How to Set SMART Weight Loss Goals (And Achieve Them)
We’ve all seen those magazines at the drug store checkout: the ones that promise to help you lose 50 pounds in two weeks. Most people are aware that this type of rapid weight loss isn’t possible, and that any type of rapid weight loss (anything over one pound per week) is considered unhealthy.
Setting weight loss goals that support healthy progress is the type of fitness journey that’ll deliver long-lasting results. That’s why we’ve written this article—to help you set your weight loss goals in the right way to achieve and sustain them.
Below, we cover everything you need to know about SMART weight loss goals, how to set them, how to accomplish them, and more.
SMART weight loss goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound intentions to lose weight. Simply deciding you want to lose weight is too broad of a goal. Instead, you need to set SMART weight loss goals that clearly outline the how and when of achieving this goal.
The SMART weight loss approach ensures that you lose weight at a healthy rate and keep it off for good.
“Weight loss of one pound per week is accepted as healthy. Anything faster can be unhealthy,” says lululemon Studio Trainer Lonnie Poupard Jr.
Losing more than one pound a week can put you at risk of many health problems, including muscle loss, gallstones, nutritional deficiencies, and a drop in metabolism.
Healthy weight loss also means losing weight for the right reasons. An example of a healthy reason to lose weight is wanting to fit back into your clothes comfortably. This is also a way to measure your SMART goal, which we’ll discuss below.
Before starting your weight loss journey, Poupard Jr. says it’s also important to ask yourself why weight loss is your goal. “Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to lose body fat? Gain more lean muscle?”
It’s important to be clear on your reason and understand that fixating on a number on the scale could result in muscle loss as well if you’re not careful. Muscle mass is what will actually help you burn more calories at rest and perform better during your workouts, so make sure that your weight loss goals are never just about the number.
Here’s how to set SMART weight loss goals and some considerations when goal setting.
Be as specific as possible when thinking about your weight loss goals. Goals like “I want to lose weight,” “I want to lose body fat,” and “I want to fit into my old clothes” aren’t specific enough. They’re a good start, but in order to set SMART goals, you need to get more granular with your weight loss goal setting.
To help yourself be more specific with your SMART goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much weight or how many inches do you want to lose?
- What pair of jeans do you want to fit back into?
- When will you know that you’ve achieved your goal?
- Will you do this by building more lean muscle mass, upping your cardio, or both?
- Have you thought about nutrition? Do you plan on changing up your diet? Remember, dialling in your nutrition is a vital part of healthy weight loss.
- What forms of cardio, strength training, and other activities will you do in order to achieve your goal?
By answering these questions, you can set more specific goals that can help ensure your road ahead is successful.
Measuring your weight loss goals is quite literal because the best way to measure your success is by using a measuring tape. Before you start on your weight loss journey, take measurements of your hips, waist, thighs, and arms. Write these measurements down in a journal, and take the same measurements each month to track your progress.
Another way to measure your weight loss SMART goals is to take photos. Take a starting picture from the front, sides, and back, and take the same photos each month to visually see your progress.
Pro tip: Wear the same clothes in each photo, and use the same poses and lighting. Keeping these variables consistent in your photos will help you to better see your progress.
We also recommend keeping a weight loss journal. Write down how you feel about your body, your workouts, your nutrition, and anything else related to your weight loss goals and journey. This will help you track how you feel throughout the process and nurture your mental well-being.
While you can use the scale to help monitor your progress, fixating on the number isn’t an accurate form of SMART goal measurement. Because the number on the scale fluctuates day-to-day (and throughout the day), the scale should be used sparingly to track your overall progress. Poupard Jr. says the “scale can be helpful, but measurements, pictures, and journaling about how you feel” are more important.
Another tangible way to measure your weight loss progress is to try fitting into old clothes. This way, you can see (and feel) your results and gauge how far you’ve come and how far you have left to go to reach your goal.
Measurement tactics for weight loss goals:
- Measurements of the waist, hips, thighs, and arms (monthly)
- Photo diary of progress photos (monthly)
- Weight loss journal entries (weekly)
- Weigh-ins (monthly or bi-monthly)
- Trying on old clothes (monthly)
In order for your weight loss goal to be SMART, it has to be achievable and realistic. If you only have 30 minutes each day to dedicate to fitness, don’t set an unrealistic goal of dedicating more than this to exercise.
