One of the struggles many people have when trying to lose weight is not understanding how important setting very realistic goals can be to your success. So often, I see people setting goals that are so lofty and unrealistic that the person is setting themselves up for failure from the beginning.

Setting up S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you to define realistic goals that are focused on keeping you focused and motivated to keep going and stay on track. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-specific.

Let’s take some time and learn what each of these are, how you can apply them in your weight loss journey, and how they will help you in creating the success you desire.

How To Create Realistic Weight Loss Goals

S: Let’s Get Specific!

What exactly are you trying to achieve? It’s not enough to simply say, “My belly is so huge, I need to lose this fat!” or “I want to fit back into some of the clothes I used to wear.”

The information you need to focus on is exactly how many kilos or pounds of fat do you want to lose? 30 pounds or 50? Put an actual number to it! It doesn’t have to be a number on a scale – perhaps your goal could be, “I want to wear a size 28 jeans and right now I am wearing a 36. So I want to lose 8 full pant sizes!”

It can be a specific dress size or your belt notch. You might have a belt that you are on the last hole and you want to bring it in three notches. Whatever that very specific goal is for you, you have to claim it, declare it, and then you can take the next step and measure it!

M: Time to Measure Up!

When it comes to measuring, it is all about the numbers. And guess what, ladies and gentlemen, numbers never lie!

I LOVE data, I love numbers because they help you keep track of what you are doing. When it comes to healthy eating you don’t simply say, “Okay, I need to eat healthy!” No! Be specific!

Getting specific and quantitative may look something like this: You need to eat three times a day. Maybe right now you only eat one time a day and you eat horribly. So if you need to eat three times a day, three times seven days a week makes 21 meals. So if you want to eat healthy, 90% of the time, 10% of 21 meals is two. So that means you need to eat 19 clean meals every week.

That means two of your meals could be questionable or could be your indulgence. Your treat meals! You might have a slice of cake, some ice cream, or a glass of wine that is measurable. Now, when you say “I’m eating healthy,” you are very specific about what that means – and that makes it so much easier to follow and create success for yourself!

Now let’s talk about working out. You can’t just say I need to work out. No. Be specific!

Turn in into, “I need to walk 30 minutes twice a week on Tuesdays and on Thursdays.” That is very measurable. If today is Tuesday, you know that you need to be out there walking for 30 minutes today, Then you can sit back and think, okay, last week did I hit my 100% on walking? Either you did or you didn’t. It’s measurable! You are getting more data. And you are able to track what you’re doing and follow your steps to success!

A: Can You Attain and Sustain?

Does it make sense? Is it something that you can keep up long-term that’s attainable? Is it sustainable? Sustainability is a big one because it’s easy to be on a diet when you are focused on losing weight, but when that diet comes to an end and you go back to your eating habits, guess what? The weight will come right back. So you need to make sure that your plan is attainable and sustainable.

Crash diets, pills, and any other extreme actions are not going to be sustainable. You want to create a healthy lifestyle that you can continue with for the rest of your life so you don’t have to live on the roller coaster of weight loss. It is time to make goals that you can continue for the rest of your life.

R: Is it Relevant to Your Life?

When it comes to weight loss and fitness goals, the fact is that we are all very different genetically. Our appetites are very different. There are people with high appetite, others have no appetite. Our metabolisms are different. Some people have a high metabolism, others have a very low metabolism. Take, for example, a breastfeeding mother. She can breastfeed and still lose weight, but she has certain caloric needs that she has to maintain to keep producing milk for her baby. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, and others who work 24-hour shifts may not be able to follow the same plan that someone working a 9-to-5 job could. Any program you start needs to make sense for YOUR life.

This is why there is no one size fits all program. You can find tons and tons of positive reviews and success for others, but that does not mean it will necessarily work for you. That’s why in my coaching program, I customize each client’s plan to their own lives, their own needs, and their own preferences.

T: Let’s Make a Timeline

Then the fourth and most important step in creating successful goals is creating a timeline. You can say, I want to lose 50 pounds or kilos. I need to take all these steps. But what is your timeline? It is important for you to know that you need to break down your goals into achievable timeframes.

If you need to lose 50 pounds, obviously it’s impossible for you to lose 50 pounds in two weeks. That might be what you might want. But that is not how it will happen. So timeboxing means taking your big long-term goal and breaking it down into small, bite-sized goals.

For example, I want to lose 50 pounds or 25 kilos, so I’m going to focus on losing four kilos every month. Four kilos every month is about one kilos every week. Now that sounds doable! And one kilos every week, means that slowly you will get you to the big number, right? Having that goal, time box or timelining keeps you accountable to yourself because when you are tracking your measurements and your weight every week, that number will get closer and closer to your reality!

But while timeboxing can be very effective, you have to remember that weight loss isn’t linear. It goes up and down. It’s moody. It does its own thing. So you have to be patient. Keep your eyes on the long-term prize, not on the daily number on the scale. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you didn’t gain this extra weight overnight – so it’s not going to come off overnight, either.

So the key to effective, long-term weight loss is setting S.M.A.R.T. goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound. S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you stay on track, keep you from being overwhelmed, and help you see your progress over time. So what S.M.A.R.T. goals are you going to set today?