5 Pillars of Effective Health Goal Setting

By Mike Howard


People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.”

– Earl Nightingale

Have goals? Here is a blueprint of sorts on how to properly set them to propel you towards success.


“I want to lose weight” is vague and arbitrary. Specific goals give you a platform from which to launch and some clarity to help you better act and create accountability. Instead of “I want to lose weight”, try “I want to lose 25 lbs in 4 months” or “I want to run a 10k in under 45 min in 6 months”.


Can you empirically keep track of your goal? Some goals are more tangible than others. For example a weight or inches goal is tangible. “More energy” is hard to quantify but a great goal all the same. You may measure this on an “energy scale” from 1-10 measured at certain intervals in the day.


This is where many fall off the wagon. Through celebrities, sketchy advertising and an “instant” mentality, we’ve been unwittingly lulled into believing that 10 lbs a week weight loss is reasonable to expect. Look at the changes you are willing to make, how much time you can dedicate to your goals and then set them. If you have quite a bit of fat to lose, aim for 2-3 lbs initially and then settle into a 1-2 lbs/week goal.


Life happens. We can be pulled off track for so many reasons. If you haven’t met your goal or have backslidden a bit, re-calibrate, re-focus, and re-commit – immediately! Our culture appears to be one of all-or-nothing. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t reach your projected goal. Just get back on the horse right away.


We have a preoccupation with scale weight. For most this seems the only number that matters. It should go without saying that using girth measurements (waist/hip), body fat and simply how your clothes fit should be used concurrently with scale weight when it comes to body composition. I’m going to take this a step further, however, and propose looking at goals outside the fat loss “box”.

Setting what I call “foundational” goals entails mindset and eating/exercise goals. Whether it’s eating an extra serving of veggies or eating out 2 less times per week or adding more activity, setting these foundational goals will give you the give you the means to accomplish your larger goals.

Write out your goals, paste them to your fridge/ipad/bathroom mirror/inside of your wallet, and never take your eye off it.

You. Can. Do it.

Image Credit: Socialmediatools.ca


  1. O.

    You may can. I hear all the time “just cut out sweets and you might be surprised what happens”. So maybe changes in habit will bring things about without an actual goal.

  2. O.

    You could be right Spectra. I remembered that Forever21 is another store who puts the size 12’s in the plus size section.

    Both Torrid and Forever21 are teen stores though and teens are usually less developed and wear their clothes shorter and tighter than adult women.

  3. Spectra

    Well, I was initially a size 16-18 and those were tight. I really, REALLY wanted to get into an 8. Along the way, I wore a pair of my old size 12s that I had outgrown and a few pairs of transition pants from Goodwill. But I had my mind set on being an 8. Turns out, that was a little big for my frame, so I lost a little more weight and now I wear a 0-2. Of course, this was all a while ago–I think vanity sizing may have changed things a bit since then.

  4. MM

    Can you have a plan for dieting without actually having a goal?

    The most effective thing for me has been to reconsider my way of eating, and to have portion control and almost no white bread or unhealthy snacks – most of the time.

  5. O.

    I do recieve a couple of plus size catalogues that have size 12, but I never seen anyone that small in a plus size store shopping for themselves.

  6. O.

    No double digit sizes! REALLY??????

    I graduated high school at a size 10, nobody called me fat then.

    I worked in fashion retail 10 years… and you know the funny thing is how the size 12’s are stuck in limbo.

    I only know of 1 store (physical stores) that treat size 12 as a plus size, Torrid .

    But several of the high end specialty retailers stop their sizes at 10.

    Most mainstream regular sized brands go up at least to 14 ( I panic after that) but some go as far as 18 to 20.

    But the sizes 12’s are like in no man’s land LOL

  7. Spectra

    Being able to measure your progress is definitely helpful to achieving your goal. When I was losing weight, I made goals along the way–fitting into a size 8 was my first one. It signified the end of “double digit” sizes for me and once I could get into size 8s, I decided I wanted to be able to run 5 miles at once, so I worked on that. You have to be specific or it’s hard to know when you’ve met your goal.

  8. Mike Howard

    Good tip, O! I think when things are quantified in a language that speaks to them, light bulbs often go off.

  9. O.

    I’ve chatted with people who thought their weight loss goals were impossible to reach. I tell them that I heard somewhere that for every 10 pounds lost you go down one clothing size. They seemed to be more positive after that.