goal, along with smaller goals along the way. Some think of it as a fun exercise that doesn't really affect how successful they'll be, while others fill two or three pages. In the end, my most successful members are the ones who have a clear image in their minds of what they're aiming to achieve and what it will take to get there.
All goal setting is great, but in my years helping people achieve their goals, I've realized that long-term goal setting is especially beneficial to weight loss success. Short-term, event-specific goals - like trying to drop a few pounds before your high school reunion - don't set you up for long-term success. After all, if all you're working towards is looking great for that one event, you'll likely backslide as soon as it's over.
Long-term goals have multiple advantages over their short-term counterparts and can be invaluable in achieving healthy-living success. Keep the following tips in mind when setting your fitness goals:
- Be realistic. When setting your weight-loss goals, remember that The Biggest Loser - while a reality TV show - is still a TV show. You don't have dietitians telling you exactly what to eat (or stocking your kitchen), and you don't have personal trainers spending eight hours a day in the gym with you. Barring surgical intervention or some truly unhealthy choices, you won't lose 100 pounds in four months. If you want to lose weight, be realistic about how much you want to lose and how much time and effort it will take to lose it.
- Be specific. "Exercise more" and "eat healthy" are both great goals. But they're pretty vague. If you're a couch potato, exercising more could mean simply standing up to change the channel rather than using the remote. If you want to lose weight, break it down: How often will you exercise and for how long? How many servings of fruits and vegetables will you have each day? What foods will you cut down on or remove from your diet completely?
- Be bold. Give yourself something aspirational to work towards. If you want to be a runner, first find a 5K to train for, then eventually work your way up to a marathon. Just don't try to go from taking a leisurely walk a few times a week to trying to qualify for the New York City Marathon. Setting goals in the distance gives you the opportunity to come up with a plan to meet them, creating healthy habits that last long after you've achieved your short-term goals.