5 Motivating Goals That Result in Weight Loss (without Trying)


By: , – Molly Galbraith
  :  83 comments   :  184,715 Views

It’s no secret that the majority of people who start a new exercise program do so because they want to lose weight, which is a great reason (and motivator) to get fit.
That being said, if your only motivation to exercise is fat loss, you can easily find yourself frustrated and wanting to quit when progress temporarily hits a plateau (which it will).  That’s why setting goals beyond weight loss alone is essential if you're going to stick with a fitness or weight-loss program for the long haul. 

And consider this: Setting goals that don't focus on fat loss can actually help you reach your desired weight-loss goal. It's true! (Check out this SparkPeople success story of a woman who lost weight by resolving NOT to lose weight!)  For example, if you focus on getting stronger, you will likely gain lean muscle mass, which will speed up your metabolism and help you lose more weight.  Or maybe you choose to set a goal like walking with a friend several days a week, or taking your dog hiking every weekend. Those goals will keep you active and moving (which is the whole point) and don't hinge on what a scale says to keep you motivated. Over time, you'll be more consistent with exercise, burn even more calories and, of course, lose more unwanted fat. 

See?  You don’t have to be laser-focused on the scale to be successful in changing the scale.  Setting other goals can be even more motivating—and just as effective!
Here are five of my favorite types of goals that often lead to weight loss and better health (without focusing on the scale). 
1. Performance Goals
Examples: Improve your 5K time, perform your first unassisted pull-up, dead lift your body weight, complete a sprint triathlon, do 10 push-ups on your toes, etc.
Performance goals are one of my favorite ways to stay motivated all year.  Not only are these positive goals (look what I can do!), as opposed to a negative goal (I can't eat chocolate!), but everyone has a performance goal that they can set and accomplish—no matter what they weigh. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. You're setting something that inspires you, finding a plan to keep you on track, and staying dedicated for the long haul.
The best part?  Once you’ve reached your goal, it’s easy to set another, slightly more ambitious goal.  With weight loss, once you’ve hit your goal, you’re stuck—that's the end game.  You cannot keep losing weight or continue getting leaner, so it can be hard to stick with the habits that got you there. But with performance goals, you can set them, and reach them, and set them again—for as long as your heart desires.
2. Real-Life Goals
Examples: Hoist your 70-pound chocolate lab into your car, change the 5-gallon water jug at work, carry two 40-pound bags of cat litter up three flights of stairs, no longer using a seatbelt extender, move furniture without assistance, play with your kids or grandkids at the park without getting tired or winded, fit into a single airplane seat more comfortably, etc.
These are some of my favorite stories to hear from clients as they notice the progress they’ve made since they started working out. Yes, they are stronger and can lift more weight and are fitter or leaner—but what seems to matter most to a lot of people is how that improved fitness translates into making their real lives better. Reaching milestones that make your life easier or more fun can be surprising and empowering, whether the scale is moving or not. Feeling independent and knowing that you are capable of taking care of yourself is incredible, and is a very powerful motivator. 

3. Health Goals
Examples: Reduce your blood pressure, improve your fasting glucose levels, decrease your dosage or usage of certain medications, improve your cholesterol levels, etc. 
The awesome thing about setting goals for quantitative health markers is just that: They’re quantitative. They are easy to measure, and it’s very clear when you have made improvements to your numbers. If you’re someone who likes data and feels motivated by numbers, setting health marker goals might be perfect for you. The important thing is to set health goals that are clear and measurable by tests or data, not vague (like decreasing your risk of heart disease, which can't always be measured quantitatively).
Make sure you talk with your health care provider to figure out what reasonable improvements in these markers looks like, and never change or discontinue a medication without consulting your doctor first.
4. Movement Goals
Examples: Ride your bike to work two days a week, walk during your lunch break four times per week for 30 minutes each time, practice yoga for 10 minutes every morning, get up from your desk to walk around the office once every two hours, etc.
As my good friend Neghar Fonooni says, ''Movement is a privilege.  Do it every day, as often as you can.'' She is exactly right! Movement is a privilege, and we should all strive to move our bodies in positive ways more often.  Your workouts don’t have to be crazy and intense every single day.  There is value in simply moving your body on a regular basis.  It’s simple and restorative, and it actually allows you to recharge so that when you do want to work out hard, you have some energy left in the tank.
Pick something simple and sustainable, and commit to doing it on a regular basis.  Make it an appointment in your calendar, or create a chart where you can check it off once you have completed it.  This will be sure to keep you moving, even if you don’t feel like it. And all that movement will become a virtuous cycle that makes you want to do even more!
5.Feel-Good Goals
Examples: Go to bed at a consistent time every night, cultivate a more positive attitude throughout the day, decrease your cravings for junk food, practice more gratitude, have more energy, reduce stress, etc.   
When working with a new client, once of the first things I ask them is, ''What are your goals?''  More often than not, their answer boils down to wanting to look good and feel good.  While many people find themselves focusing much harder on the ''look good'' part of that equation, the ''feel good'' part is vitally important as well.  Heck, it has a huge impact on your quality of life!
I recommend picking three areas where you might see improvement in how you feel.  Maybe you’re exhausted when you wake up in the morning, or you get restless in the evenings when you’re trying to unwind.  Maybe you get a lot of anxiety thinking about your workload, or you get crazy sugar cravings every afternoon.  Pick a couple of areas of your life that seem out of whack, and rank how much they negatively affect you on a scale of 1-10 (1 being mild, and 10 being severe).  Every 2-4 weeks, take a moment to reevaluate these areas and note where you see improvements. These are amazing non-scale victories that can keep you motivated to stick with your program—but you have to take the time to notice them.
Remember, wanting to look better or lose body fat is perfectly fine, but if you’re constantly focused on that goal at the expense of all the other improvements and milestones you're experiencing, you might find yourself frustrated and feeling down on yourself when you hit a plateau.  Make sure you mix it up by choosing a different goal every 6-8 weeks to keep yourself motivated and to ensure continued success. 
Do you think it helps to set goals beyond weight loss? What kinds of goals keep you motivated to stick to your program?

