Setting your fat-loss focused goals and how to remain motivated to achieve them
While most of us are probably familiar with the conventional strategy of setting S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time bound) goals, I like to simplify things even further by breaking down my goal setting into four simple steps.
Four simple steps
My planning follows these four simple steps. Look around and you’ll likely find lists that are much longer, but I’m of the opinion that simpler is always better when it comes to something as important as weight loss. My four steps are:
1. Setting overall goals
2. Identify obstacles
3. Find solutions
4. Set a time frame
Break down your goals in terms of these four steps, but limit yourself to 1-2 sentences apiece. This will ensure that they are clear and concise. Here are some examples to get you started:
1. Overall goals
Don’t just jot down “get into shape,” “lose weight,” or anything else that could be considered vague. Get specific.
For example, “set a new personal record on my three favourite lifts”, “reduce my body fat to a percentage within the ‘fit’, healthy range”, or “achieve six-pack abs.”
An example of one of my specific goals is: “Compete in my first fitness competition.” If you have trouble making goals, use the S.M.A.R.T. system to help you analyse a few candidates. There are countless guides in print and online to help you put these principles into use.
2. Identify obstacles
This is where your past experience can help. Identify obstacles that have prevented you from achieving your goal up until this point. If you’ve never had a ‘fit’ level of body fat before, what prevented you from achieving it? Was it making the time for consistent, quality training? What about poor nutritional habits during your work day, at home, or both? Do you start off with an unsustainable approach from the start, which only sets you up for failure? If you can identify the obstacles ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared to combat them when they arise again.
An example of one of the obstacles I’ve faced before is: Myself. By being too nervous and not thinking that I would ever be capable to achieve a stage-worthy physique, I would start out by cutting calories drastically, and would train hard for a week, only to end up falling off the wagon after a week or two because this approach was too restrictive. I was my own worst enemy.
3. Find solutions
It may not seem like it after years of disappointment but trust me, your problems have solutions. For example, if you tend to make poor food choices while on the go, make it a point to educate yourself on healthier options out there or plan ahead by preparing your meals before heading out.
Make sure each solution is realistic according to your lifestyle, but don’t pass up the opportunity to transform your lifestyle for the better. For instance, if hitting the gym after work isn’t always feasible because of after-work obligations with family or work deadlines, then consider going in the morning every other day during the week to get it out of the way, even if you know waking up a bit earlier will be a struggle for a while.
In a similar situation, I identified that food was always the biggest issue for me. My solution was to take a more balanced and sensible approach if I wanted to make it through contest prep and finally get on stage. Instead of an ‘all or nothing’ meal plan approach, I included a mid-week treat and a weekend treat meal, and didn’t hesitate to go out for a meal with friends or family during the week. I was really busy with work when I was prepping for my first show, so lunches out with clients were part of my job. I just made healthier choices each time so that I could still enjoy these meals out, while staying on track. Trust me, it’s doable!
4. Set a time frame
Set both short- (weekly or monthly) and long-term (the next three, six, and 12 months) time frames to achieve your goals. Having these overlapping deadlines helps you turn an immediate goal into a stepping stone to a larger one.
For the short term, you could challenge yourself to only eat out at restaurants three days each week instead of five, and instead have healthier meals at home. Each time you replace one unhealthy meal with a healthier option, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your overall goal.
In terms of my time frame, each week I would take progress pics, assess my measurements and look back on the week. I knew the ultimate countdown began from 12 weeks out, so I wanted to ensure I was making progress in some way during each of those weeks, be it with posing, making healthier food choices, or reducing my dessert servings from three or four times a week to just once, to seeing more definition in one muscle group, getting stronger, or dropping a dress size. Whatever it was, I set new weekly or bi-weekly goals that helped keep me on track for the full 12-week process.
Setting these smaller goals as benchmarks throughout the duration of my prep cycle made everything far more attainable, as opposed to just starting day one with a single goal of being stage ready in 12 weeks.
In closing, I would like to leave you with this bit of advice to keep you going.
If you lack motivation, dig deep and ask yourself “why did I start this process?” Remind yourself what was going through your mind when you set these goals, and imagine how amazing it will feel when you reach them. Consider how achieving that goal will impact you and change your life for the better when you finally attain them. And always remember that every little bit counts. Progress is progress, no matter how big or small. Every little bit also adds up to deliver a huge result!
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.