Setting Goals: How, Why & Who Do You Tell?

Setting Goals: How, Why & Who Do You Tell?

Stemming from a few comments the other day on Weight Loss Is For People With Low Self-Esteem,” comes this issue of goal setting.

Conversations about weight are always brought to me in terms of numbers.

“How much have you lost? Oh, my gosh! What’s your goal weight? Are you there yet? Are you still losing? How much more do you want to lose?”

Numbers, numbers, numbers. It’s so bizarre.

I can tell someone I weigh 110, and that person has no idea whether or not that weight is “sensible” for me or my daily functions. Why? Because “sensible” includes my height (110 looks very different on six feet tall and five feet tall), my body composition, and everything in between. It’s just not that simple.

We grind things down into bare bones numbers because it simplifies the conversation – I get that. And there’s nothing wrong with having even a passing interest in what’s going on with me and asking “typical small talk weight questions” – particularly if you’re someone I care about. Those aren’t what my problem is, though. My problem is, really, something that’s my own fault… and really isn’t even a problem at all, if you ask me.

My problem is that I don’t have a weight loss goal. All this weight gone, and I still don’t have a weight loss goal. That’s right. I said it.I have no “once I reach this number, I’ll be happy” weight. And I don’t think I ever will.

My experience with numbers is that they don’t quantify much. They just… don’t. The scale (and, subsequently, losing weight) don’t quantify how healthy you’ll be or how able you are to handle your daily business.

Here’s an example: I’m a lover of pole fitness. I had to learn how to use my muscles in conjunction with one another in order to accomplish the moves I wanted to do. No matter how thin you are, if you don’t have the upper body strength to lift yourself up off the floor… if you don’t have the leg strength to keep them in the air as you spin… if you don’t have the abs to be able to flip yourself over… you will be limited in what you can do. No scale could quantify that ability.

Here’s another example: I, a former asthmatic, am a runner. I run. I run to become faster. I run because I have nightmares of outrunning zombie— errr, let’s just say I’d like to be able to protect Mini-me and myself if need be. The first time I ran my first full mile, I cried. Like a total wuss. No scale could predict when I’d be able to accomplish that. Hell, I couldn’t even predict when I’d be able to accomplish that… and I’m the one doing the running.

One last example: I want to look svelte and sleek and sexy in my progress bikini. I want well-built thighs, tight arms, a six pack and a toned neck and shoulders. I lift weights because I want to achieve that. I spent 6 months lifting weights like nobody’s business, and lost maybe 7lbs on the scale. I also lost almost 30lbs of fat. I lost, but what I gained was so much more valuable and important. If my focus was purely on “reaching my goal number,” I might be silly enough to stop weight lifting just to reach that goal number. (Calm down, I said I might be.)

I accepted a long time ago that numbers won’t decide whether or not I look how I want at a certain weight. And even though I get the general gist of the questions.. I do wonder what people think a “goal weight” quantifies other than “a loss of mass.”

I don’t think I ever had a goal. I changed my habits and kind of just enjoyed the weight loss and increased activity levels as they came.

That does make me wonder, though. Do we see goals as something to politely and calmly reach, and then relax upon reaching there? Or do we see them as “mile markers” in a marathon – “Yeah, I reached this marker, but I think I’ll still keep going?”

And do we see goals as public property and “small talk?” As complicated as my current goals are, I certainly don’t think I can talk about them in a conversation with people who are only slightly interested in me. I don’t say that to imply that people shouldn’t ask – I don’t mind that – but I do mean that perhaps we should be careful regarding how we discuss our goals and who we share them with.

Enter the video above, sent to me by @quiethaylestorm. I actually think it’s cute that he references fitness in his slideshow. I also think that’s appropriate.

When I first started, two people knew. My then-boyfriend, and my Mother. He knew because he’d have to deal with my changing body and lifestyle, and Mom because she was watching my Mini-me while I worked it out at the gym at night. When I first began working on my eating habits, another two people knew… and again, only because I needed their guidance and support. The only people who were aware of my goals were the people directly related to me achieving them.

