Ready, Set, Lose! How to Get Ready, Set Goals and Lose Weight

Most of us have goals and aspirations we attempt.  Sometimes we are successful, but other times, especially when it comes to losing weight this goal can seem elusive, out of reach, almost impossible to attain. Why is this?  There are several behavior change theories that speak to why people are not always able to enact the changes they would like to make.  This article borrows from some of those theories while putting sometimes frustrating experience of goal setting in a user-friendly format.

Are you ready to set goals and lose weight?  Have you tried and failed?  Most of us try and fail at least once!  Read on and learn how to use the process of goal setting as a way to maximize your efforts and achieve your goals.


Are we ready for change?  How do we get ready? And what does being ready really entail?  What are some habits we have that hold us back, versus those habits that might help move us forward? How can we cultivate more habits that will support our health and weight loss goals, and start to disassociate ourselves from habits that keep us stagnant and frustrated? The process of getting ready to make change involves analysis on some level.

We can call this a cost-benefit analysis, which simply means we are prepared to evaluate the positives and negatives of our behavior.  We can do this by exploring what we are currently doing, and how that behavior or those patterns either serve to move us towards our goal, or keep us further away from it. We can write it down, talk about it with a friend or therapist, personal trainer or other person we trust. Ask yourself this question:  what is the cost of staying the same and what is the cost of change?

Keep in mind cost does not necessarily mean financial, although to be sure there are valid financial costs associated with our health behavior choices. What is the cost of working out, eating healthy foods, incorporating healthy stress management into our lifestyle? Let’s look at some of the most commonly used reasons for not making change.

Number One: Time

We might segment our lives in terms of what we have time for and what we do not have time for.  There are a myriad of sub-stratum in any one person’s life.  Here are a few examples:  family, work, personal, sleep, social, travel, learning curve, exercise time.  All these things occupy our time in various degrees of priority.  The order or choice of life segments may be different for everyone, but suffice to say we all have to arrange our time to reflect how we go about our daily life.

Why stress all of this?  Because over 60% of people starting an exercise program have dropped out within 6 months, many times due to “not enough time.”  Does this sound familiar? Yes- there are only 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week and so on and so forth.  There are ways to make time for exercise and healthy eating if it is what we really want.  This brings us back to cost versus benefit.  Some folks will say but Melinda, eating healthy is more expensive, cooking from home takes longer and exercising is a chore!  And I say, you are right! – kind of.

These things do have a cost associated with them, as they do occupy precious time.  But what they give in return is far more valuable than what we sacrifice.  Healthy food and exercise give us our life!  We can have more energy, live longer, think more clearly, boost immunity, fight stress; the list goes on and on!  What is that worth to you?

Number Two: Comfort

We as humans are creatures of habit, and we like to be comfortable! We like to know what’s coming; we enjoy having a degree of control over our environment and how we feel. This is perfectly normal and pretty universal across cultures and age groups. As a result, we might be analyzing the cost versus the benefits of our comfort:  we may end up with sore, stiff muscles if we haven’t worked out in a while.  We may end up in pain if we have a low threshold for pain or are not accustomed to working out.  We might feel a threat to our pride if we are a novice at something or something is new to us.  We may not see the results immediately –so meanwhile we are sacrificing comfort for an end result that may elude us for some time.

We might sacrifice or have to sacrifice our morning or evening routine – breakfast at home turns into breakfast at work, same for showering and getting ready.  Time unwinding in the evening at home may turn into workout time at the gym.  We may have to lug our workout clothes to and from the office.  For some of us this is no problem and we welcome the addition of exercise into our lives.  For others, we will have to make some adjustments that we may or may not be prepared for.  Always remember if it was easy everyone would do it!  Being aware of some of the most common obstacles lets us recognize them when they happen to us, and prepare and strategize ways to work around them.

Number 3: Food

Ah food…food is often the most difficult factor to understand when we decide it is time to lose weight.  What is the cost of modifying what we eat? We may have to become accustomed to new foods, new tastes, and new portion sizes, not to mention new understandings of fullness or not quite full-ness.  We may have to commit more time and thought into food shopping, into food preparation and food storage.  We may have to alter some of our social interaction with food, at parties or dinners or functions, etc.

We may have to learn new recipes, new versions of old classics, new ways to prepare family favorites.  We may have to look deeply at our relationship with comfort food, comfort alcohol and food that we use when we are lonely, bored, upset, distracted, procrastinating, or any other way in which we use food other than for fuel… this can be both daunting and overwhelming.  Having this conversation with a professional that can help us, such as a nutritionist or dietician can be a way to sort it all out.

