Set SMART Goals for Weight Management

Armen Hareyan's picture

Weight Loss Goal

Set a goal to lose weight - 20, 30, 40 pounds - and get busy.

It seems straightforward, but goal setting for weight loss isn't as simple as it may sound. If you set goals too high, you'll set yourself up for disappointment. If you don't identify goals, chances are nothing much will happen.

The November issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter outlines a goal-setting approach that supports successful weight management. It's called SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Trackable.

  • Specific - State exactly what you want to achieve, how you're going to do it and the time frame in which you want to achieve it. It's helpful to plan a series of small goals that build on each other instead of one big all-encompassing goal. A small goal might be to have at least one serving of fruit each day.


  • Measurable - Be sure you can tell whether you've achieved a goal. If your goal is to walk 30 minutes a day, wear a watch while you walk to track the time.

  • Attainable - Ask yourself whether the goal is reasonable. Are you allowing sufficient time and resources? Start slowly and work your way to larger goals. Better to succeed at one small change this week than try for too much, fail and quit.

  • Realistic - Set goals within your capabilities, and consider your limitations. Is it realistic to plan to exercise two hours every day if you've never exercised that much before?

  • Trackable - Look for ways to record your progress, such as a food journal or exercise log. Tracking your efforts helps keep you motivated.

Finally, focus on making performance goals rather than outcome goals. Performance goals - such as increasing your vegetable intake or walking a specific number of miles each week - help you achieve a healthy weight. Success is measured by your mastery of each activity. Outcome goals - such as losing a specific amount of weight each week - can lead to frustration and disappointment.