How to set weight loss goals

How to set weight loss goals

How to set weight loss goals

Wondering how to set weight loss goals and how to stick to them? We're here to help! Continue reading to learn how.

The Found Team
Last updated:
September 23, 2021
5 min read
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Have you tried losing weight in the past and had trouble? While there are many factors to consider, perhaps part of the problem is your goal setting—or a lack thereof.

Knowing how to set weight loss goals is essential, but just having a plan isn’t enough. You need to categorize short-term and long-term goals, then identify potential roadblocks you’ll encounter while achieving them. Only then will you have a strategy that’s both attainable and realistic. Doing this is also one of the effective ways on how to overcome weight loss plateau

To help you kickstart your weight care strategy, we’ll be looking at best practices for goal setting and how to stick with weight loss goals.

Tips for goal setting

If you’re new to setting goals, the idea can be somewhat daunting. This is especially true when your targets are related to factors as significant as health, wellness, and weight. Thankfully, goal setting is relatively straightforward—all it takes is practice and a little know-how.

Before we hone in on weight loss goals specifically, let’s look at the basics of proper weight loss goal setting.

Write it down

When your goals are floating around in your head, they’re nothing but an idea. By writing them down, you make them concrete and easily accessible. It may seem overly simplistic, but there’s some truth to the concept.

Studies in neuroscience tell us that if you write down your goals, you’re improving the encoding process in your brain. “Encoding” refers to the travel of outside information to the hippocampus, which analyzes the input and determines whether or not the information is stored long-term. In short, writing down your goals will help you remember them—both consciously and subconsciously. 

Include your daily meals, exercise routines, weight changes, and daily water intake. If you’re wondering how does water help with weight loss, drinking fluids can help make you feel fuller and suppress hunger or cravings, amongst other benefits. 

Start small

One significant hurdle that beginner goal-setters run into is going too big, too quickly. While part of realistic goal weight setting is thinking far ahead and beyond your current limitations, creating unreasonable expectations for yourself early on is a surefire way to hit a wall.

Especially when you’re starting out, it’s crucial to set a realistic target weight and attainable goals. If your initial goals are too lofty, you’ll likely struggle to reach them. Ultimately, this can discourage you from completing your objectives

To keep yourself motivated and chip away at your goals, start with small, easy ones that are within your reach. Begin with something you can complete in a week or two. The feeling of achievement is shown to inspire individuals so they rise to the challenge of more distant targets. 

Should you weigh yourself every day, and is calorie counting effective? If you’re really dedicated, doing both of these can help you monitor your daily progress and stay motivated. 

Be specific

When it comes to realistic goal weight setting, another common pitfall is a lack of details. Specificity will take your weight goal from vague to tangible.

For example, let’s say your weight loss goal is to get in better shape. This leaves a lot of room for straying from your health and wellness path. Why is that? 

Consider the unanswered question in this vague weight goal: What constitutes better shape? 

Whether you want to improve your cardio, show off washboard abs, or build muscle, your exercise plan and list of goals will differ from one to the next. By focusing on specific fitness achievements you can set complementary, attainable goals. 

Say you want to improve your cardio. Committing to running three times per week and swimming once per week will formulate a more measurable approach than if you say you are going to work out every week. In short, more specific goals reduce ambiguity and increase likelihood of execution.

Set deadlines

A goal without a deadline is like a race without a finish line. Not only will you not know when you’ve finished, but you may also struggle to find motivation without a target date

When you don’t have a deadline, procrastination can be enticing. Your best bet is to have an end date in mind—even if it’s a year in the future. Don’t forget that you’re allowed to move the goalposts, too. Goals exist to help you, not make you stress about failure.

If a goal is starting to feel unattainable, don’t hesitate to modify the deadline. We’ll discuss what to do in these situations a little later on.

Setting weight loss goals

Now that you’re a goal-setting pro, let’s apply that knowledge to your weight loss journey.

