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

By , Molly Galbraith
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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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. :) Report
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. Report
Really good article! Report
Lots of good ideas.
Thanks Report
This is one of the best ideas I've read in a long time. Really great article. Report
This sounds more than reasonable. :) Thanks! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
Awesomely said! Goal setting is a great way to staying committed! Report
My main focus right now is to lose weight. More important to me are the other goals I have for exercising: Healthy heart, muscle strength, lower cholesterol and mental health. I'm getting older so I really need to focus on maintaining my muscles. I don't want to have a heart attack or a stroke. Even after the weight is gone I want to keep it up. I want to try and get those 10000 steps in even if I don't work out that day. Report
Thank you so much for this article. It is so appropriate for me right now. I'm trying to lose those last 5-8 pounds and the scale hasn't been responding, but my body has. I am much stronger, but feel down about the scale. These are wonderful goals to keep in mind instead. Report
This is a great article! I'm usually (admittedly) a bit of an article snob, but this is all great advice! Report
Great article. Thanks! I joined SP just over 60 days ago. So far my only goal has been the end goal of reaching a certain goal weight. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of joy in the journey so I will take your advice and set some smaller goals to help me along the way and to make the scale less of a focus. Report
This is great. I live by goals, big and small. I think they are important for us to grow in every way of life. Work and personal, mental and physical. Report
Wow I totally needed to read this. I focus on the scales way too much and let it define how I am feeling for that day. I usually weigh in once a week on a Monday at it usually starts my week off bad. I have lost a lot of weight so far and somedays I just can't see it. But you are so right because I have seen the health benefits, the fact that I can now walk six miles, my blood pressure is down and I am three pant sizes down. Thanks for putting this all into prospective for me!! You rock!! Report
I really like this article. I have trouble setting positive goals and now I can. Report
Great advice on recharging your thought process and getting healthy without a negative focus. Report
Its ironic that i posted a blog committing to goals related to SMART today. Some of these goals im dedicated to doing. Every bit helps Report
i usually set just goals for about three months other wise i get to stressed out and discouraged if the goal is not met.my goals seem so different from the ones in the story i want to be at a healthy weight be able to walk with out getting short of breath walk 8 miles in 2 hours 30 minutes i planned to far out this summer and when the trip didn't work out i had a small binge and some unsparky time. lesson learned don't plan to far ahead. that is what works for me ! Report
Very interesting. Report
I agree. I've changed my ticker from being about weight lost, to tracking fitness minutes. It's something I can do something about . If I don't have X number of steps at the end of a day, I can get moving on the Wii and reach that goal. Report
love this article thank you again molly I am a happy follower of you and your excellent philosophy. To me it's not about weight loss but health benefits and movement and finding peace and happiness in your day. It's about accepting yourself and seeing the good in you and others , thanks for leading the way. Report
The only goals I set are what I call behavior goals, as opposed to results goals. I cannot control how my body will respond but I have control over how I behave, what I choose, and what I do. I can stick to a 1300 calories, 10 freggies, and 30+ minutes of exercise, but I cannot control if those choices will result in weight-loss, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, or make me feel-good, but they do improve my odds of all or any of the above happening. I can just take the steps in that direction and know that I will be healthier for the effort than if I didn't plan and try. I know people who live healthier than I do who are still overweight or have succumbed to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Life is unfair but we can still give it our all, make logical choices, hope for the best, and praise God for our blessings. Report
Thanks for the reminder! Lately I've been too narrowly focused on the weight goal. I need to remember how much easier it is to carry in the groceries, how I can run up and down the stairs in the house now without being winded, that I have enough strength to lift my grandniece, etc. Report
Get my life on the right track goals so that I feel good enough about myself to take care of myself - house, career, relationships. Report
I need to decide on a new goal--I am trying to maintain and that ain't working for me! I AM stronger--I can lift things so that doesn't work. I don't know if I want to run more--I'd love to bring my time down but then I'd have to practice.... LOL Seriously, I am going to have to think hard about what my next goal is. Report
Yes!! Thank you!! This is exactly what I have been contemplating lately! I tend to focus every weight loss attempt too heavily on food control, which is a massive difficulty for me, and the exercise plans are beyond my skill level. I feel like just starting is a failure waiting to happen :( Instead, I want to focus on what I CAN do and what I WANT to do, and gradually increase as I gain strength, flexibility and endurance. Food can gradually change as I need to eat better to feel better in order to keep doing the things I enjoy!! Lightbulb moment :D Report
Yep I agree completely. The "goal to loose weight" only takes you so far, for me a day or two lol. So I know I need other goals - walking dogs every am, drink x cups green tea, read SP article to stay motivated and learn something new about cooking/calories/health, etc. Great article! Report
I like this advice. I added some goals to my list. I want to be able to walk around and not feel winded. I want enough energy for my daily activities. Report
I will follow this article. Excellent read. Although I have set mental goals, never have I taken the time to write them up and or looked back at them. Report
This is a wonderful article, a real keeper! Thank you! Report
I agree that movement is a privilege. some people can't move as they are disabled. this article makes good sense. I hardly ever use the scales to tell me how well I am doing. I use how well my workouts are coming along...how healthy I am eating and how my clothes fit. I to this all for my good health and how I feel. Report
Great article. I regularly set new non-scale goals in order to maintain my balanced, healthy lifestyle spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. I like to remain challenged and have variety in order to not get in a rut, and maintain balance. My physical goals now are toning particular spots and building endurance before our vacation, and engaging in challenges for variety, I set devotional and financial goals regularly, and healthy eating/cooking/experimenting are important too, and I set goals for batch cooking, trying new veggies, new recipes, etc. Proper rest and me-time is essential too. There is so much beyond the scale. I can't believe how getting me together, trickled down to every area of my life, and I can't believe how my body has changed physically, and how different my whole life is. And it's forever! Report
Love Molly Galbraith, she gives common sense advice to help women love their bodies and BE STRONG! Report
this was exactly what I needed right now. I used to be a fitness/strength instructor before I moved. I knew these things, even encouraged these ideas to the members of my class. But, during and after the move I gained some weight. After a year, my husband encouraged me to get back to the weight room. I was gaining strength, but not losing weight and very discouraged. I was focusing on the wrong thing. Thanks SO MUCH for the reminder!! Report
The reason I got fit was so "when I pick up my groceries, I don't moan". I love the ties between what you can do at the gym and lifestyle activities that help keep you fit. Report
Love this. Report
These are great! For me it's very helpful (maybe more like essential) to set goals beyond weight loss because I've realized that focusing too much on the numbers ends up backfiring by making me anxious and more likely to start a cycle of overeating. Report
These are ways that I judge my fitness and health lately. I've hit a scale plateau, but I'm running faster, I can do push ups from my toes when I couldn't in the past, I can almost do an unassisted pull up (a goal I've set to achieve in the first quarter of this year). Thanks for the extra motivation! Report
def a very good idea. i am working on it as we speak. run a 5k, improve my numbers at the dr, and walk my dog every day for at least 30 min. Report
Finally, real help in setting goals. Thank you. Report
Wow! The usual advice become so cliche'! This was not only refreshing and original but also impactful and meaningful.

I have been trying to lose the same weight for what seems like an eternity. I neither go down, but at least I haven't gone up either. I am changing my goals starting today. Report
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