family at dinner table with woman laughing

I’ll admit, this title is clickbait but I wanted to grab your attention and talk about something I’m pretty passionate about — setting a goal weight. Outside of weight class sports, setting a goal weight can be a dangerous idea. It’s normal to think you should choose one, but I’m here to sell you on the idea not to choose one. While weighing yourself is important, if your goal is to lose fat and keep it off, creating an arbitrary number to work towards is not.

Let’s review why I think this way and see how good I am at convincing you of the same.

1. You have no idea what that goal will look like.

160, 165, 120, 155, 130, 190, 220, 110. These numbers are arbitrary but I’m sure you can pick up on the trend. They all end in a 0 or a 5. Those are the milestone weights for many and how we move along with our incremental choices in what we want to see. People literally make the goal up because they think this is where they should be. It’s a lot like someone saying “I’ll be there in 15 minutes” and they end up showing up in 12, 13, or 14 minutes. It’s still ok.

The issue with this is while you think you will look a certain way at a certain weight, you’re not really sure what you’ll look like. Many people undershoot and many other people overshoot. I’ve seen people think they need to lose 10lbs and it ended up being 38. I’ve seen some lose 11lbs and it looked like much more. Just like arrival times, we subconsciously choose weights in increments we are comfortable and familiar with – 0’s and 5’s. Instead, choose a direction, a weight range, and another goal. Performance, process-oriented goals (hitting macros, sleeping, moving), or simply proving to yourself that you can step on a scale and not associate a feeling to it. This will take practice, I’m not denying that. These are all skills that we have to learn over time, but you will be better off.

2. You have no idea what challenges will be ahead.

It’s great to think about what a session of SU may be like but with more than 30,000 members, we have rarely seen the same one. My default answers any time a new inquiry pops in asking “how much weight can I lose” is “I’m not too sure but I bet we can move it in the right direction.” Maybe my sales skills need work but I’m comfortable with that response because it’s true. Having a plan and knowing what to expect is cool if you’re talking about MyFitnessPal but planning what will happen with a human body whose results depend on about 200 different factors? Eh, not so simple. 

If your goal is to lose 30 lbs in 12 weeks, what happens if you have some surprises come your way? A trip, an injury, a lack of focus, anything really. This changes the trajectory of the goal you set. Any disruption in what’s expected will cause a reaction. Some disruptions might only be behavioral, and some reactionary, causing things to go completely off course. Maybe you’re 10 weeks in and 10lbs away from your goal. You start thinking of those last 10lbs, you do a little math and realize you have 2 weeks to drop the weight. You know it’s doable but is it doable the way we want you to do it? Probably not since we’re not in the business of “phantom fat loss” in the form of water. 

Even though you know this, you start eating less, running more, or buy your friend’s juice cleanse. This may not be you specifically, but we’ve seen it many times. It makes us sad when people go through desperate measures just to hit an arbitrary goal so keep cool, ok? Sometimes these people are successful but guess what happens after they hit it? They get off the “crash diet protocols” and gain a little water weight back. The rat race to get back to the goal has now begun.

3. Because pounds don’t make any sense anyway.

Think about this one for a moment: you set a goal based on the value a machine tells you, and that value is determined by the force gravity puts on your body. Now, what if we change that value? What if you weren’t using the confusing Imperial system and went with kilograms? Does your mood change now that you have no idea what 184lbs is in kilos? Probably not. Change the settings on your scale and you’re 83.53 kilos. Unaffected by this number because you have no perception of what it means, you step on it, get your reading, log it, and move along. Change it to stones and you’re 13.15. Now you’re really confused and start understanding how arbitrary a weight goal is. And yes, I have actually done this with people and can tell you it helps. No matter what measurement you use, changing it to a different one completely changes your perception of what that number means. And above all else, don’t forget that the number isn’t the actual thing that matters here. Can it be important? Sure. But what matters above all else is that we look and feel our very best.

P.S. Don’t worry about the math above, I googled it so you don’t have to. 

4. You associate happiness with a number.

I know a lot of people are losing weight to improve happiness and we say it all the time — Stronger U is a happiness company, but that isn’t because our members reach their goal weights. It’s because they reach their goal feels and their goal lives. Ask anyone that has ever hit a number goal on a scale, or on a barbell, and they’ll tell you they immediately wanted something else. The joy from hitting a goal weight is temporary and will almost certainly open the door for more stress and disappointment later. If you’ve paid attention to anything we’ve talked about regarding maintenance you know how much weight can fluctuate and why this may be a dangerous goal to set. Fluctuations will happen for almost everyone after they reach a goal weight. They feel like they won and they no longer have to work as hard since they achieved their goal. A few meals out, a little leeway from your coach because you’re in maintenance, and before we know it, you’re up 4lbs. This isn’t a bad thing since it’s usually water/glycogen assuming you’re not getting too wild, but it still reminds you your goal has been lost and it will encourage an emotional response. 

A few frantic emails later (don’t worry they’re normal) and you start to understand what’s actually going on. You start to think about how complex weight is and all the things that cause it to change. You realize the level of precision needed to keep your goal weight is a death sentence to normal life and you mentally graduate to adjusting your goal. A certain lifestyle. A certain lifestyle where you’re not tied to what the number says anymore but more so a range. A range where a fit, healthy and happy person stays. One with less precision, one with more freedom. One that allows you to remove your hate towards an electronic device. 

You may be asking why even bother with a scale if it causes so people stress. Well, it’s because our goals require a certain level of compromise and this is one of them. A scale is an excellent tool for someone looking to lose weight and keep it off. Because of that, we have to work together at understanding the data and trends, and what causes fluctuations and work at removing our self worth from the number. It isn’t easy but when you look a little deeper, you can at least take a few steps in the right direction. 

So, did I change your mind about setting a goal weight? 


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