How to Create a Realistic Weight-Loss Goal — and Achieve It

If you've ever thought, "I want to lose weight, but I don't have the discipline," then you're certainly not alone. But while losing weight does require commitment, you don't need Olympic athlete-level discipline to succeed — all you really need are specific goals and smart planning.

Having discipline is much easier when you set SMART goals for your weight-loss journey. (Image: valentinrussanov/E+/GettyImages)

Set a SMART Goal

Setting yourself up for weight-loss success begins with setting a realistic long-term goal. No matter how much motivation you may have, striving for unrealistic results can leave you feeling consistently discouraged. But if you take your day-to-day life into account, you can set doable, incremental goals and celebrate small wins along the way.

While it can be easy to get overeager when it comes to goal-setting, consider mapping out your goals in a SMART format, recommends the Mayo Clinic. This includes setting goals that are:

  • Specific: Pick a specific goal weight, ideally based on conversations with your doctor or another health care professional.
  • Measurable: Measure your goal in numbers. What is the precise amount of pounds you plan to lose?
  • Attainable: Take your day-to-day life and starting point into consideration. And keep in mind that a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week.
  • Relevant: Set goals that will help you improve specific aspects of your health, or relate to a future life event.
  • Time-limited: Give yourself a realistic timeframe to achieve your goal.


If you have any pre-existing health conditions or health concerns, consult your doctor before you begin any type of weight-loss regimen.

Short-Term Goals for Long-Term Success

Once you've set a long-term SMART goal, you can pad your weight-loss plan with numerous daily, weekly and monthly benchmarks, advises the Mayo Clinic. Meeting your short-term goals may require some added resources and planning but will ultimately lead to overall success.

First, break down your overarching goal into several smaller timeframes (often, this is a monthly marker). For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds in four months, your first shorter-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds each month. Then you can break it down further and calculate how much you need to lose each week to achieve your monthly mark. For 20 pounds, this is a weight-loss rate of 1.25 pounds per week.

Finally, when you get to the daily goal level, you can set up a day-to-day calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume). While your deficit will depend on your starting point and overall goal, it is generally safe to cut between 500 to 1,000 calories per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. If losing a pound per week is your goal, then cutting 500 calories per day will get you there (keep in mind that there's 3,500 calories in a pound).

Taking advantage of various weight-loss resources will also help you stay motivated and on track. Use digital food journals or tracking apps, like's MyPlate, to stay on top of your daily food intake. Also consider setting various exercise goals by teaming up with a workout partner or signing up for a workout class, both of which can help hold you accountable to what you've set out to do.

Motivation and discipline will certainly help bring you closer to your goals. But ultimately, a strategic, well-composed plan is the key to helping you lose weight — and keeping it off!

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