Stop Setting Weight Loss Goals. I promise your life will be easier.

Last week during a session, one of my clients said something that really resonated with me.

Whenever I set a weight loss goal, I always seem to do worse.

I completely understand.

Back in my days of being stuck in that never-ending diet circle, I was always setting weight loss goals.

  • I will lose 10 pound before my vacation.
  • I will lose two pounds a week for the next six weeks.
  • I will weigh 135 by my high school reunion.

Whenever I set a goal like this, I always ended up going crazy within days (sometimes hours) of setting the goal.

The more I set goals like this, the harder it was to actually lose weight. In fact, it seemed like whenever I’d set a concrete weight loss goal, I’d end up gaining weight instead.

All of these goals had me thinking about the future.

Setting goals with the far future in mind put extra pressure on my decisions in the present.

Eating that cookie is a bigger struggle when you’re supposed to lose 10 pounds before your vacation.

Having a bout of unusual eating is a big deal when you’re supposed to be losing two pounds a week.

Setting concrete weight loss goals puts a lot of pressure on you.

And that pressure can lead to self-sabotage.

The pressure of this type of goal intensifies the restriction you feel and that restriction intensifies the guilt. (There’s a lot more guilt surrounding your “bad” eating choices when you’re supposed to weigh 135 by your high school reunion.)  The guilt in turn intensifies the rebellion against the restriction and the desire to relieve the pressure.

So, what’s the solution?

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To stop setting weight loss goals.

To take things one day at a time.

To stay present.

Here are three tips to let go of those long-term goals and the self sabotage that comes with them:

Shift your focus away from weight loss goals.

Weight means nothing. Let me say that again: Weight means nothing. You could cut off your arm and weigh less, but you still wouldn’t be healthier. Stop setting weight loss goals. Instead, think in terms of health or fitness goals. What do you want to accomplish? Want to get a bodyweight snatch? Okay, now eat to support that goal. Want to clear your skin? Eat to heal your digestion—the weight loss may come as a side effect of working toward your health or fitness goals.

Take things one day at a time.

Instead of thinking of your vacation in July, or what you want to weigh by your high school reunion, think of what you will do tomorrow to make it the best day ever. Stepping back and taking things one day at a time makes everything seem more manageable. It takes the pressure off of your food choices. Eating that cookie isn’t such a big deal when you’re thinking day-to-day instead of focusing on the future.

Stay present.

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This goes along with taking it one day at a time. The hardest thing about taking it one day at a time is remembering to take it one day at a time. Whenever you find yourself thinking about your far away goals, try to pull yourself back to the present—whether by taking a few deep breaths, or having a physical item to bring you back. I sometimes carry a small pebble in my pocket. I call it my “Goal Pebble.” Whenever I feel it in my pocket, I’m reminded to take things one day at a time and to stay in the present.

How will you stay focused on taking things one day at a time? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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13 Responses to Stop Setting Weight Loss Goals. I promise your life will be easier.

  1. Pam February 28, 2013 at 9:55 AM #

    This was a great article and came at such a perfect time! I have been stressing a lot about this! Thank you for writing this and being here!! 🙂

    • Allison February 28, 2013 at 10:30 AM #

      You’re welcome, Pam! I’m glad that this article helped you. Thank YOU for being here 😉

  2. isla February 28, 2013 at 10:46 AM #

    I was just thinking about this yesterday. I have a lot of weight to lose but I’ve been hesitant to assign a number of pounds I want to lose or a target weight I want to hit because of all the pressure. Instead I just keep telling myself that my body will settle out naturally if I eat well and focus on my fitness goals. This is more of a meal to meal or day to day approach. Much easier to handle for me. Love your goal pebble!

    • Allison February 28, 2013 at 10:52 AM #

      Love this, Isla! “my body will settle out naturally if I eat well and focus on my fitness goals”– that’s a great affirmation.

  3. deb February 28, 2013 at 2:03 PM #

    I need to read this every day! THANK YOU!

    • Allison February 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM #

      You’re welcome, Deb! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Megan Alton February 28, 2013 at 2:28 PM #

    Interesting perspective. I’m currently in the process of losing 100 pounds and I’ve found that having a concrete healthy weight range and being open and honest about it has made losing weight a lot easier for me. Knowing my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels are good tools for me too. Every time I set the goal to “be healthy” or “lose weight” I’ve never succeeded because, for me, it was to difficult to measure and I didn’t get the gratification of regularly measuring and celebrating my successes. Maybe it’s because I’m results oriented, but concrete goals and realistic expectations have been working great for me. I will say that staying present and taking it one day at a time are excellent reminders no matter where or how we move towards better health. Thanks for this post!

    • Allison February 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM #

      Thanks for your insight, Megan– I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. If setting concrete weight loss goals works (and is a positive experience) for you, that’s awesome! Seeing measurable progress is definitely motivating when working toward any goal. I find that most women I talk with struggle with the pressure of concrete goals, but if having those kinds of goals is a positive experience for you, then that’s great. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Bonnie April 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM #

    I just came across this article and loved it. 7 years ago I made the most important decision of my life and have lost nearly 100lbs and have kept it off. Up until May 2012, I was constantly weighing myself and not happy with my body. I started a Paleo challenge at my CrossFit box in May2012 and haven’t looked back sense. I eat Paelo about 90% of my diet, and throw in a sat cheat meal. I love the way my body looks, the muscles I have and how my body feels. I have not stepped on a scale since May 2012 and even went to the doctor and told the nurse not to tell me what my weight is because I am completely happy with how I am now. Thanks for this article! More people need to read this!!

    • Allison April 25, 2013 at 4:41 PM #

      THanks, Bonnie! You’re welcome! I LOVE your story— it’s so nice to hear that you’re happy with your body…sadly, I don’t hear people say that very often. Keep up the good work!

  6. Kate {Eat, Recycle, Repeat} July 9, 2013 at 11:14 PM #

    I definitely need to try this. I’m going to find myself a goal pebble…I think a rock from Lake Superior will work nicely! Thank you for the great posts on weight loss – I’m trying to think of it instead as transforming into my true self, not losing weight, etc.

    • Allison July 10, 2013 at 10:27 AM #

      Thanks for stopping by, Kate! I think focusing on transforming into your true self is a great approach to take! It’s cool because it’s like your true self is unknown and you’re on this wonderful journey of discovery–and you won’t really know what you’re looking for until you get there! It takes a lot of pressure off reaching set weight loss goals.

  7. mandelovich April 20, 2015 at 6:51 AM #

    Awesome post! I’ve been binge free for 100 days and my weight didn’t budge which really upset me, but my real dream had always been to be free of binging! And now I am. It’s so true that weight loss goals lead to crazy making!

Thoughts? Feel free to comment below!

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