About the Author
Molly Galbraith is a strength coach and co-owner of J&M Strength and Conditioning, a rapidly expanding, private gym in Lexington, Kentucky, for professional athletes and the general public alike. She is also co-founder of the wildly popular Girls Gone Strong group, a movement dedicated to changing the way women train. Her mission is to, ''Help women give themselves grace and compassion when it comes to their bodies, and to help them discover and accept what their best body looks like, with minimal time and effort.'' She has also been an expert contributor to magazines like Oxygen andExperience Life. No stranger to the gym herself, she has competed in both figure and powerlifting and her best lifts include a 275-lb. squat, a 165-lb. bench press, and a 341-lb. deadlift. You can find out more about Molly by visiting her website, and you can keep up with her latest adventures on Facebook and Twitter

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  • 83
    This was an inspiring article and I have chosen a new performance goal with increasing push ups which have always been hard for me. - 10/21/2017   11:58:36 AM
    Enjoyed the article! Thank you! - 10/20/2017   5:21:47 AM
  • 81
    Reminder to set those small goals, not just the end one! - 10/13/2017   12:48:04 PM
  • 80
    Good goals. - 10/7/2017   3:39:27 PM
    if you make your goal to have a healthy lifestyle its great - 10/4/2017   12:27:22 AM
  • 78
    I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.
    - Edmond Rostand - 9/13/2017   1:02:41 AM
  • 77
    My current two goals are to deal with my insomnia, and to ease the pain from arthritis. Time on the treadmill is part of my strategy. - 9/12/2017   12:56:34 PM
  • 76
    I think it's a very good idea to have goals other than weight loss. Some people are learning a new language or picking up a new hobby. There are a lot of options available - 9/8/2017   2:26:33 PM
  • 75
    Thank you! - 9/8/2017   2:16:49 PM
  • NIKKI6416
    My main goal when I started was to improve my general health and exercise at least 10 minutes per day. As I walked and moved more, my leg hurt less and became stronger (I would "baby" it before when it hurt). My new goal is 20 minutes per day. I have managed to lose enough to fit into a smaller size clothes. - 9/7/2017   9:55:16 PM
  • 73
    Good ideas... - 9/7/2017   4:17:34 PM
  • 72
    Interesting! - 8/26/2017   11:29:38 PM
  • 71
    Great! - 8/26/2017   10:13:36 PM
  • 70
    Great goals. Thank you. - 7/26/2017   10:09:17 AM
  • 69
    Great article! This definitely helped me set goals that are doable. - 7/17/2017   10:53:25 PM
    Very helpful information. - 5/15/2017   7:36:25 PM
  • 67
    Great motivating goals! - 5/15/2017   11:02:33 AM
  • 66
    Thanks for the ideas! - 5/15/2017   10:22:31 AM
  • 65
    Great article! - 5/15/2017   9:54:50 AM
  • 64
    I think setting goals outside of the scale is very important. It gives you something to strive for when the scale isnt moving which helps you to stay on track. Also have to make sure you give yourself non-food rewards for reaching your small goals too. - 5/15/2017   9:37:36 AM
  • 63
    Great article! I love the motivating goals! - 5/15/2017   9:33:38 AM
  • 62
    Great goals we can all do - 5/15/2017   9:29:21 AM
  • 61
    Goals are so important. You can do anything you put your mind to! - 5/15/2017   8:22:51 AM
  • 60
    Great goals. Thank you - 5/15/2017   8:22:24 AM
  • 59
    Excellent article -- great reminders! - 5/14/2017   10:33:12 PM
  • 58
    Thanks for the push. I need to reevaluate my goals now that I am almost at my weight goal. Great article. - 5/14/2017   9:42:24 PM
  • 57
    I'm very proud of myself. I have been exercising for several weeks and I feel so much stronger as well as more fit. Even though the scale is not moving as fast as I would like, I have seen a huge improvement with my blood pressure and I lost a full dress size. When I find myself getting discouraged, I immediately think positive thoughts and tell myself I can do this! I can reach my fitness goals. I can hold a plank for more than 30 seconds, I can do a step routine without getting out of breath before the DVD is over. I will be 60 years old this June and I am in better physical shape than I was in the past. I'm looking up and determined to meet more fitness goals. God gives me the strength to keep on moving on and I'm not gonna waste the privilege to move by staying on the couch. I am free from self loathing and being too hard on myself. I am a new woman with a New Attitude! - 5/14/2017   9:12:08 PM
