How to Leverage Process-Focused Goals for Sustainable Weight Loss

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Now that you have your baseline of health, you can set your sights on where you want to be by setting some goals! There are three general types goals: process, performance and outcome. Performance goals are focused on achieving a certain level of performance such as “running a mile in less than 10 minutes.” Outcome-based goals focus on the outcome of your efforts such as “losing 10 pounds in 10 weeks.” A process focused goal requires specific actions. An example of a processed-focused goal would be “walking for a 30 minutes five days a week.” For weight loss and long-term health purposes, process-focused goals are the most sustainable and reinforce lasting change.

Why should I use process-focused goals in my weight loss journey?

Weight loss is a process—not solely a destination. Using outcome or performance-based goals shift your focus to weight loss as an outcome and not a set of health-promoting behaviors you will have to maintain the rest of your life. Generally speaking, outcome and performance-based goals are not 100% in your control. You can diet and exercise diligently for a whole week and the scale may not budge. By measuring your success solely on the outcome, you may get discouraged when progress stalls. Process-focused goals are long-term, habit-building, easily adjustable, routine-based, and promote the growth of new skills and abilities. There is nothing wrong with setting outcome or performance focused goals for your weight loss; however, your process-focused goals will reinforce the habits you will need to employ on a daily basis to lose weight and improve your health.

How do I set processed-focused goals that help me lose weight?

In order to create your process-focused goals, you will need to analyze your baseline measurements and focus your efforts on where you need to improve. For example, my baseline HDL cholesterol was very low for my age. I set a processed-focused goal to “get 10,000 steps a day” so that I could develop a health-promoting behavior to raise my HDL cholesterol and help me lose weight. As a sedentary office-worker, my activity levels needed a major overhaul. Your goals should be tailor-made to your current abilities, health needs, and resources. In order to set effective processed-focus goals, you will need to:

Shift Into a Long-Term Mindset

How many times have you launched yourself into a new weight loss effort that has been driven by arbitrary deadlines or number of pounds to be lost? Adopting processed-focused goals requires you to shift that thinking away from deadlines and towards repeatable behaviors that will support your weight loss and long-term health. Think about what needs to change in order to reach multiple health objectives—including weight loss. The beauty about behavioral change is that one change can support multiple positive health outcomes. By focusing on your long-term health, you will be able to build permanent habits that will help you lose weight and maintain that loss for the rest of your life.

Focus on What Behaviors Need to be Reduced, Increased, Eliminated or Created

Your situation is unique and your goals need to be tailor-made for you. Using your own baseline of health, you can start to look at what needs to be improved and what behaviors you will need to reduce, increase, eliminate or create to start driving that change. Your goals should focus on repeating behaviors that promote your health and eliminating those that undermine your health. Behaviors that could be hampering your weight loss and long-term health include: excessive snacking, eating excessive portion sizes, eating while distracted, eating too quickly, eating or drinking too much sugar, eating out too often, getting too little sleep, not getting enough exercise, or drinking excessively. Behaviors that support your weight loss and long-term health include: eating under a set amount of daily calories, getting exercise, eating whole grains, eating lean meats and proteins, eating in structured time schedule, restricting your intake of sugary foods, or eating more vegetables and fruits.

Adopt the SMART Goal Setting Methodology

I know we all learned this in fifth grade, but creating SMART goals is just as important now as it was then! Your process-focused goals should be: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Instead of creating vague goals like “eat more vegetables,” you can get specific by setting a goal to “eat 2 servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner every day.” Making measurable goals allows you to track your progress by assigning specific metrics to your actions, such as a calorie limit or number of minutes active. Above all else, your goals should be achievable. If your diet is far from healthy, you should not dive into meal prepping healthy meals overnight. If you live a sedentary life, do not sign yourself up for an insanely intense exercise program. You should start small and work your way towards a healthier lifestyle over time. Setting unrealistic goals will ultimately undermine your own progress. Sustainability is the key, remember? You will need to adopt behaviors that are easy and enjoyable enough to repeat and gradually improve upon over time. Your goals should also be relevant and reinforce both your weight loss and long-term health. All of your goals should be time-bound but not necessarily deadline-focused. You can create a process-focused goal of “exercising at the gym three days a week for thirty minutes.” This goal focuses on the building the habit, not necessarily on an arbitrary deadline.

Leave a comment about what healthy habits you would like to build during the course of your weight loss journey.

Remember, be kind to yourself and keep moving forward!

References:

Staats, Bradley R.. Never Stop Learning (p. 42-61). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

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