The Art & Science Of Achieving A Long Term Weight Loss Goal

The Art & Science Of Achieving A Long Term Weight Loss Goal

Learn everything you need to know about tackling big goals and finally get the weight off for good!

Ivan Gavranic Ivan Gavranic · 09 Jun 2022

Mindset Beginner
14 Mins

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When it comes to tackling big goals that you know will take a long time to achieve, we understand just how daunting the process may look at first glance. Being told that to achieve the dream physique you’re after, you need to lose 20,30,40 or 50kg can seem extremely intimidating. This is especially true if weight loss is something you have struggled with for as long as you can remember.

I believe this is one of the (many) reasons extreme diets and/or approaches fail as the individual can simply not sustain such a level of adherence for the time required to hit their goal. They repeat this cycle time and time again, thinking it’s all their fault when in fact, they just haven’t found the best way to tackle their goals.

So how do we approach such a big goal that appears insurmountable? 

As with any problem related to human behaviour, there is never going to be a “perfect” strategy that applies to everyone but the below are what we have seen to be very effective in practice.

Chunking

One really good strategy we use is to break the goal into mini goals or “chunks”. As humans, we are notoriously terrible at paying attention to something that isn’t within our immediate grasp. 

Think about when you were back in school and at the start of the semester you got given the due dates of your assessments. You had 12 weeks to complete the assessment but you waited until the last two weeks to actually start the project. We ALL know that by starting in week 1 and working on it gradually will lead to a better result yet we still leave it to the point where it becomes urgent.

In behavioural psychology, it is referred to as Parkinson's Law where the work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. In other words, if something is perceived to be too far away we are naturally less motivated to act now.

On the other hand, if the assessment was broken up into three parts across the semester with the first part being due in 4 weeks, you are much more likely to start taking positive action steps within the first couple of weeks. Also, the magnitude of the project is perceived to be much lower which can really help with motivation.

In combination with ‘Parkinson’s Law’, we also are very susceptible to Delay Discounting where the value of something depreciates proportional to the time it takes to get that goal. Put simply, you may be very motivated to lose 30kg now but will struggle to keep that same level of motivation 3,6 or 12 months down the line.

If you are feeling quite discouraged after reading the above, just remember that learning how to delay gratification and plan for the future are all very new concepts to our psychology and are not innate. Acting now is what allowed us to survive throughout evolution meaning that whatever resources we stumbled upon were used up immediately as back then, the future was very dangerous and unpredictable. 

You’re not a bad person for wanting instant gratification, you’re just human! Luckily though, we can utilise these same ‘shortcomings’ to our advantage when it comes to goal setting by taking the long term goal and breaking it down into multiple short term goals or “chunks”.

Here at RNT, we give all of our members their initial transformation checkpoint weight which we define as the body weight we estimate you to be in photoshoot condition based on your height, gender and lean body mass. You can learn more about this here but fundamentally, we believe there is great value in achieving something you never thought was possible which is why we push general population clients harder than any other company. 

We also give an estimated timeline to accompany the checkpoint weight but seeing as this is never something that can be predicted with 100% accuracy, it will change as someone moves through their journey.

Regardless, it’s not uncommon for some to feel taken back by the weight target we have recommended even though we know that they have the capacity to achieve it with the right mindset, strategy and approach. Remember, we have done the same with many people just like you, meaning we will never set a target that we think isn’t achievable.

Chunking Example 1: Time Based Target

Starting Weight- 90kg
Target Weight- 60kg
Weight Loss Goal- 30kg
Estimated Timeline- 9 months or 36 weeks.

For this individual to lose 30kg in 9 months, they need to be losing ~3-3.5kg per month. Chunking this down further, they need to lose 0.75- 0.875kg per week.

Due to scale weight fluctuations along with accounting for slower/faster weeks, using a monthly target would be a better way to break down the 9 month goal. 

In this situation, the main outcome goal we are looking for is a 3-3.5kg drop each month and we simply focus on nailing that.

Chunking Example 2: Weight Based Target

Starting Weight- 90kg
Target Weight- 60kg
Weight Loss Goal- 30kg
Estimated Timeline- 9 months or 36 weeks.

Mini Checkpoint 1- 85kg
Mini Checkpoint 2- 80kg
Mini Checkpoint 3- 75kg
Mini Checkpoint 4- 70kg
Mini Checkpoint 5- 65kg
Checkpoint- 60kg

With this approach, the individual breaks up the checkpoint into 6 separate checkpoints where the main outcome goal is losing the next 5kg. This also takes into account the expected timeframe for each 5kg checkpoint as the first 5kg is much easier to take off than the last 5kg. 

Either one can work as the basic premise still remains the same.

Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome

Before you roll your eyes, please hear me out. I know that the new thing to be saying these days is to “focus on the process” and not be so “outcome orientated” but what many people seem to miss with this advice is that a lot of people don't actually know what the process entails.

Telling someone with no nutritional literacy to focus on just eating better is like telling someone who is depressed to just “be happy”. 

A big part of what we do here at RNT is provide our members with the most up to date and practical information to help them through their journey through our MNM Curriculum. Having a basic understanding of why you’re doing the things you do, leads to much better outcomes over the long haul.

