When it comes to shedding those extra pounds, most people will concentrate on the physical aspect of it i.e. diet and exercise. It's a little-known fact, that the reason diets fail, is not due to the diet itself, nor is it due to the individual's lack of willpower. It's the lack of adequate (psychological) preparation. In order to succeed at weight loss, one must never under-estimate the power of effective goal-setting.
The most effective goal-setting system by far, is the SMART system.
SMART stands for:
You have a much greater change of reaching your weight loss goals, if you take some time take some time to conduct a SMART inventory -- preferably in writing.
Here's how it's done:
Step 1: SPECIFIC
You must make sure that the weight loss goals you set are as specific as possible.
A general/ambiguous goal would be: "I want to lose weight."
A specific goal would be: "I want to lose 10 pounds of fat by the end of February."
The former is a vague statement; such statements hold no credibility whatsoever, and do not have a sound psychological effect on your brain, whereas a specific goal has a much greater chance of accomplishment -- simply because it's stated in a non-ambiguous manner, hence - your brain registers it as an active goal (as opposed to passive, irrelevant grousing).
Make sure that all the goals you set / statements you make are as specific as can be. You should apply this to everything, including your actual weight loss strategy. That is, instead of saying "I will eat less", you should establish how much you're going to eat, exactly. "Less" is not an action-oriented term -- at least your brain does not interpret it as such.
Step 2: MEASURABLE
Establish the HOW and the WHEN.
- HOW are you going to measure your weight progress? Choose a method (or a combination of methods) that is suitable for you. It can be the scale, the measuring tape, your BMI, your body fat %, your hip-to-waist ration, clothing sizes, the mirror, or anything else you want to use.
- Decide WHEN you're going to measure your weight loss progress. Every day (bad idea, by the way)... every week... every fortnight?
Now, how will you know when you've accomplished your goal?
Proceed with the end result in mind. What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to be able to fit into a particular dress (what size is it)? Do you want to see a particular number on the scale? Do you want to lose x inches off your waist?
It's a good idea to document your progress regularly.
Step 3: ACTION-ORIENTED
No point setting a goal unless there's no action plan to go with it.
Make a list of things you're going to do to attain your goal, both - long and short-term.
Consider actions you're going to take to overcome any anticipated obstacles.
A sample list of action-oriented weight loss goals might look like this:
(1) Drink a full glass of water every two hours (set alarm).
(2) Walk home instead of driving 3 times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
(3) Remove refined sugar from the house; a zero-calorie substitute will be used from now on.
... and so on and so forth.
Some of the obstacles you may face, would be things like setbacks and trigger situations. Plan to take care of them in advance; when you anticipate such things, they are a lot less likely to ruin your efforts and strip you of motivation.
Review your action plan periodically, and note what works and what doesn't, and why. Adjust as needed.
Step 4: REALISTIC
Unreasonable expectations... the main reason people fail (at weight loss, and many other things in life). Unreasonable expectations result in disappointment, which usually leads to de-motivation.
Carbohydrates, fats, sedentary lifestyle, food addiction, laziness, lack of willpower, etc. All these things are nothing compared to the destructive nature of de-motivation. It must be avoided at all costs.
... which is why it's so important to set SMART weight loss goals. Unrealistic goals are guaranteed to result in de-motivation, which means not only that you will fail with your current weight loss plan, but also that it will be more difficult to embark on one in the future -- due to emotional barriers.
Basically: if you want to stay motivated (which is absolutely essential for successful weight loss), your goals must be realistic.
How do you make sure that your goals are realistic? Consider this:
- You did not end up at your current weight overnight, so you will not lose it overnight.
- How far are you prepared to go? How bad do you want to slim down and how fast do you want it? Are you ready to work extra hard -- for extra results, or are you not in a hurry?
- What can you expect from your chosen method? Are you going to use extreme methods for rapid weight loss, or employ a more 'slow and steady' approach?
- What is your body capable of? If you're pear-shaped, you must understand that losing weight will not change the genetically predetermined structure of your body. You must understand that the stubborn fat in problem areas is going to be the last to disappear.
If a goal is physically attainable, it does not mean it's realistic. A goal is 'realistic' when you believe that it can be attained.
Know your limits. Set a goal you can achieve with ease. That way you can't go wrong. Do not challenge yourself -- unless it is something you genuinely enjoy.
Step 5: TIMED
You must set a time-frame for each goal.
Creating a time frame also creates a sense of urgency, so your mind is more likely to urge your body to complete the goal when it's due in a specific amount of time.
Work to (realistic) deadlines.
Don't say: "I want to lose weight sometime soon."
Do say: "I will drop a dress size by the end of next week."
Incorporate this goal-setting strategy into your weight loss plan, and see how it affects its efficiency.