Identify your long-term goals

One of the tricks to setting goals is to work backward. With that in mind, your first step to creating a healthy weight loss plan is to look at the big picture. From there, you’ll be able to step back and address all of the smaller, short-term goals that will lead you to your long-term ones.

Consider how you want to feel a year or two from now. You might come up with goals that look like these:

  • I will lose 20 pounds by this time next year
  • I will reach a BMI of 23.5 in time for my sister’s wedding
  • I will run a marathon in under four hours by 2024
  • I will hit 180 pounds and stay there before I graduate

Notice how clear and concise these goals are. They have a deadline. They use numbers. You’ll also notice that all of these statements start with “I will” instead of “I hope to” or “I want to.” Using affirmative language makes your goals seem less like a far-off dream and more like a reality you can control.

The examples above are what we call “outcome goals.” They’re less about the nitty-gritty details of how you’ll get there and more about the way you envision your future. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear idea of how you’ll reach all of them—that’s what short-term goals are for.

Identify your short-term goals

If long-term goals are all about the outcome, your short-term goals are about the process. Anything you can complete within a year is considered a short-term goal, so you should focus more on changing habits than seeing immediate results.

To demonstrate how you might use short-term “process goals” to reach a long-term “outcome goal,” let’s take one of the examples above and break it down.

Say your long-term and realistic weight loss goal is “I will lose 20 pounds by this time next year.” To reach that goal, you’ll likely need to make some changes to (among other things) your exercise, eating plan, sleeping routine, and social habits.

In the first month, you might make some small goals like:

  • I will walk one mile every day after work
  • I will eat three servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  • I will do 30 minutes of resistance training once a week
  • I will sleep 8 hours every day

Then, you can ramp up these goals for the three-month mark:

  • I will jog two miles every day after work
  • I will meal prep three healthy meals each week
  • I will do 45 minutes of resistance training twice a week
  • I will incorporate other health and wellness activities into my nightly or morning routine, like meditation, stretching, etc.

Repeat this process of amplifying your goals every few months and you’ll see how gradual modifications in habits can lead to significant life changes.

How to overcome setbacks

Setting goals is one thing. Sticking to them is another. Setbacks are perfectly natural, and you shouldn’t be discouraged when one comes up. You might just need a new approach. 

If you’re struggling to hit some of your short-term goals, here are a few ways to overcome that feeling.

Address your mindset

Changing habits takes time and effort, but it also requires the right mindset. It may be helpful to start your journey with a few pointed questions:

  • Why am I looking to lose weight?
  • Am I willing to make significant life changes?
  • How will I feel when I achieve my goals?

A little self-reflection goes a long way when searching for clarity. By answering these questions before you begin, you can look back to them whenever you hit a roadblock. Then, once you’re back to feeling motivated, your journey can continue.


Some find that they struggle to hit their targets without anyone keeping them accountable. In these cases, there are a few recommended options:

  • Find a fitness partner that will exercise with you
  • Join a running group or another support network
  • Make your goals known to your friends and loved ones

One goal at a time

Having multiple short- and long-term goals can start to feel overwhelming, especially in the beginning. If stress about hitting all of your goals is causing you to tackle none of them, it might be worth simplifying your plan. Try focusing on one goal at a time, and slowly bring in the other ones as you progress.

When to reassess your goals

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and still aren’t making strides, it may be time to reassess your goals. Maybe you’ve missed a target three months in a row, or you keep reverting to a bad habit.

Try to address what’s causing you to fall short on a specific goal and consider restarting with something smaller and more manageable. Remember that it’s okay to re-evaluate and edit your objectives as you go. Goals are there to help you, not to make you feel bad about yourself.

What’s next? Partner with Found

Once you set your goals, it’s all about sticking to them. But having objectives doesn’t guarantee results—there are dozens of pieces in the puzzle that is your weight care journey.

Sure, you’ll need motivation and willpower. And you can stick to your regular physical activity, sleep, and meal plans every day. But there are also factors that no amount of goal setting can control, like hormones, genes, and brain chemistry.

About Found

Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.

Published date:
September 23, 2021
Meet the author
The Found Team
The Found Team


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