By Dr. Jean Harvey, Ph.D., R.D., The EatingWell Diet (2007)
Every coach knows how important goals are. They provide something to aim for—and a way of measuring your progress. There’s nothing more motivating than a sense of accomplishment, so with every goal you achieve, you create more positive momentum on your weight-loss journey. We want you to set plenty of goals regularly, and we’ll work more specifically on how to do that in future chapters.
You’ll get the most out of your goals if you keep the following tips in mind:
Long-term goals provide a sense of purpose and keep you oriented in the right direction. They work best if they’re not so far in the future that they seem unattainable: ideally, six months or up to one year. Short-term goals focus on a more immediate time frame, such as “this week” or “this month.” They move you toward your larger goals and give you feedback that your efforts are paying off.
Setting an impossible goal—say, “I’ll never eat fast food again”—is self-defeating, as only a superhuman could reach it. And an unachievable goal sets you up for failure, which can send your thoughts in a devastating tailspin (“I broke my promise to myself, so why not just give up altogether?”). Focus instead on a goal you know you can attain with some effort—or break a large goal into smaller, more manageable steps. A more realistic approach to the fast-food goal might be: “I’ll cut down on fast-food meals to just twice a month.”
Being clear about your goal gives you a better chance of understanding when you’ve reached it. Tie your goal to a specific action if you can: Rather than saying “I’ll eat vegetables more often,” try “I’ll eat at least one serving of vegetables at lunch and one at dinner every day this week.”[pagebreak]
As you reach your goals, make sure you acknowledge your achievement with a reward. This tangible recognition of “closure” on your goal is powerfully motivating, so don’t skip it! Your reward doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be something meaningful to you. Think of something that is not food-related: Rent or go to a movie, schedule a massage, buy yourself a book, some music or a flattering piece of clothing you’ve had your eye on. For many of us, time for ourselves is the most luxurious gift of all. How about a 10-minute phone call to a long-missed friend, or a half-hour undisturbed soak in the bathtub?
Once you’ve reached a goal, set a new one, so that you continue to keep yourself challenged and motivated. If your goal was to work up to walking a mile three times a week, set the bar a little higher—say, a mile and a quarter.