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Weight Loss

The Secret to Successful Long-Term Weight Loss

successful weight loss

The secret to successful long-term weight loss isn’t that exciting. I think that’s why most people don’t do it!

Most people are drawn to sensational ideas like the “lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks” plans on Pinterest or the fad diets that require you to make drastic changes all at once.

Those exciting plans may seem like the best way to go, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. You set yourself up to be one of those people who only stick to their diet or exercise plan for a week.

People find long-term success when they make small changes over time, rather than big changes all at once.

It’s like this: imagine if someone said you only had one day to climb a giant mountain. It would seem impossible! But if you instead made a plan to only climb a fourth of the way up per day, it would seem more doable and you would be more likely to have success.

Starting small also allows you to build confidence in your abilities over time. If you failed after two weeks to lose the 20 pounds (which is likely), you would feel bad about yourself and have less confidence the next time you tried to lose weight.

But if you started small, and achieved a more reasonable goal of losing 4 pounds in two weeks, you would have built your confidence and motivation to keep going with your weight loss.

The Secret to Successful Weight Loss

How to Set Small Goals for Successful Long-Term Weight Loss

Here are two ways to make small goals that bring long-lasting results:

1. Think of your goals as levels and level up after you’ve mastered each goal.

Say your goal is to start exercising more. Do not start by making your goal to exercise for 1 hour every day. That would be crazy hard for a beginner. Instead, break your goal up into levels that build on themselves like this:

Week 1: Exercise for 5 minutes every day
Week 2: Exercise for 15 minutes every day
Week 3: Exercise for 30 minutes every day
Week 4: Exercise for 45 minutes every day
Week 5: Exercise for 1 hour every day

Now, doesn’t that seem more doable? I get that it’s not exciting to know it will take you 5 weeks to accomplish your goal.

But guess what? If you tried exercising 1 hour every day in the beginning, I guarantee you it would feel too hard, you would lose motivation, and you would give up after the first week. But by taking small steps, you are exercising the whole time on the way to your goal!

successful long-term weight loss with small goals

2. Set goals you have high confidence in achieving.

If your goal feels difficult, and you are not sure if you will be successful, it’s not a good goal. The best goals are ones you are confident in and believe you will achieve.

That’s why in the first point, the week 1 goal was only 5 minutes per day of exercise. That might seem silly, but guess what, I bet you would wake up in the morning absolutely knowing you could accomplish this goal.

If you started with even 30 minutes, you might not be so excited or confident about starting exercise.

the secret to long-term weight loss

Be Specific Too

To have success you also need to be very specific in what you want to achieve. You should leave no room for any gray areas.

For example, if I say my goal is to “eat more fruits and vegetables,” how do I know when I have achieved success? How much do I actually have to eat to reach my goal?

If I was only eating 1 serving of fruit and 0 servings of vegetables each day, a much better goal would be “eat 2 servings of fruit and 1 serving of vegetable each day.”

This is specific, so I know exactly what it will take to be successful. It is also a small step up from what I was doing before, so it will not seem too difficult to achieve.

goals for successful long-term weight loss

Set Your First Small Goal

I challenge you to take what you have learned here and make a couple of new small goals. Make sure they are small enough that you will have the confidence to achieve them.

Once you achieve them, you can add other goals to level up and move “higher up the mountain”. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen all at once, it is created one change at a time.

Set realistic weight loss goals with this free worksheet

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Samantha Shuflin, MS, RDN, LDN is a Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with a master’s degree in nutrition. She helps busy professionals thrive through nutrition & wellness.

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