Your fat loss journey 101

When it comes to losing weight, setting specific goals from the outset is key

by Devan Dippenaar 

We all know that setting goals is important: it helps us to start new behaviours, keeps us focused, and helps us sustain momentum towards what we’re trying to achieve. When it comes to fat loss, goal-setting is crucial. Having said that, aiming for realistic targets is just as — if not even more — important.

If you list your objectives from the outset, you will:

Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve
Have a clear plan of action for achieving it
Have fewer opportunities for excuses
Be more motivated to stick with your plan long-term
Be able to see your progress clearly along the way

When doing this with my clients, I always try and use what they call the SMART approach. The acronym stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.


Your goal needs to be specific. Rather than saying “I want to lose weight”, quantify it with a specific figure and a milestone to achieve, ie: 1lb a week; 6 lbs by the end of summer; 20 lbs by Christmas. Your resolution then becomes: “I want to lose 1 lb a week, until I have lost 20 lbs.”


How will you measure your progress so you know when you’ve achieved your goal? Tracking your progress is vital as it shows you where you are on your journey towards your goal. This can be in the form of a weight journal or tracking app that you use regularly. So, the goal you set here will be: “I will keep a record of my weight each week.”


There’s no use in picking a goal you half know you might never achieve. You can’t run a marathon without doing a few test runs first. Evaluate your weight loss history: what have you managed to achieve in the past? Setting a goal way beyond this might be unrealistic. Instead, focus on progressive goals such as first aiming for 20% bodyfat, then 18% and then 15%. This approach will set you up for success in the long term and will help you avoid giving up early on.


Next, the goal needs to matter to you. Why do you want to lose weight? Perhaps your doctor has told you it will bring health benefits and could get you off your diabetes medication. Maybe you just want to feel more energetic. Keeping this positive end-point in mind is crucial to staying motivated. “I will lose 20 lbs, tracking my weekly progress on my phone. I will then re-evaluate whether I want to lose any more weight. Losing weight will benefit my diabetes, potentially bring down my blood sugar levels and allow me to come off my


Finally, every resolution needs to be timebound in order to give it impetus. Decide on a reasonable amount of time to achieve your goal (for example, 1-2 lbs a week is a common goal). Stick to it. “I will lose 20 lbs by Christmas, tracking my weekly progress on my phone. At Christmas, I will re-evaluate whether I want to lose any more weight. Losing weight will benefit my diabetes, potentially bring down my blood sugar levels and allow me to come off my medications.”

More Tricks to Make It Stick

Studies have shown that when it comes to setting out intentions, putting pen to paper makes your brain pay attention in a more effective way than typing a note out on your phone or computer. So now it’s your turn. Once you’ve identified your goal, write your statement down on an index card and carry it around with you. Read it whenever you need motivation, be it when you’re feeling lazy and don’t feel like exercising, or when you’re tempted by foods you’re trying to cut back on or avoid. Keep copies of it wherever it might make sense for you: a sticky note on the fridge, on your bedroom or bathroom mirror, or on your desk. Read it before you go to bed and when you wake up. This helps to reinforce it not just as a goal, but as an affirmation that becomes part of your outlook. In due course, as you start to see results and keep the momentum going, you will understand why it is called the SMART approach.

Devan Dippenaar is a coach and fitness consultant with over 14 years of experience. For more info, visit: or


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