Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Dangling Carrot: Weight Loss Goals (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this two part series, I discussed why setting goals based on what the scale says is not an effective strategy for weight loss. Instead, I suggested that you set habit-based goals because those will set you up for long term success (because let's face it, fat loss is about making a commitment to live and eat healthier, not a 6 week crash course). Weight rarely comes off in a linear, predictable pattern, and thus numerical goals can be very discouraging. If you wanted to lose 30 pounds in 3 months but only lost 5 in the first month, for example, would you really feel all that motivated for the next two months? Habit based goals are black and white. You either follow new habits or you don't. You succeed by simply taking action. Your body can't throw tricks at you. If your goal was to make it to the gym every M, W, and F for 3 months and to take 2 fish oil capsules with every meal and you did that, then you have set yourself up for success and built what I like to call a championship habit.

In this entry, I want to talk about another type of goal... a performance-based goal. This is the second type of goal you should be making in place of a "weight loss" goal.

What is a performance-based goal exactly? This is simple. It is the dangling carrot. If you are familiar with my book The Theory of Fat Loss, then you are aware of the theory of absolute intensity... which also means that you know how important factors such as strength are in your quest to burn fat effectively. So why shouldn't you set goals based on gym performance?

In fact, in my opinion, gym performance is the greatest predictor of how effective an exercise program will be for fat loss. If you aren't working towards improving your gym numbers, you aren't going to have an effective program. Without progression, you will never improve you ability to lose fat, and that means you will end up like everybody else out there that stops trying after January.

So... there is the need to set performance-based goals. Strive to increase your strength by "X" number of pounds in the "Y" exercise... or be able to complete "X" number of repetitions in the "Y" exercise at "Z" weight in less than 5 minutes. Dangle a carrot in front of yourself. Work towards accomplishing something in the gym... and, as long as you continue to improve in the gym and reach new milestones the fat loss will eventually take care of itself. If you never improve in the gym, then why are you even going?

The key to this, however, is combining habitual goals with performance based goals. There is a need to build championship habits if you want to get better in the gym. Of course, if you only form new habits but never actually improve or get better, then you are also wasting your time... so you have to do both.

The weight loss goal based on pounds is in fact the very last thing you should ever try to make. Unfortunately, that is where people start. It is backwards. It reminds me of a 10 year old saying he is going to make a million dollars despite not having any business sense or know how. How do you plan on losing weight? If the answer is "try really hard" then it isn't going to happen.

The true plan is to build healthy habits and make measurable progress in the gym. If you need more guidance than that, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of The Theory of Fat Loss. It will tell you exactly what goals you need to set and will give you a means to achieving those goals. Take the guesswork out of fat loss.

Best of luck!


  1. AMEN Tim. This series should be posted in every fitness place this month. If only to practice "tough" love with those who need it most.

  2. Thanks, Eric! Got any more good, healthy recipes for me? Send them my way.


Commenting and asking questions about fat loss is the first step towards investing in your own health. You might also have comments that help other people or questions that other people are too shy to ask, so please leave a comment or ask a question.

Note that comments on posts older than 7 days are moderated to discourage spam.