How to Set Goals for Weight Loss

Written By Greg Bahlmann
Published on October 3, 2020

Losing weight is hard! Yes, we all know that we’re supposed to eat less sugar and carbs, exercise more and follow an effective diet to shed those pounds. What to do is not the problem. Sticking to it is! And that’s why it’s essential to set goals for weight loss.

Losing weight is a mind game – it’s literally mind over matter (well, mind over sugar and carbs in this case). And, if you can change your eating habits for 60 days or so, you can successfully create new habits that will increase your chances of losing weight over the long term. To do this, however, you need a plan. And that plan involves setting a goal.

At the outset, I’d like to state that there are some affiliate links in this post.

Losing Weight

For more than 40% of Americans and around 20% of Europeans who are obese, weight loss is a matter of life and death. Diabetes, heart and liver disease, hypertension and many other life-threatening conditions stem from being severely overweight.

Although losing weight is difficult, it can be done if approached sensibly and logically by setting and achieving weight loss goals. Before we deal with how to set goals for weight loss, let’s look at some important considerations when approaching the issue of losing weight.

Losing Weight is About Eating Right

According to Dr. Jason Fung in his book “Obesity Code”, although your weight is influenced by genetic factors, you can effectively manage your weight by eating right. That means eating reasonable portions of healthy food, staying away from sugar, and cutting down on flour-based products and other carbs.

What about exercise, I hear you ask? According to the experts, while exercise has other benefits, it has a limited impact on weight loss on its own. That said, any weight reduction goal should include an exercise plan.

Check Your Mind Space

Before launching into a weight-loss regime, make sure your head is in the right space. If you have anxiety or other emotional issues that cause you to eat as a distraction or soothing mechanism, you should get those sorted out first. It’s not a good idea to set goals for weight loss with an underlying issue that could scuttle your efforts halfway to the finish line.

Take it Slow

Be prepared to lose small amounts of weight over an extended period. You are not only trying to reach a goal, but you are also trying to change your lifestyle. This will not happen overnight, It will take a months of commitment and dedication to reach your goal and you must be okay with that.

Use Common Sense

If you are going to follow a diet plan to lose weight, don’t follow the crowd. Do your own research and find out the pros and cons of diets and exercise regimes that will help you. They should be practical in terms of your time and money, or the burden of using them could potentially derail your dieting efforts.

Find a diet plan that works for you and modify it if necessary. Make sure that the ingredients for the dishes you need to prepare are available in your area or can be delivered to you. And as for exercise, don’t go crazy on buying equipment and sports club memberships you don’t need or can’t (really) afford. It can be advantageous to join a gym or sports club with all the bells and whistles, but you can do just as well following exercise routines created by reputable health experts on Youtube, Udemy, or even on their blogs.

Motivation: The Elephant in the Room

This is where the rubber meets the road. Your motivation is the one single factor that’s going to see you through to your goal. Without motivation, there is no way you will make it. That is why it’s essential that you address any underlying emotional distress that may disrupt your efforts before you begin. There are ways to increase your motivation and we will deal with them below.

Don’t Let One Slip Equal Failure

There will be times when you just couldn’t be bothered to carry on with your diet when your stresses and challenges get on top of you. It’s at these times that nothing can stop you from getting stuck into a big tub of comfort food. I’d like to tell you to resist this temptation, but that’s not practical. Sometimes, you just can’t stop yourself. I know. I have been there.

However, don’t see this as a failure. See it as a temporary “blip”; a mistake. Sure, you need to feel guilty about it to prevent it from happening too often, but see it as more of a morale-building exercise and just carry on with your diet. One or two little slips over a period of several months are not going to make that much of a difference.

How Do You Set Goals for Weight Loss?

I use the GreaterĀ² Goal Achievement System to set goals for weight loss. Disclaimer: it’s a system that I developed to make goal achievement more effective than the other systems that are out there. That said, we will use the GreaterĀ² system only as a foundation and modify it to suit our needs.

Let’s get started.

Make your Weight Loss Goal Specific, Challenging and Meaningful

The first thing to do is to make sure that your goal is set up correctly. Your goal should have the following attributes;

  • It should be specific. In other words, you must state exactly how much weight you want to lose, and by when. Your goal should also be stated as a certainty using “will”. For example “I will lose 20kg by December 31st this year”.
  • It should be challenging. In other words, it should not be easy. This may appear to contradict my assertion to “take it slow”, above, but that point alludes to not being in a rush and approaching your weight loss goal as a long-term undertaking. If you are sure you will be able to lose one kilogram per month during the goal period, for example, make it more challenging by undertaking to lose two or two and a half kilograms per month. Research reveals that challenging goals increase the chances of success.
  • It should be meaningful. What could be more meaningful to you than becoming healthier and improving your quality of life?
  • It goes without saying that your goal to lose weight should be realistic. Trying to lose 40kg in a month will doom you to failure. If you are able to do that without amputation any body parts – and you don’t die – you’ll be the next Bill Gates.

