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Setting Goals for Weight Loss

Being overweight can put you at greater risk for health problems. Losing even a small amount of weight (5 to 10 percent of your total body weight) can reduce and sometimes reverse the risk.

Losing weight also may help you have more energy, less joint pain, and a better night’s sleep. Setting goals can help you lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way. Try these steps for creating weight loss goals that help you stay focused and motivated.

Think Long-Term

Goals can help you work toward a healthier lifestyle. Aim to develop lifestyle habits that will help you keep your weight in a healthy range now and in the future. Research shows that a short-term diet that you go on and then go off is not the answer to long-term weight loss and management. Healthy weight loss means having a lifestyle that includes long-term changes in eating and exercise habits.

Take It Slow

Studies show that people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping weight off. Health experts recommend 1 to 2 pounds a week over the long run for healthy weight loss. That’s better than trying to lose a lot of weight all at once.

Set Small Goals

Break down a long-term goal into a series of smaller, short-term goals to make your plan more manageable and keep you accountable over the long haul. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in three months, you might have separate goals for each month. Perhaps aim for 4 pounds in the first month and 3 pounds in each of the next two months because early weight loss often is faster.

See the Big Picture

Eating healthier and being more physically active is good for your health, even if you don’t lose weight. Try setting goals beyond weight loss, focusing on how your body feels better and what it can do. Think about the other things healthy eating and physical activity might do for you, like learning how to cook healthier, trying new foods, and having more energy.

It's a great day to start new goals or recommit to old ones.

Track Your Progress

Keep track of progress toward your weight loss goals. The SuperTracker from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help you set your goals and see how you’re doing along the way. Plus, you can get tips and support to stay motivated and on target. Visit the app store or Google Play for tools to track your progress on your smartphone.

Adjust Goals as Needed

Relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week can help you achieve your weight loss goals in a healthy way. Holidays, vacations, and special events can mean setbacks on your weight loss journey. Losing weight involves using up more calories than you take in. One way to do that is to increase your physical activity. Here are some rough estimates of how much exercise it takes to burn off the calories of some favorite treats:

  • Snack-sized bag of chips: 1 hour and 30 minutes of strength training
  • Medium order of fries: Biking 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Energy bar: Climbing stairs for 25 minutes
  • Large vanilla latte with whipped cream: Jogging for 50 minutes
  • Large frozen yogurt with no toppings: 1 hour and 5 minutes on an elliptical machine

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