Weight Loss Goals: How to Create a Plan for Success

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 05/07/2024

Long-term weight management is essential to your physical and mental health. If you’re looking to lose weight, it can help to clarify your weight loss goals. Start with your overall “why.” Why do you want to lose weight? 

Are you getting ready for bathing suit season? Or are you taking a long view and looking to feel healthier and age better? 

Remember, reaching your weight loss goals can help you feel more confident in your skin, but it can also reduce your risk of obesity-related conditions, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

If you have weight loss goals in mind but aren’t sure where to start, you might benefit from a weight loss plan.  

Keep reading to learn more about SMART goals, what they are, and how they can help you create actionable, realistic goals.

A healthy weight loss goal for one person may not be the same as for someone else. So what is a realistic weight loss goal, anyway? 

The CDC recommends a steady weight loss rate of about one to two pounds per week

If you carry excess weight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight is often enough to reap health benefits like lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It may also help with blood sugar regulation.

You can achieve this by calculating your energy needs and creating a calorie deficit — burning more calories than you eat. To reach your weight loss goals, you can aim for a calorie deficit of around 500-750 calories per day. Even something as simple as walking can help with weight loss.

Setting what are known as SMART goals is an effective method to create clear and achievable objectives. This helps prevent uncertainty from getting in our way. 

SMART stands for: 

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound 

We’ve broken down each component and provided examples of how they can help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Specific

Goals should be clear and well-defined. Whereas a vague weight loss goal would be "I want to lose weight," a specific goal would be "I’m going to lose 10 pounds in three months.”

When you know what you’re setting out to achieve, you can better plan your action steps. 

For instance, if you’re aiming to incorporate a fitness routine to help with your weight loss efforts, you might set a specific exercise goal. This could be “I’m going to workout at least four days per week for at least 30 minutes,” or “I’m going to do cardio three times per week, strength training twice per week, and aim for 10,000 steps per day.”

Measurable

Your goals should include criteria for measuring progress. Using the examples above, those goals are measurable because they specify the amount of weight you’re hoping to lose and the amount of physical activity you’re hoping to get.

Another example of a measurable goal would be “I’m going to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, which means I’m going to bed by 10 PM, no excuses.” (Remember, sleep can help with weight loss!)

Achievable

It's important to set challenging but realistic weight loss goals. It’s great to be motivated, but you don’t want to set yourself up for frustration and defeat. 

Aiming to lose 10 pounds in three months is achievable for many people. But losing 50 pounds in the same time frame isn’t very realistic — or healthy.

Relevant

Goals also should align with your overall objective — weight loss. There are many things you can do to support your weight loss journey, including things that have nothing to do with diet and exercise. 

Any positive change in your life that gives you a boost will help you achieve and maintain the results you’re looking for. Goals relevant to weight loss include:

  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night

  • Talking with a therapist

  • Making time for self-care activities that you enjoy 

  • Meditation and mindfulness

  • Drinking more water 

Time-Bound

Finally, give your weight loss efforts a deadline to add a sense of urgency and focus. 

Committing to losing 10 pounds in three months is a time-bound goal. It’s much more helpful than saying “I want to lose weight this year.”

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Weight loss treatment that puts you first

Now that you have an idea of what a reasonable weight loss goal looks like and the importance of SMART goals, let’s get into how you can successfully achieve your weight loss goals. We’ve broken down the process into seven actionable steps. 

1. Get Clear About Your “Why”

Your "why" is the reason behind your desire to lose weight. Without a purpose, it’s easy to just go through the motions or do nothing at all.

Here's why clarifying your "why" is the first step:

  • It gives you a compelling purpose. Your “why” serves as a reminder of what you're working towards. Having purpose enables you to align your objectives with what matters to you, rather than chasing arbitrary numbers on a scale or attempting to keep up with societal pressures.

  • It’s personal. By connecting emotionally to your weight loss goals, you're more likely to stay committed.

  • It gives you more resilience. Challenges are inevitable on any weight loss journey. Knowing your "why" helps you bounce back. You can reassess your goals, adjust strategies, and keep moving forward.

To help pinpoint your “why,” ask yourself questions like: 

  • What do I hope to achieve by losing weight? 

  • How will changing my body weight improve my life? 

  • What values or beliefs are behind my desire for change? 

Write these things down and put them somewhere you can revisit regularly, like the bathroom mirror or on your phone. 

2. Start Where You Are

When setting weight loss goals, it’s easy to become overzealous and start thinking too far into the future. Excitement is a good start — but keeping it real and focused on the short term is important for your success (and sanity). 

Take an honest look at your current habits and health status. This provides valuable insights into possible areas for improvement and helps you set achievable goals based on where you are today, not where you wish you were. For instance, you may aim to opt for a low-calorie alternative to your favorite foods, or you could focus on reducing portion sizes, as opposed to overhauling your entire diet.