I kept my goals to myself because I knew that I was unsure of myself – unsure of the mechanics behind why I was successful – and I didn’t want to leave myself open to bad advice and negativity. I knew that I was insecure about it, and the only way to change that was to spend time educating myself before I thrust myself into the open about it. Not only that, but I tend to be really dismissive of unwanted advice and unnecessary criticism. I don’t care to hear about how someone thinks women who lift weights are manly. I just.. I’d rather bypass the entire situation and choose my words more carefully.

The only reason I started publicly talking about my weight loss was because, after a certain point, I couldn’t really hide it anymore. Otherwise, I’d still be hiding away from everyone but my “investors”… and just bust out with my phenomenal physique like “Ta-dow! How ya like me now?!”

I agree with him, though. I believe that using your time to reflect on your goals (instead of allowing yourself to be patted on the back for actually having the goal) is much more effective in helping you get there. I understand why people tell me their goals – especially considering the position I’m in with having this blog – but in general conversation? Some things, to me, should be better protected.

While being able to see a specific number on the scale might be exciting, it’s not as long-lasting as the abilities you might develop on your journey or the knowledge you’d acquire along the way. Maybe I’m silly for thinking it’s more valuable to set a more meaningful goal than “losing a few pounds,” but for someone like me… that was the best thing I could do for myself. The abilities I’ve developed on my path have changed my quality of life forever. I’ve developed new habits that have changed my life. They ensure that I’ll never have to worry about putting on those “few pounds” ever again.

To wrap this up… I love my goals because they’re meaningful, and what’s more – they’re going to prevent me from backsliding. I love my trusted support system, because they’ve stood beside me as I’ve gotten this far… through the entire thing. I love myself enough to recognize that I don’t need anyone else’s validation of my goals. They’re good enough for me, and as long as I keep striving towards them… the important stuff is all under control. Everything else, to me, is unnecessary.

What about you? Do you prefer to set number goals over anything else? Do you keep your goals to yourself, or do you share? What are your thoughts on the video?

By | 2017-06-10T11:46:55+00:00 March 1st, 2012|It's All Mental|47 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Amber J. November 4, 2010 at 12:32 PM - Reply


    Talk about great minds thinking alike! I JUST wrote about this very video today on my blog. Crazy! I wasn’t thinking about weight loss, but you make a great point.


    And great job as usual 🙂

  2. Streetz November 4, 2010 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    Good Post!

    I think theres a difference between setting a goal and quantifying results. In my line of work, we use metrics constantly to plot trends, the ebb and flow of business, and to see where we can improve and strengthen. I take the same approach to fitness.

    I look at my “goals” as markers in a marathon. I set them to have a destination, and re-evaluate once I get there. I agree that the scale should never be the end all be all to determine your overall fitness. You can lose 20 pounds in 2 days (water weight) and reach your goal, but you’ll most likely look like a smaller version of your current self, instead of losing fat, trimming, gaining lean mass, and gaining strength.

    Its always good to get feedback from people who are fit already, or have the body type that you want. While all bodies are different, they obviously went on a good path to fitness, so that type of sharing is cool. I like plotting my progress because it keeps me honest and keeps me motivated. All the calorie counting, scale watching, body fat testing, picture taking, heart rate monitoring, etc can get cumbersome, but if people can buy flossy clothes, rims for a car, the newest video game or TV, they can invest the time into their health, which is one of the most valuable commodities you have!

    Sorry for the long comment, lol

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 12:51 PM - Reply

      I don’t mind long comments! I promise! I feel like.. if y’all can read my hellalong posts, I can certainly read a few long comments, LOL.

      “I look at my “goals” as markers in a marathon. I set them to have a destination, and re-evaluate once I get there. I agree that the scale should never be the end all be all to determine your overall fitness. You can lose 20 pounds in 2 days (water weight) and reach your goal, but you’ll most likely look like a smaller version of your current self, instead of losing fat, trimming, gaining lean mass, and gaining strength.”