Be sure to set realistic weight loss goals as well. Consider your lifestyle and what’s achievable within your day-to-day. Setting unrealistic goals is one of the best ways to get discouraged and give up on your goals, while setting realistic goals is the best way to ensure you reach them.
The same goes for food. With any weight loss plan, there has to be a change in diet in order to achieve the results you want , but restricting large amounts of calories in order to lose weight is unrealistic in most cases (and can be quite dangerous). Consult with a nutritionist to get a meal plan that supports your weight loss goals and ensures you get all the essential nutrients to help your body recover from exercise, build muscle mass, and have plenty of energy.
Your weight loss goals must align with your long-term fitness goals and other aspects of your life. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does losing weight line up with and support my other fitness goals?
- Will losing weight benefit my overall health and well-being?
- Will losing weight support my day-to-day life going forward?
If the answers are yes to these questions, then weight loss is relevant to your fitness journey and should be actioned.
Give yourself a realistic timeframe to accomplish your weight loss goals. Instead of waiting until two weeks before summer or a vacation to start upping your activity to lose weight, plan ahead and start early. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, consider that healthy weight loss happens at the rate of one pound per week, so to lose 20 pounds, you’d need 20 weeks—which is about five months.
Once you have a realistic timeline set, you can use this to keep you on track as you’ll have a “deadline” to aim for.
Here are three examples of weight loss SMART goals. We recommend separating fitness-related goals and one nutrition-related goals so you can measure and track each one. That being said, you’ll want to set both types of goals (fitness and nutrition) to achieve healthy weight loss:
- I will attend an online fitness class four days a week for 3 months in order to lose 10 pounds.
- I will make time for physical activity every day in order to lose 2 inches from my waist, 2 inches from my hips, 1 inch from my thighs, and 1 inch from my arms in 6 months.
- I will increase my protein and vegetable intake and limit myself to one treat per day in order to lose 4 pounds each month for 4 months to lose a total of 16 pounds.
You can use the SMART weight loss goal examples above or use the templates below to create your own:
SMART weight loss goal templates:
- I will [insert exercise plan] and [insert nutrition plan] in order to lose _____ lbs/kgs by [date].
- I will [insert exercise plan] and [insert nutrition plan] in order to lose _____ cms/inches from my waist, _____ cms/inches from my hips, _____ cms/inches from my thighs, and _____ cms/inches from my arms by [date].
- I will [insert exercise plan] and [insert nutrition plan] in order to lose 4 to 8 pounds each month for ____ months to lose a total of _____ pounds.
For weight loss, your activity levels should exceed the CDC’s recommendations for general health and maintenance of 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity, plus two weight training sessions.
This means that for weight loss, you need to dedicate more time to activity until you achieve your goals, which you can then follow the CDC guidelines for activity frequency and intensity.
Here’s an example of what your weekly activity could look like if your goal is weight loss. Note, your workout plan should be coupled with an appropriate nutrition plan to see results:
- Monday: Cardio + Strength circuit training (30 min)
- Tuesday: Total body Strength Training (30 min)
- Wednesday: Cardio (Cardio Tabata) (30 min)
- Thursday: Active recovery (e.g. a brisk walk) (30 min)
- Friday: Total body Strength Training (30 min)
- Saturday: Cardio (e.g. Dance Cardio) (30 min)
- Sunday: Active recovery (e.g. a brisk walk) (30 min)
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Here are some of the top tips to stay motivated when your fitness goal is weight loss:
- Use activity trackers: Fitness apps and goal trackers can be helpful in staying on track. The data they provide can motivate you to keep going and achieve new personal bests.
- Use a visual reminder: Find a photo of yourself at a weight that you were happy with. Keep it on your phone and refer to it often. You can also print it, frame it, and hang it up on your wall at home as motivation. Being able to visualize your goal is a powerful tool.
- Give yourself time to rest: Weight loss isn’t a race and rest is an important component of any fitness routine. Rest gives your muscles the time they need to recover and prep for the next workout. It also helps you perform better as you progress in your fitness journey. Consider incorporating active rest activities such as walks, yoga, and stretching to help keep you active while avoiding burnout.
Using these tips and tactics will help you stay on track, build new habits, and achieve your SMART weight loss goals.
Reach Your SMART Weight Loss Goals with lululemon Studio
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