How Setting SMART Goals Can Help with Weight Loss

Developing healthy habits that lead to long-term weight management can feel overwhelming at times, but setting SMART goals is a great strategy for staying on track.

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Weight Loss Goals

SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely or sustainable short-term objectives that become long-term gains over time.

SMART principles can meet just about any type of personal or professional goal, including an academic achievement, work promotion, or weight-loss aspiration.

By setting clear, concrete goals and identifying how you’ll meet them, you’re more likely to stay motivated. One study suggests people are 42% more likely to achieve a goal just by writing it down, and American Psychological Association research finds that frequently checking in on a goal’s progress boosts your chances of meeting it.

You can set a few SMART goals at a time each week or month, but be careful to make sure they are all, indeed, achievable tasks.

What Does SMART stand For?

Here’s how it works. Set goals that are:

  • Specific: Set a goal that is as specific as possible. What will you do? How will you do it? Rather than saying “I will be more active,” or “I will eat healthier,” you would say “I will run for 30 minutes a day,” or “I will reduce my sodium intake by (X amount).”
  • Measurable: You should track your goals so you know if you’re reaching them. By setting firm numbers like amount, duration, and frequency, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable. For example, “I will take the dog on a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood after dinner each weeknight this month.”
  • Achievable: Set short-term goals that you know are attainable in that time frame. Rather than setting a long-term goal to lose 50 pounds, commit yourself to losing 4 pounds a month. It may help to focus goals on specific behaviors like diet, hydration, exercise, sleep, and substance use (caffeine, alcohol consumption) rather than weight loss itself.
  • Realistic: Set a goal you’re confident isn’t too easy or too hard to achieve with your given resources, time, and support. For example, don’t commit to a climbing expedition across the country in a month if you know you’re not ready physically or financially for such a feat. Instead, set incremental goals (“I will complete 1 mile on my gym’s stair climber four nights a week this month”) that will help you ultimately fulfill that larger goal. Goals should align with a person’s long-term objectives.
  • Timely: Set a firm date to start and reach your short-term goals. This can help keep you motivated while giving you confidence when you meet each objective. When you meet a certain goal, you can set a new one that builds on your newly attained physical or nutritional success. Remember, the body doesn’t function well in sustained extremes, so setting rigorous physical or dietary goals from the get-go will reduce your likelihood of success.

You can continue to set these goals on a weekly or monthly basis for as long as you like. With each success, allow yourself a small reward in the form of a day trip or a new outfit — choose what fits your lifestyle and budget! Examples of SMART goals to develop healthy diet and exercise habits may include:

  • Replacing soda or sugary drinks with water during breakfast and lunch each day for one week.
  • Eating fruit and whole grains for breakfast each morning for one week.
  • Eating five servings of vegetables each day for two weeks.
  • Walking 30 minutes a day after dinner for one week.
  • Using endurance and strength equipment at the gym for 30 minutes four times a week for two weeks.
  • Eating out at a restaurant only once a week for a month by bringing lunch to work and cooking at home.
  • Going to sleep by 11 p.m. each night and waking up by 7 a.m. each day for a month.
  • Meditating 10 minutes a day five days a week for one month.
  • Adding one serving of fruit to your daily intake.
  • Completing 15 push-ups a day for one week.
  • Running 1 mile four times a week for two weeks.
  • Running 30 minutes a day five times a week for a month beginning in April.
  • Losing 4 pounds or a certain percentage of body fat in one month through SMART dieting and exercise goals.

About UPMC Bariatric Services

UPMC Bariatric Services is here to help if you’re struggling with obesity and want to lose weight. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical weight loss plans and can help you find the right path for a weight-loss journey. We will work with you to discuss your needs and develop and individualized treatment plan. We meet the highest level of national accreditation for bariatric surgery centers, and our team provides complete care. We offer our services at UPMC locations throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Visit our website to find a provider near you.