Congratulations on your decision to take control of your weight! Maintaining a healthy body weight and body mass index (BMI) is essential to living a healthy life. Research strongly suggests that keeping to a healthy weight reduces the risks of heart disease, many types of cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and more, and may even help you live longer.
However, you probably know by now that losing weight isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, it’s simple: If you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We’re here to help. At Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, we’ve dedicated our professional careers to helping people live a healthy life. While we specialize in bariatric surgery, setting weight loss goals is good for all of our patients, whether they want to lose weight through surgery or through lifestyle changes. It’s time to get SMART about your weight loss goals.
Goals are great, but they need certain characteristics to be successful. Without these characteristics, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When setting goals, remember to be SMART about them.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Let’s take a weak goal—”I want to be healthier”—and make it SMART.
Specific. “I want to be healthier” is much too general. There’s no detail. “I want to lose weight” is a little more specific, but it still lacks enough actionable detail. Let’s start with one measurement. It can be pounds, or inches around the waist, or a percentage of your body mass index (BMI). For this example, we’ll start with fat loss. The goal becomes, “I want to lose 25 percent of my body fat.”
Measurable. This new goal is already measurable. However, percentage of fat loss can be one of the more difficult metrics to measure. Not everyone has access to a DXA scan, but most people do have bathroom scales. While it may not be as precise, let’s change the goal to something more readily measurable: “I want to lose 50 pounds.”
Attainable. You need to be able to see results and make progress toward your goal to avoid becoming overwhelmed and giving up. The current goal—losing 50 pounds—is attainable, but very ambitious and will take a long time to achieve. It’s better to break big goals into smaller chunks. Our goal becomes more attainable when we change it to, “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
Relevant. This is the “why” of your goal. Make sure your goal aligns with your values, and that you’re trying to meet it for the right reason. Let’s add some relevance to our goal: “I want to lose 10 pounds to cut my risk of heart disease.”
Time-based. Finally, giving yourself a deadline will spur you to action and help you focus. Make it short- or medium-term. It’s good to have long-term goals, but they should be broken down into short-term goals with timely deadlines.
“I want to lose 10 pounds in two months to cut my risk of heart disease” is now a SMART goal. It will require you to lose, on average, a little more than a pound a week, which is challenging but achievable. It is specific, has a defined metric for measurement and has a relevant reason for setting the goal.
Focus on Process, Not Outcome
Outcomes are not always fully within your control, but process is. Our goal of losing 10 pounds in two months is a SMART goal, but it’s outcome-oriented. It’s dependent on an external factor: a number on the scale.
Process goals are dependent on what you do. They are fully in your control. We can change our current SMART goal to be process-oriented by thinking about what it will take to achieve it.
Losing weight is a matter of burning more calories than you consume, so we can attack our weight loss from either side of the equation—consuming less or burning more. Let’s try consuming less.
One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. So, to lose a pound a week, you’ll need to consume 500 fewer calories than your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), the approximate number of calories your body burns on a given day due to age, weight and activity level. You can figure your TDEE with any number of calculators; here’s one.
A 40-year-old sedentary woman’s daily TDEE is approximately 1,640 calories per day. That means her new, process-based SMART goal would become, “I will eat 1,140 calories a day for two months to bring my weight down and cut my heart disease risk.”
Get Help With Your Weight Loss Goals
If you want to lose weight but don’t know where to start, request an appointment at Advanced Laparoscopic Associates. We have a registered dietician on staff, Jennifer Blume, who can ensure you have the tools you need to meet your goals. We can tell you if you’re a good candidate for weight loss procedures, describe your options and help you get on a path toward a healthy, sustainable weight.