Losing Weight - Counting and Setting Goals

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Effective weight loss hinges on goal setting. While weight loss itself is our final goal, the end product we want to achieve, our weight loss journey isn't just a one-step process. If it were that easy everyone would likely have done it already.

The truth is that the ideal weight loss program will incorporate many smaller goals that will be set and reached before the end of the journey. Similar to the process of breaking a difficult project into smaller and easily managed tasks, incremental goal setting is key to making a weight loss dream into a reality.

Here are some tips and tools to help you form the goal-centered habits needed to lose the weight, but gain a sense of accomplishment.

Here, There, and Beyond - Three Types of Goals

The first thing we're going to look at is the importance of long-term goals. These are the overall plans we have, the big picture of sorts. The largest of these we've already discussed: we want to get to our target weight and stay there.

Long-term goals help because they provide context to the shorter-term goals. We aren't cutting back on our daily sweets at random; it's part of a bigger effort and an objective we wish to reach. Long-term goals provide meaning by establishing a proper perspective, allowing us to look at our short-term goals and remember why we're making them.

The next step after establishing our long-term goals is to set up our mid- or medium-term goals. These are the increments and benchmarks that will divide up the process as a whole, and allow us to measure our progress as we're getting there.

For example, we know that it takes about 30 to 60 days to establish good healthy eating habits. Our long-term goal is to improve our diet so we don't overeat as many calories, so we set mid-term goals to see how we're doing. We can have a goal of eating only one snack per week by the two month mark, so we set a goal to have cut our intake in half by the end of the first month.

Finally we come to short-term goals. These are the goals that may seem the most difficult, because they rarely have an immediate effect. They break up the big picture of the long-term goal into things we can do right here and now, steps we know we can take and feel good about. Since we have the long-term goal of reducing our sweets intake, and intend to cut it in half by one month, we can break up the first month into weeklong, daylong, or even hourly portions that we're going to use to control our snack intake.

The Value of Rewards - Counting Goals for Success

Part of the difficulty that people find in dieting is that the entire process is on their own shoulders. There's no teacher handing out A's at the end of the course, no employer offering paychecks and bonuses for good performance. When the entire responsibility and interest sits completely on us, it can be hard to keep motivated. This is where we must learn to marry our goal-making to reward-giving for maximum effect.

Rewards are powerful. They help signify a great accomplishment, and allow you both the enjoyment of the victory itself and a tangible gift that comes with it. There's no reason then that we shouldn't congratulate ourselves for each minor and major victory we have in our goal-setting process.

For example, consider my own weight loss adventure. I set my goals and a 42-day benchmark for meeting them. I took my daily and weekly steps seriously, and made a specific eating plan to stick to. I decided that if I did this for 42 days, I would reward myself with a nice, whole pizza. I stuck to the plan and managed to make every step, reminding myself about the delicious pizza I'd have at the end, and I succeeded all the way to the 42nd day. Of course, sometimes it's the victory that's the sweetest part - I decided that I wanted to go further with my plans, so I only indulged in one slice, which tasted so good it was plenty of reward in the end.

We can all harness this tendency. As we break up our bigger meals into smaller ones that allow us fewer ups and downs in our diets, we can check off each daily bit of progress in our activity logs. Seeing our diets grow healthier and more reasonable from start to finish can be a reward all in its own, and seeing the pages between 'start' and 'chocolate muffins' grow fewer and fewer can make us feel both accomplished and excited!

Take the time this week to look at your overall goal and your day-to-day steps, and see what rewards you want to give yourself. Start with the big steps, and break them up until you have a small step for each day that you know you can accomplish. When you only have to clear the next hurdle, the rest of the race doesn't seem so difficult.

About the Author:

Larry Tobin is a co-creator of http://HabitChanger.com, offering effective and empowering solutions for losing weight. Try our 42-day weight loss program at http://www.habitchanger.com/losingweight.

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