Number 4: Finances

Money!  Who has it?  These days it can seem like we need to conserve every penny.  Who has money for a personal trainer, a gym membership, fancy sneakers or workout clothes? Here is where we are literally talking about the financial costs we might incur.  We have to allow for certain monetary costs:  gym membership, possibly a personal trainer, workout clothes, and services that allow us extra time to be at the gym like a babysitter, dog-walker, etc.

Sure we need these things but if our financial obligations are really what is holding us back we have to dig just a little deeper to see what’s available at lower cost, such as exercise DVD’s, walking or running outside, the local gym might be affordable (there is one in my neighborhood that is $10/month. I spend more money on coffee!) and perhaps a neighbor or family member can watch the kids/walk the dog/water the plants, etc.

Number 5: Intrapersonal

Intra-what?  Intrapersonal, meaning the changes that go on within ourselves.  This is the last one we will discuss because it is the most complex factor to consider when attempting change. Who are we?  Who will we become?  Will we lose friends?  Will we gain new friends? Are there habits we will have to drop?  Or habits we will have to re-learn or unlearn?  Are we going to become that gym rat?

Are we now one of “those” people? If we look different will we keep our same partner, or will we seek out someone more like ourselves?  What are our new priorities?  What should our priorities be?  This questions and being unsure of the answers can strike feelings of fear so deep we become unable to even explore the change process.

Fear is such a powerful emotion it is easy to forget we actually do have control over it, and when we confront it, we are empowering ourselves to be whomever we want to become –our best selves?  How about our-a –little-better-selves?  How about a self that goes to the gym?  That eats more vegetables, more fruit and drinks water?  How about working towards becoming that person?  Other things might change as a result but truthfully at the end of the day we are only making our lives better, richer, fuller – what price tag does that have?


After discussing all the costs associated with change, we have to acknowledge the benefits that await us on this journey.  They are too numerous to list all of them here.  Suffice to say that for each cost, there are a myriad of benefits as well. We each have to decide for ourselves what these costs and benefits are, and how much they weigh in our lives.  Here is a bit of an example:

When we lose we gain:  we gain in so many ways! We gain time as we gain energy for a longer day.  We can manage multitasking better and concentrate and focus more effectively.  We can control our posture so long hours spent working are not cause for migraines, back aches and stiff joints.  We spend less time in doctors’ offices, we are at less risk for chronic disease, we can make noticeable performance improvements on the job.  We can experience sharper decision-making skills, stronger executive functioning.  Once we become active it is easier to progress our exercise program in intensity or frequency.

Analyze all of these and decide to be ready.  You may have to constantly remind yourself of the cost benefit analysis and remember that the benefits outweigh the costs, or attempt to re-order your life so that they do. Then assemble your parts for readiness – time, financial, personal, nutrition, comfort, intrapersonal and prioritize them as you see fit.

Get Set!

The goal setting process is to be respected.  Every successful venture starts out with a clear goal, and gets broken down into long-term goals, short-term goals and manageable steps.  This process can be slightly different for everyone but the basic premise is the same.

Here’s an Example!

Let’s take an example:  we have the goal of gaining more energy.  We are going to break that down into a long-term goal and a short-term goal.  We are then going to further break it down into what I call “manageable steps.”  Our goal is to have more energy.  We decide that one way to do this will be to lose 15 pounds.

Working backwards from losing 15 pounds we break that down:  how many pounds per week?   This will give us a time frame and our long-term goal.  A safe rate of weight loss for the average person is 1-2 pounds/week.  I like to stay conservative so that I can be realistic – let’s say we go with 1 pound of weight loss/week.

This gives us 15 weeks.Then we break our long-term goal down into short-term goals.  We can look at what it will take to accomplish the first part of our short-term goal:  we have to schedule a certain amount of time in the gym for the month.  We can further break that down by looking at each week, each day, each hour.  This way there is maximum clarity and we can really get behind our plan.

Once you have analyzed the costs, the benefits, the positives versus the negatives and devised a plan based on your goals, you are done, right?  Hopefully!  But not always… The goal setting, analyzing process is a dynamic process that can ebb and flow with the events and circumstances of your life.  Your goals may shift, your focus may change, and that is okay– in fact it is normal and to be expected.
[box type=”note”]Just start the process over again from where you left off and decide to get ready, get set, and lose![/box]



Melinda Abbott is a personal trainer, yoga instructor and health educator at Equinox Fitness Clubs. In addition to her professional career, Melinda will receive her Masters Degree in Health Education from Teachers College, Columbia University this May. This fall she intends to pursue her doctoral degree in Health Education, also at Columbia. Melinda writes a yoga blog and is passionate about empowering the people she encounters to be active, take charge of their health and confront their doubts about the limitless potential that is life.

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