      This needs to be seen twice. “Weight loss” INCLUDES “losing water weight,” hence those silly detoxes and saunas… people just don’t realize that “losing weight” doesn’t equate to “getting fit.” So, again… this needs to be seen:

      “I look at my “goals” as markers in a marathon. I set them to have a destination, and re-evaluate once I get there. I agree that the scale should never be the end all be all to determine your overall fitness. You can lose 20 pounds in 2 days (water weight) and reach your goal, but you’ll most likely look like a smaller version of your current self, instead of losing fat, trimming, gaining lean mass, and gaining strength.”

  3. Jubilance November 4, 2010 at 12:48 PM - Reply

    Great & timely post. This is something I’ve been thinking abt a lot lately.

    I’ve been losing this year, and so far I’ve lost a significant amount of weight, though I still have a way to go. I’ve always had a # goal in mind, but I don’t tell most people. I barely tell most people how much I’ve lost at all. Generally ppl will just ask me if I’ve lost weight & I’ll answer in the affirmative & keep it moving.

    I always liked your idea of judging progress not by the scale but by using particular clothing you want to fit or certain things you want to do, and that’s been my marker & motivation so far. My biggest thing is that I dont want to get some pre-determined # & then say “ok that’s it I’m done”. I want to see what potential my body has & figure out what’s the best place for it to be, both in appearance, fitness & the actual # on the scale.

    Not sharing is also another reason why I haven’t blogged abt it yet. That & also the fact that I’ve blogged abt my weight loss attempts before & I’ve always ended up falling off the wagon & re-gaining what I lost. I really haven’t wanted the judgement & also the scrutiny, which is why I havne’t blogged abt it or even told a lot of ppl. When you tell ppl you’re losing weight, they feel like its their job to police what you put in your mouth, how much you work out, etc and I don’t want the hassle. I do have a goal for the year, and if I reach it then I will probably blog abt it in-depth only because I’ll be proud of what I accomplished.

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 12:59 PM - Reply

      I can hear a lot of myself in what you’re saying, ESPECIALLY “ok that’s it, I’m done.” THAT is why I haven’t set a “goal number.” I don’t want to be so overwhelmed with the work that it took to get there, that the unhappiness with my appearance coupled with that “completion” feeling would compel me to slow down.

      For me, one goal is developing a lifestyle that promotes activity – fitting yoga, strength training AND running into each day EVERY DAY is a challenge that I actually look forward to every day. When I’m successful, I enjoy the benefits. When I fail, I feel the guilt and the sadness and I actually feel deprived… and it compels me to go harder the next day. Using numbers to quantify that… I can’t even imagine.

      I will also say this is why I don’t blog track of my weight. I mean, my numbers matter because I run a blog about weight loss, but I’m not down with detailing my life to people to whom I’m not accountable. I genuinely don’t recommend it. I see other bloggers do it and it makes me nervous for them – I don’t know that many people could deal with that scrutiny… and the pressure to present progress every week could compel someone into an eating disorder.. something else that makes me uncomfy. Don’t do it if you’re not ready.

      Loved everything about this comment! 🙂

  4. Streetz November 4, 2010 at 12:56 PM - Reply

    @Erika, you my soror, so I wasn’t gonna mention hella long posts. I got hood don’t worry, lol.

    I’m not gonna front though, and I know you’re going to throw something at me, but at my fitness level the detox might could make it. *ducks*

    I’m just not sure I have anything to “detox” you know?

    Sidebar: Your moms ever give you the effin laxative as a kid to clean you out?! I HATED that sh*t #doubleentendre

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 1:04 PM - Reply

      At “your fitness level”… if you’ve got anything to detox, #urdoinitrong

      Besides, you and I both know a detox doesn’t burn fat or build muscle… it rids you of the Popeye’s you ate yesterday. [insert blank stare]

      Skee-Phi, tho’. LOL

  5. MANDA November 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM - Reply

    I am starting the goal of eating better. I know how to work out and do cardio, but I don’t know how to incorporate weights. This is the most I have ever weighed. My goal is to get back in these jeans I have had for over five years. I wan to be able to run. I am making short-term goals that will lead to longer goals. I feel that if I say I want to lose X amount by December, I may set myself up for failure. As long as I lose the weight, I shouldn’t worry about how fast it happens, just that I have the tools in place that I won’t get this size ever again.