There is a huge difference between the two below statements despite leading to the same outcome.

“Just follow the set meal plan given to you.”

“The reason we have implemented a set meal plan from the beginning is to remove decision fatigue, get you into the habit of weighing/measuring portions and get you on the path to eating a more whole foods based approach. This starting plan isn’t forever and as you learn more about nutrition throughout your time at RNT, you will be able to make intelligent changes when the time comes.”

Can you get a good result by just following the plan without wanting to learn more? Of course. But eventually these same people will struggle to maintain their results or know what to do when they are faced with a situation they did not see coming. If all you ever learnt was to follow your “set meal plan” what do you do when you need to eat out or go on holiday? 

To focus on the process, you first need to know what that actually entails. For all our members, we give them the blueprint with all they need to get things moving in the right direction and they simply improve on their execution as their education improves.
  • Eat in accordance with the recommended meal plan based on your goals.
  • Train with weights 3-4 times a week with the goal of progressive overload in mind.
  • Aim for 8-10k steps per day
  • Aim for 2.5-3L of water per day.
  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
If these process goals are met daily and/or weekly, it is without question that the outcome goal will be achieved.

The key from here is to then look at each of those process goals and work on improving your “skills” within each of them. 

PROCESS GOAL | SKILLS & ACTIONS REQUIRED


As you can see, without a proper understanding of what is required for each process, you cannot take effective action. 
This is just a snippet of what our members learn about but now that you know what each process goal entails, you can start working on the skills and actions required that will allow you to nail those process goals.

Remember, the only thing that you do have control over are your actions (not the outcome) which is why the advice of focusing on the process is still the better way to go to not only achieve the goal, but enjoy it along the way.

*Research Deep Dive: A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725288/

A really interesting study that was released in 2020 looking at just over 1000 participants who were undertaking a new years resolution. Of that number, 33% were interested in improving their health, regarding physical health, 20% were purely focused on weight loss and13% wanted to simply improve their eating habits. 

There were three distinct groups which determined the level of support that was given throughout the intervention. The below text has been taken directly from the referenced article but organised in a way that allows the distinctions to be seen.

Over the course of the year, the researchers found that the people who achieved the best results were actually in group 2 (some support) whereas people in group 3 (extended support) got the worst results.

When we dig a little deeper into the discussion of the paper we soon realise though that the definition of success/failure to hit a goal was much more specific in group 3. For example, someone in group 1 could have reported succeeding with their goal as their goal was to “exercise more” this year whereas someone in group 3 may have written down “exercise three times per week for 12 months” meaning if they missed one week, they technically “failed” the goal. 

This is important to understand as it can be falsely interpreted as more support or being specific with what you’re trying to achieve to not being beneficial for achieving goals, which previous research has shown to not be the case. 

Achieving a goal is much more realistic with a strong support network that provides education, motivation, community and guidance on how to get there. 

Approach-Oriented Goals vs Avoidance- Oriented Goals


Regardless of what group the individuals were in, a trend that the researchers noticed was people did seem to get better results when utilising an ‘approach-oriented’ form of goal setting vs an ‘avoidance-oriented’ approach.

One emphasises the addition of something positive to enhance their results.

“Eat more whole foods.”
“Eat more fruits and vegetables.”
“Eat more protein.”
“Eat three main meals per day.”
“Get more steps in throughout the day.”

The other emphasises removing something.

“Remove all processed foods.”
“Remove all carbohydrates.”
“Eat no junk food.”
“Skip breakfast.”
“Stop drinking alcohol.”
Approach- Oriented Self Talk
‘I can’t believe how much better I feel since adding more protein, vegetables and fruits to my daily nutrition plan. I have energy throughout the day, I don’t feel hungry, my digestion is great and I’m losing weight.”
Avoidance- Oriented Self Talk
“I need to remove all the junk food from my diet so I don’t continue gaining weight. I can’t stand the thought of looking at myself in the mirror. I am never eating junk food again!”

By focusing on all the positive things you are adding to your life vs the things you think you need to completely give up can go a long way. On top of that, you continue reminding yourself of all the positive things you are experiencing because of the behaviours you have been implementing.

Putting It Altogether

When it comes to goal setting and human behaviour, we understand that it can be quite a challenging endeavour. This is especially true for long term goals or with something that you have been trying to change for years.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on not only what we do within our own systems, but also what science has to say on goal setting in general.

If we were to summarise everything discussed, this would be it:
  1. Set the goal: Be specific (weight and timeframe).
  2. Break the goal down into chunks.
  3. Be part of a support network that provides education, community, encouragement and guidance.
  4. Understand the processes required to achieve the goal.
  5. Work on improving the skills within each process goal.
  6. Take a more “approach-oriented” mindset.
Ivan GavranicIvan Gavranic

Ivan Gavranic is RNT’s Head of Applied Research, where his focus is on translating scientific research into real world practical applications for our members. As one of our leading coaches based in Australia, Ivan has lived and breathed transformation for over ten years, staying now at sub 6% body fat year round, he continues to focus on attaining calisthenic and gymnastic skills you only see in the movies!

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