  • 56
    Setting daily goals is important. - 5/14/2017   12:22:37 PM
  • 55
    I've been reviewing daily/weekly goals every day. I sorta do this, but I am going to think about the motivation goals more consciously. Love this. - 5/14/2017   12:03:30 PM
  • 54
    There's always something we can work toward. - 5/14/2017   11:40:49 AM
  • 53
    I have hit that place, lose two pounds, gain two pounds. Can't get past it. I can however bend over to tie my shoes! Moving on to other goals. - 5/14/2017   10:04:45 AM
  • 52
    Great article! - 5/14/2017   9:39:13 AM
  • 51
    Love Molly's website as weight lifting made big difference on weight and shape for me in the past, going back to that as feeling strong is best side effect!! - 5/14/2017   8:48:37 AM
  • 50
    Great article - 4/18/2017   4:45:21 PM
  • 49
    Getting and staying healthy is my main goal. To that end, I am doing all the things I can to try to reach and maintain that goal. - 4/2/2017   4:14:12 AM
  • 48
    Thanks... - 2/15/2017   11:04:19 AM
  • 47
    Great points. - 2/15/2017   8:34:54 AM
  • 46
    It definitely helped me to have non scale goals. And even in maintenance I use goals to keep me focused. - 2/15/2017   6:52:08 AM
  • 45
    I really needed to read this today and I'm so glad I did. What I've not been doing is setting smaller daily performance, real-life, health, movement, and feel good goals for myself. I can definitely figure out some for myself to get started. :) - 1/9/2017   10:11:26 AM
  • 44
    I have tried to lose weight for years, and my goals have always been to lose a certain amount of weight. This is the first time ever that my goals are to get healthy instead of focusing on the number on the scale. - 9/4/2016   9:22:22 PM
  • 43
    Really good article! - 9/3/2016   10:18:41 AM
  • 42
    Lots of good ideas.
    Thanks - 9/3/2016   7:20:59 AM
    This is one of the best ideas I've read in a long time. Really great article. - 6/28/2016   9:57:30 AM
  • 40
    This sounds more than reasonable. :) Thanks! - 5/29/2016   11:08:22 PM
  • JMB369
    Best SP article I've read in a while! This one gets printed ANDsaved to favorites! I walk with a buddy 2x/week. We do a 35-minute walk that involves 31/2 laps in a park beside a lake. I am going to suggest we either go for 4 loops in the same time, or do the 3 1/2 in 30 minutes. My second goal is to strengthen my wrists and forearms enough to lift my heaviest fry pan without enlisting the help of my DH! Third one is to do some kind of a.m. Cardio before 10 a.m. to reset my heart rate higher. I have a slow heart rate and cannot take the recommended medication because of serious side effects. I know that these three goals will Give me a healthier body and more energy, and I'll probably lose a few pounds as a side effect! - 4/11/2016   8:43:50 AM
    Wow! This article cheered me up! It makes me feel like I am on the right track still even though I haven't done well with weight loss in awhile. I have been still making goals like converting to more organic foods, reducing stress, walking my dog on days when the weather is nice, cutting out spicy foods and alcohol to help my stomach feel better, and following the amino acid protocols my doctor has me on to heal from depression and anxiety. So really I shouldn't be beating myself up! - 4/10/2016   9:37:02 PM
  • 37
    My main goal is to gain strength so I can ride my horse more effectively and longer. It is frustrating being exhausted after only 5 minutes of trotting. - 4/10/2016   6:43:30 PM
  • 36
    Good stuff, and we on my SparkTeams remind each other of this philosophy daily. A couple of mine are increasing the number of squats I can do in a row, and length of time I can do a plank. Oh, and I have lost a size, too. - 4/10/2016   11:51:42 AM
  • 35
    I liked this article. I try to set at least one new goal each month. As I master those goals, I set another one. This month, I want to increase my total weekly exercise minutes by 10% each week. I also want to get up early one day during the week for some strength training.

    I liked the ideas in this article. I am saving it so that I can refer back to the ideas when I set next month's goals.

    Thank you! - 4/10/2016   10:37:22 AM
  • 34
    Awesomely said! Goal setting is a great way to staying committed! - 4/10/2016   9:26:30 AM

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