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 1:05 PM - Reply

      Trust me – there is nothing more demoralizing than the “lose x by y date” system, because you almost always fall short…. especially if you’re lifting.

      What questions do you have about incorporating weights? Maybe I can help?

  6. Trina November 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM - Reply

    It’s interesting I have also kept my journey close to me. My goals are my own because I don’t need anyone else’s ‘advice’ like you wrote. I have a weight loss number but at this point it isn’t about that. I have a goal of being able to do a bicep curl with 40lb weights by the end of the year and run a full mile. Things that make ME feel strong. Being healthy and making my own food, especially since I cooked before but not like I do now. I am trying to taylor my goals to little victories to keep me moving in the right direction. I can see my sides, ya’ll and that’s a big deal to me…One day my toes!!

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 1:11 PM - Reply

      “Little victories…”


      And girl, I remember the first moment I looked down and saw my toes… I sat in my bathroom and cried. Not because I could finally see ’em, but because of just how long I’d gone without noticing that I couldn’t see them. I’m looking forward to the follow-up comment that tells me how nice it feels to see those piggies!!

  7. Tina November 4, 2010 at 1:18 PM - Reply

    I like you am not a slave to the scale, there was no magic number and still is not for me. I have lost about 60 lbs during the course of this year, and I was only a 14/16 . It all depends on your build and what makes you feel good. I am a runner now preparing for my first race, a half-marathon and my 35th birthday and all of my friends are constantly trying to get me on the scale, as well as trying to convince me that I am getting to thin or should stop now. Its all subjective, and since I am the subject at hand I will work out to live and feel great and fall back on worrying about the number. I did in fact have a goal of seeing my collar bones cuz those bad boys are sexy and yes I am there and still working. Great post!

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 1:42 PM - Reply

      Girl!! I LOVE my collarbone! Considering the ring I used to have around my neck, there is nothing better than sliding on a thin top and seeing that bad boy!

      Yesssss on the half-marathon!!! I’m trying to get on your level.. planning to do my first mini this winter! LOL Let’s do this!

  8. Streetz November 4, 2010 at 1:38 PM - Reply

    You had to go there with the P word, lol…

    I agre though and by the comments everyone seems to be doing well. It’s all your own journey. Getting there is the part you will appreciate most when you succeed!

    • Erika November 4, 2010 at 1:42 PM - Reply

      Yes. I am throwing immense amounts of shade at you. Popeyes.

  9. MANDA November 4, 2010 at 1:54 PM - Reply

    Erica, I don’t know when to incorporate the weights. What weight machines to use first. At what point in the weight loss do you start weights? Questions like that.

    • Erika November 5, 2010 at 12:05 PM - Reply

      Hmmm… if you e-mail them to me, I can try to cover it in next week’s Q&A Wednesday. How’s that sound? Because by just looking at the two you’ve asked here, I can tell that’d be the longest comment I’ve ever written, and I’ve written some doozies. LOL!

  10. keisha brown November 4, 2010 at 2:36 PM - Reply

    well i of course like this post..cuz well.. im in it! lol.

    when i 1st watched the video, i watched with a sideeye..that grew. i ended it understanding the argument..but not quite sure if was a healthy way of thinking.

    but erika explains that she had 2 investors and that was enough. which i think is key. i’ve never told anyone my number, but i’ve put my goals out there. this video had me questioning if i sabotaged myself. no one does anything by themselves and without some sort of support.

    i have set those goals for myself (some of which i tweeted/shared), and have put things in motion to set myself up for success (the 1st being getting a trainer). i know that having someone (incl my bank account) hold me accountable to achieving these goals is necessary for me to eventually take the training wheels off and keep going for myself.

    but blogs like this, are a definite source of encouragement!

    so thanks!

    • Erika November 5, 2010 at 12:08 PM - Reply

      Heeeeeeeeey girl! LOL! Thank you for sharing the link!

      I’ve written before about our support systems and how its important to keep them small because, as with a LOT of other things, we run the risk of involving people who aren’t really putting our best interests first. It’s opening ourselves up to sabotage in more ways than one, IMO. With anything, you have to make sure that trustworthy people are around you at all times.

      …and thank you for including my blog in that. I’m so honored! 🙂

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