Foolproof goal setting

Weight Watchers talks to clinical and health psychologist, Dr Leah Brennan*, on how to set goals and achieve them.
Woman goal setting

The thought of losing weight and getting to goal can seem like an overwhelming task, so Dr Brennan has suggested an effective plan for success. “If you plan ahead, focus on changing your behaviour and set smaller goals along the way, you are more likely to achieve success,” say Dr Brennan.

The 3 common goal-setting mistakes

1. Setting unrealistic goals
It would be unrealistic to set a goal weight of 50kg if you are 180cm tall. If you have a lot to lose, set a number of smaller goals. “One big goal such as losing 10kg can seem overwhelming, but if you break it up into smaller goals and achieve them, you’ll feel more motivated,” suggests Dr Brennan.

2. Setting vague goals
You need to be able to measure your goals to understand progress. Dr Brennan advises, “Being more healthy is a little vague; your more specific goal may be to reduce your blood pressure or medication levels (under your doctors supervision). If you want to be fitter, choose something you do now that you can measure. For example, if you feel puffed after walking up two flights of stairs, your goal could be to do the same exercise without feeling puffed.”

3. Setting goals that aren't within your control
When setting a goal, you need to be able to control it. “You can’t control how much weight you will actually lose on a weekly basis”, says Dr Brennan. “You may lose 1kg one week, do exactly the same over the following week, and then lose nothing,” she adds. Instead, set goals you can control, such as going for a walk every day or having a healthy breakfast daily. Don’t plan to lose 1kg a week; instead, aim to eat within your ProPoints® allowance all week.

Follow the SMARTeR guide for goal setting
If you want to run 10km in six months time, Dr Brennan suggests breaking it down into smaller goals. “If you aim to run an extra 500m every 2 weeks, you’re more likely to meet your mini goals while you work towards your bigger goal.” Best of all, achieving each mini goal will motivate you and boost self-esteem and confidence along the way.

Dr Brennan shares with us six important points to keep in mind when setting goals.

When setting a goal, it needs to be specific and you need to know when you have achieved it.
Example: “I’m going to walk 5 days a week between Monday and Sunday”.

Make sure you can measure your goal. If you want to start every day with a healthy breakfast, record it in your Tracker (for eTools on online members) or in your Journal every day so you can visually see progress and keep yourself honest.

Remember to make sure your goal is achievable. It needs to fit in with real life, which can be chaotic. Don’t plan to get up early every morning to exercise if you have a week of late nights ahead and will be too tired to get up.

A goal needs to be personally relevant to you on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you walk up a big hill every day on your way to work, aim to walk up it without feeling puffed. Goals that are not relevant to you are unlikely to be motivating.

You need to set a time limit to keep yourself accountable and on track. Perhaps you want to run 5km? Set a time limit of a number of months to get there.

Most importantly, reward yourself! Each mini goal deserves praise. A reward needs to be something that’s meaningful to you. For example, a massage or new shoes you’ve had your eye on. Forget buying new runners if you don’t see them as a reward.

*Thanks to Dr Leah Brennan, clinical and health psychologist and lecturer from Monash University School of Psychology and Psychiatry.