Create a Goal Path

Now that you have created a specific, challenging, and meaningful goal, you need to start thinking about the “path” from where you are to where you want to be – in this case, the goal you have set. I call this “path” your goal path. It helps to visualize your campaign to reach your goal as a journey – a journey through time rather than through space.

Break Up the Goal Path

One of the hacks I suggest to make achieving goals easier is to break up the goal path into a series of mini-goals, or as I call them “step goals”. Step goals allow you to focus on achieving small, incremental goals that all add up to your final goal.

For example, if your goal is to lose twenty kilograms over ten months, you could divide it up so that you have ten step goals (one per month) that require you to lose two kilograms for each. Losing two kilograms seems far more doable than losing twenty kilograms, even if it translates into the same thing.

Also, having more immediate goals makes it more likely that you will complete them. A goal that you must achieve by the end of the month is far more urgent than on that only needs to be completed in ten months’ time.

The easiest way to create step goals for your weight loss goal is to divide the amount of weight you want to lose by the number of months between now and the target date. As per our example, if you want to lose twenty kilograms in ten months’ time, each step goal will be to lose two kilograms by the end of each month.


Although mental preparation for your weight loss campaign is important, equally so is physical preparation. Most importantly, get rid of temptations in your home.

Just as alcoholics are advised to remove all alcohol from their homes, get rid of all junk food. You will know that most weight loss lapses occur because you have junk food handy. If it’s a hassle to get it, you will have a far better chance of resisting the temptation.

Stock up instead on healthy snack foods.

Preparations would also include making sure you have found or made up a suitable eating plan and that you are able to easily source ingredients. You will also want to make sure you have proper exercise clothes and shoes if you can afford it.


Another effective tactic you can employ is to find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who will keep you on track in the effort to achieve your goal. Ideally, they would also be someone who wants to lose weight. You should communicate regularly with one another, at least once a week. Your job is to help them reach their step goals, providing support, encouragement, and even “tough love” where necessary. And they must do the same for you.

Being a good accountability partner takes time and effort but the rewards are worth the investment – as long as the effort is reciprocal.

In short, accountability partners have been found to be very effective and increase the chances of success exponentially.


Reminders are just what you would think they are: they are things that remind you to do or to refrain from doing something. They can be slips of paper or digital reminders on your phone or computer and, especially where you set goals for weight loss, they can really help you resist temptation.

In my opinion, the most effective reminders for weight loss are;

  • Paper reminders placed around the area in which you eat, on your fridge, and (most importantly) on the door to any cupboard containing junk or fattening foods. These reminders should be warnings to stay away from foods that will jeopardize your diet. You can experiment with different formats; images, humorous or severe text, warnings, or a mix of these.
  • Another type of reminder is the motivational visualization, a paragraph you write from the point of view of your future self, having just finished your goal. You can describe how fulfilled, motivated, and proud you imagine you will feel. Take a look at this article for more about writing motivational visualizations. Print out your motivational visualization and put it up somewhere you can read it regularly.


If you respond well to rewards, you might set small (preferably non-fattening) rewards for achieving your step and final goals. This could be anything from a fun experience (a movie, for example) to dinner with your significant other at a fancy restaurant, or even to a guilty pleasure such as a treat that you would otherwise not be permitted to eat on your diet – although this last one could be a dangerous reward to use if you are particularly weak-willed. So don’t want to set off a craving for more sinful treats that will smash your goal.

Break Old Habits and Create New Ones

You might think that the aim of your goal is to lose weight, and you would be correct to a point. However, you need to see losing weight as an opportunity to change your lifestyle. Bad eating habits are just that – habits. As such, they can be changed.

Although we won’t go into too much detail about habit-forming here, it’s important to understand that to lose weight in a meaningful way, you need to create new, healthy eating habits. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this involves establishing a new, healthy eating regime for about two to three months and sticking to it. If you can manage to do that, the chances are good that your new routine will become a habit – and attaining your goal will become so much easier.


Losing weight is a huge challenge that millions of people around the world struggle with every day. However, if you can set goals to lose weight, you may find that the process becomes less arduous and more certain. And let’s face it, any advantage you can get is worth trying if it gives you an edge. After all, it could be the difference between success and failure.

Feature Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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