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Ask Raphael: How to Set Goals

Posted Dec 28 2009 12:41pm

Hi Raphael,

You mention the importance of having goals a lot, and I’d like your feedback on how to set goals. I never seem to achieve what I set out to do as far as weight loss and improving my fitness level. Any guidance about how to set goals would be appreciated. Thanks -- Debbie


Every January, I post a goals thread on my Exercise and Fitness support forum on eDiets. I then work with every eDiets member who posts their goals and help them to revise goals if necessary. Once the goals are in place, I work with them to get to their goal. However, structuring the goals correctly is vital.

This is what I look for in goal setting:

Choose 1-3 goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and based on a Time Frame (SMART). Never set more than 3 goals because the mind tends to lose focus when there are too many goals; keep things manageable.

The goals can be short- and/or long-term, but they must be measurable. I like to see dates (beginning and ending) as well as anything that's measurable and important to you such as scale weight, body composition, percentage of strength increases or participation in events such as road races. It can even be an increase in cardio time, days, etc.

Think of the three most important things you want to accomplish, and it should come to you pretty quickly. If it’s fewer than three goals, that’s fine. Focus is the key.

Here is an example of how to set goals:

1. Decrease from 200 pounds to 170 for a total of 30 pounds. Average fat loss of 1.25 pounds per week. Start Jan. 1, 2010 and achieve goal by July 1, 2010. (Note: Keep fat loss to 2 pounds or fewer per week)

2. Begin a running program and run one mile in eight weeks. Begin Jan. 1, 2010 and achieve goal by Feb 28, 2010.

3. Drop 5 inches off my hips. Begin Jan. 1, 2010 and achieve this goal by April 30, 2010.
Continuous and updated short-term goals are also part of the process so you can tweak the goals even further with something like this:

- Decrease from 200 pounds to 170 for a total of 30 pounds. Average fat loss of 1.25 pounds per week. Start Jan. 1, 2010 and achieve goal by July 1, 2010. I will begin with a conservative and attainable 4-pound loss in the month of January.

As you can see, it’s not about setting goals and never looking at them again. The goals must be reviewed on a consistent basis in order to set and achieve short-term goals.

Here is an example of how NOT to set goals:

1. I will get in good shape in 2010.
2. I will get to my goal weight.

The above is too general. There is no way to measure success – there’s no specificity. Avoid writing these types of general goals.

Goals can only be achieved with a plan of action. The plan must include exercise that you find enjoyable and that is based on progression. If you dislike traditional exercise, then seek out different forms of movement such as DVD classes, dance classes, etc.

You must also have a structured nutrition program. The diet is a must because this isn’t a hit-or-miss thing. You have to know what you’re eating and you have to have a plan.

If you aren’t a member of eDiets, please review all the delicious meal plans we offer. If you wish to make life even easier, take a good look at our award winning Fresh-Prepared Meal Delivery program.

If you join, I encourage you to use all of the eDiets resources that are part of your membership: assistance from me and our registered dietitians as well as all of the great perks we offer.
Take ownership of your goal (s). Contemplate what you want to achieve and think about what you're going to have to sacrifice to get there.

I encourage you to set goals and to really put your heart and soul into this. Try to visualize how you’ll feel when you hit your short-term and long-term goals. Try to really connect with that elated emotion. Becoming physically fit is important, but so is the sense of emotional fulfillment you’ll feel from achieving your goals.

Best of luck and happy new year!

Have a fitness question you want answered? Email Raphael at and you could have your question picked! And if you missed a previous column, see the archive here.

Make NOW your time to do something about your weight. eDiets can help make weight loss a little easier. Let our nutritionists and fitness pros guide you! Click here for a FREE diet profile.
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