When it comes to weight loss, we often pay a lot of attention to the hows and not much attention to the whys, or the where-tos. And this is a problem, because if your goals aren't right, you won't be able to make them come true.
Imagine if you were studying for a test, or working for a promotion, or trying to get a date. You wouldn't just leave your goal at that and hope for the best, would you? You would probably define a line of attack towards an end goal that you have clearly defined, so that you know how much work you're putting in and what you're getting. And weight loss is no different.
If your goals are not realistic, this will be your biggest downfall. Some of us get very hyped about size and weight and decide we will drop three sizes in a month, lose 100lbs in a few months, or get a 24” waist overnight. But these goals are literally impossible.
And even people who set possible goals do not always consider how realistic they are in the given circumstances. For instance, it is possible to lose three dress sizes in three months, but depending on your age, weight loss methods, and free time, it could still not be realistic.
When we set goals which aren't realistic we are setting ourselves up for failure, literally.
If you cannot succeed, then you will definitely fail. And if you will fail no matter what, you may find yourself so demoralized that you stop trying altogether.
Another thing that makes us stop trying is when our goal is vague. “Get hot for Summer,” “lose some weight,” and “be skinny” are all examples of vague weight loss goals. We may think we are being moderate when we set these goals, because we aren't restraining ourselves or pushing ourselves too hard. But when we put too little pressure on ourselves we are doomed to fail too.
This is because humans are designed to be rational, and our brains are therefore wired to rewrite our pasts to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. The end result of so much intelligence is that if we fall short of our goals we convince ourselves that we still succeeded. And vague goals just give us an excuse to do this.
Instead, choose specific goals, such as a certain size, weight, or set of measurements you want to attain. Again, these must be realistic. But having some hard numbers can really help keep you focused and motivated.
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Long term goals are great because they give us something to work towards consistently, with a huge payout at the end. But we are not designed to work in the long term.
Research has shown that we think of our future selves using the parts of our brain we use for other people, and that short term rewards are usually preferred to long term ones, even if the short term rewards are smaller.
For this reason, setting yourself mini-goals can be really useful in guiding you towards your main goal. These mini-goals, even without rewards, will give you a sense of progress and accomplishment. And if you follow them up with mini-rewards, such as a new makeup item, a day off the gym to watch your team, or a new book, you will be even more motivated to work hard.
Set a Maintenance Goal.
Finally, when you reach your final goal, you don't want to go through all this hard work again. But 95% of dieters go back to their original weight within five years.
This is because after their weight loss plan they go back to doing whatever they were doing before, either immediately, or slowly building up to it over the years. For this reason, you need to have a maintenance goal, so you can keep watching your weight and making sure it is where it needs to be for the foreseeable future.
This way you can prevent regaining the weight and be able to avoid another weight loss plan.