This perspective also helps you to set realistic goals, identify potential barriers and develop strategies to overcome them effectively.

3. Define Your Goals

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your weight loss plan, it’s time to revisit those SMART goals we talked about. As mentioned, well-defined goals provide motivation and purpose. When you have a specific target in mind, you're more likely to stay committed. 

For example, in one study of nearly 37,000 people in a 12-week digital behavioral weight loss program, researchers found that those who set out to achieve at least a 10 percent weight loss goal and focused on health and fitness over appearance lost more weight.

4. Create Smaller Milestones

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams — in fact, we encourage them. However, if a weight loss goal is intimidating, it can be helpful to break it down into smaller milestones. 

For example, if you’re aiming to ultimately lose 100 pounds, divide this into multiple smaller goals. This could look like losing five pounds in the next three weeks. It may seem minuscule compared to your overall goal, but these milestones are just as important — and any amount of lost weight adds up!

5. Outline a Plan

When setting out to lose weight, you need a well-thought-out roadmap. By outlining specific strategies for diet, exercise, hydration, sleep, and stress management, you’ll establish a framework for success. 

One way to do this is to sit down with a calendar of your month ahead, so you can see everything you have going on. Determine how you’ll make adjustments to your routine to more easily prioritize healthy lifestyle habits like workouts, nutritious snacks and meals, and a consistent sleep routine.

This sort of planning can take trial and error, but aligning all of the pieces can ensure your intentions become actions. And remember, you don’t necessarily have to do all of the figuring out yourself — you can also turn to a dietitian for advice on healthy eating habits, or a personal trainer for advice in the gym.

6. Track Your Progress

Looking back at your SMART goals, how will you measure your successes? 

Having a plan to track your progress allows you to celebrate successes and identify areas for improvement. Notice something new? Write it down!

Plus, how cool is it to see tangible evidence of your progress? Perhaps your pants feel looser, you’re able to lift heavier dumbbells, or you’ve noticed that your face is starting to thin out. 

Seeing these changes in real-time can be a confidence booster, which is especially helpful for days when you need a little reminder of how awesome you are — and the overall wellness goals you’re working toward. 

7. Stay Consistent and Adaptable

Consistency and adaptability may sound like opposite things, but they go hand-in-hand when approaching goals for weight loss realistically.

Adhering to a consistent routine of getting your workouts in, prioritizing nutritious food choices, and following a regular sleep schedule are all key to progress and habit formation.

On the other hand, it’s important to create space for adaptability when necessary, since rigidity can hinder success. Whether it's modifying your workout routine or adjusting your meal plan, allowing for flexibility helps you navigate setbacks and continue forging ahead. 

Everyone’s weight loss journey is unique. What works for one person may not work for another, and sometimes we all could use a little extra help. 

Improving the nutritional quality of your diet, exercising more, and sleeping better are essential to weight loss success. However, sometimes lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. 

In these cases, many people are finding certain medications helpful for achieving long-term weight loss. Some of the most popular and effective options include: 

  • Weight loss injections: Also known as GLP-1s, this category includes injectable weight loss medications like semaglutide (the active ingredient in Wegovy® and Ozempic®) as well as liraglutide (Saxenda®). They mimic the hormone GLP-1 in your body, slowing digestion, and reducing hunger

  • Metformin: This is primarily used as a type 2 diabetes medication. However, metformin can support weight loss by reducing appetite and promoting fullness, especially in people with insulin resistance.

  • Topiramate: Topiramate is used for seizure disorders and migraine prevention, but it can also be helpful for weight loss goals. 

  • Contrave®: This is a combination of two drugs: naltrexone, which helps treat alcohol and opioid dependence, and bupropion, which is an antidepressant. Together, they support help support healthy weight management. 

If you’re interested in exploring weight loss medications, Hers offers personalized weight management plans. Hers offers both weight loss injections and oral medication kits.

Embarking on a weight loss journey is a big step toward improving your health. To set yourself up for success, remember these tips:

  • SMART goals help you create a clear roadmap. Defining realistic goals that you can measure and track, giving yourself a clear time frame and celebrating your progress along the way all help to keep you focused and motivated. 

  • It requires a balance of consistency and flexibility. Weight loss is a long game requiring a daily commitment to healthier choices. However, every day isn’t going to be the same, and challenges will arise. Stay adaptable and don’t beat yourself up when adjustments are needed.  

  • Ask for help. Nutrition, exercise and sleep are crucial pieces to weight loss, but when lifestyle isn’t enough, speak to a healthcare provider about whether other options like weight loss medications make sense for you.

Looking for more guidance and support on your weight loss journey? The licensed healthcare professionals at Hers can help! Start by taking our free online assessment.

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