If you’ve ever tried and failed to lose weight, you know just how demoralizing the experience can be. You set an ambitious goal, or even a small goal, and fail to meet it. Boom- you feel like garbage, totally incapable of self-betterment. Your esteem is in ruins. You’re just not meant to lose weight, it seems. So why try?


And then something changes- a month, two months, maybe a year later. Suddenly, you want to try again. Motivation stirs within you.


Maybe I’ll try one more time, you decide. Only this time will be different, you tell yourself- this time, you’re not going to set a goal. This time you’re just going to diet and exercise to feel better about yourself. Surely that will work better. No goal, no chance to feel defeated. Right?


Wrong!


While many consumers try to evade the topic of weight loss (while still secretly hoping to lose weight), failing to acknowledge the true motivation behind a diet and exercise routine ultimately undermines the attempts of many consumers. Millions of Americans claim that they diet and exercise to “feel better”, and yet many of those same consumers also acknowledge that weight loss is an important outcome of diet and exercise- one that they desire.


Ambiguous goals ultimately lead to failure because they don’t catalyze the series of events the ultimately predict success. The individuals who truly succeed in any diet and weight loss program are those who are will to sacrifice. Those who are willing to put in the time and effort to weather hard days and setbacks while still adhering to a plan. Certain days will be downright disasters, but the ability to set a goal and persevere until you meet that goal teaches the resiliency and coping mechanisms required to lose weight and keep it off- for good.


To stick with a plan, first you need a plan. And if you need a plan, you need a goal to plan towards.


Hence, vague goals do not work.


So how can you have your cake and eat it too? (excuse the pun)


The answer, in short, is patience and realism.


If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight, your relationship with food is just like that of millions of Americans: complicated. There are intense behavioral and emotional mechanisms belying food relationships and our drive to eat, and in order to address those relationships, you need time and exposure to winning one day and losing the next- again and again and again.

With persistence to stay on track, you will, eventually, accrue more wins than losses, and that’s precisely where and when you’ll start to see real, tangible, lasting results of your perseverance, mentally and physically.


The best way to set a goal is in a series: let’s call them Gold, Silver, and Bronze Goals. Gold goals are your long term goals- where you want to be in a year, or two years. Silver goals are where you want to be in six months. Bronze goals are where you want to be in a week.


Bronze goals should be no more than two small but effective daily measures that you take to create daily progress and build esteem. Things like weighing and measuring foods and counting Calories are effective daily “bronze” goals. If you slip up one day, that’s ok. But aim for more days with our goal met than not met, and stick with the same Bronze goals each day.


Silver goals should be where you want to be in six months thanks to the accumulation of successes from those bronze goals. For example, if you’ve been measuring your portions and counting Calories, perhaps you’ll have targeted a weight loss goal of 20 lbs in 6 months- a worthy and realistic Silver goal.


Your Gold goal (your long-term maintenance goal) may be achieved in a year, two years, or however long is realistic for the number of pounds you need to lose and your realistic rate of weight loss. Your gold goal is an extension of the accumulated victories of your Bronze and Silver goals; the long-term results of your persistence.


Having daily bronze goals will ultimately keep you on track and remind you that each day is a new day and a new opportunity to meet a goal- a reward in its own right.


Wondering what bronze, silver, and gold goals are right for you? Stay tuned for our Goal-Setting Guide for a DIY goal creator.