When you set out to lose weight, you—and millions of other people—might do a google search to find the best plan for you. When you do this, you’ll get what seems like around 440 million results. I know…I googled it. Kidding of course, but there are literally thousands of ways to do it. Those results can tell you to eat this, not that. Skip carbs, don’t skip carbs. Do this workout, not that workout. Make sure your workout is this, and this, and this, but not this. Don’t do cardio. Do cardio. Track your macros. Only count calories. Drink your water. Drink some things, but don’t drink other things. Take this supplement, but not this one. And on and on. And on.

Bottom line: Knowing what to look for in a weight loss plan can feel so overwhelming to the point that you might think it’s just not worth it.

BUT embarking on a weight loss journey is totally worth it. For your physical health, your emotional and mental health, and even your social health!

Top Three Components of a Successful Weight Loss Plan

While nutrition and exercise play a crucial role in any weight loss plan, they are not the most important components of a successful plan. Interestingly enough, the driving force behind any long term successful weight loss plan has nothing to do with nutrition or exercise. What is the foundation for successful weight loss? It’s built on three things, and if you do just these three things, I promise you that you’ll find a sustainable and realistic path to finally accomplishing your goal and maintaining your progress long-term.

Ready? Let’s go!

#1. Set a goal.

Yes, I know…you already have a goal. But “lose weight” is way too broad, and even “lose X pounds” might feel out of reach depending on your starting point and your goal weight. So, it’s important to set a goal that is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If you’re not familiar with SMART Goals or need a refresher, let’s break it down:

  • Specific: Your goal must be clear, exact, precise.
  • Measurable: You have to be able to gauge your progress in some way. If you can’t measure it, you don’t know if you’re getting closer to or farther away from your goal.
  • Attainable: If the goal cannot be achieved without significant sacrifice to your daily schedule, it is likely not attainable. You must be able to realistically achieve your goal by the deadline you’ve set, amidst your busy daily grind.
  • Relevant: Your goal must be important enough that it will become a top priority in your daily regimen. Your job, kids, and significant other can hold some high priorities, but this goal is going to need to be up there among them to make progress. In some cases, you will need to put yourself and your health first!
  • Time-Bound: A goal without a deadline just won’t happen. You must put a date on it!

Let’s create a SMART Goal so you can see how this works. Here’s our SMART Goal:

I will lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks.

Now let’s put that goal through our SMART test:

  • Specific: Check. This goal is very specific. It tells you exactly what you’re going to do.
  • Measurable: Check. You can weigh yourself to see how you’re doing.
  • Attainable: Check. Experts recommend, and I agree, that a 1-2 pound average weight loss per week is both achievable and sustainable. So, losing 10 pounds in 12 weeks is totally doable, and it gives you a bit of wiggle room when real life shows up, and I promise you that it will!
  • Relevant: Check. As long as this weight loss is important enough to you to make it a priority!
  • Time-Bound: Check. With a 12 week time limit, your goal has a deadline.

I’ve got another guideline to share about setting goals, and I hope it can help keep you in a realistic mindset and avoid any perfectionistic tendencies. Because we all have them, right?! I recently came across something called “The Eighty Five Percent Rule for Optimal Learning,” and it is powerful! There’s some pretty incredible science behind this rule, but basically, it teaches that when we’re trying to learn new things, or when setting a new goal (because isn’t achieving a goal a huge learning process?!), aim for an 85% chance of success. But what about that 15% that might not go so well? I know that no one enjoys failing, but in that 15% failure space is where we learn what’s not working so we can change it. That space is crucial to your success, so you want your goal to hit within that space: Not too difficult to achieve, but not too easy either. Because if you’re not learning, you’re not growing.

One last thing before we move on to #2: Your SMART Goal is not set in concrete. If you find that something’s not working, change it! Still keep yourself around that 85% success range that I shared (or more), but take the time to figure out and put a plan in place to help you be more successful. Remember: Achieving any goal is a learning process, and what you learn while you’re working to achieve this SMART Goal can help you with other goals. What an amazing gift to give yourself!

#2. Create your promises.

Your SMART Goal is your macro view of this goal you want to achieve, and it will serve you well. Now it’s time to break that macro view down into a micro view—the actual small actions you will take daily that will get you closer to achieving your goal. I like to call these actions promises, and they are THE key to achieving any goal.

I’m diving deep into promises + why they’re important here, and I’m sharing 10 tips for promise keeping success here.

When it comes to creating a promise, it’s crucial to follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate where you are right now. Not where you hope to be in a week or a month, but right now. That’s your starting point, and it’s a realistic place to begin.
  2. Ask yourself what you can realistically take on right now with your schedule, your commitments, your relationships—your “real” life. It’s common to think that things will finally settle down tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but in reality, life usually doesn’t settle down. It often tends to get busier. That’s okay. That’s reality.
  3. Write down some actions related to your SMART Goal that you can realistically do every single time—no matter what—based on what you discovered in steps #1 and #2. That’s the key behind success with keeping your promises: You aim to be consistent. 100% of the time consistent. And while these actions need to be completely doable, it’s okay to put a little bit of stretch into them too.
  4. Create a promise. Choose one action from step #3 and turn it into a promise. Your promise might be anywhere from tracking macros every day to drinking an extra cup of water, or from getting in all your workouts to spending 2 minutes on mindfulness daily. Your promise is YOUR promise, and so it needs to be something that will work for you. Not your friend, not that influencer you follow on IG, or anyone else. Just you.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into those last two steps. Ideally, you’ll keep your promise 100% of the time. Realistically, there will be times that won’t happen, no matter how hard you try. Life is like that. So, aim for 100% with the understanding that even 1% better every day can make a difference. Think that a 1% improvement won’t work? Author James Clear shares some powerful information about habits—those actions, or promises, like I like to call them—in his book, Atomic Habits.

“If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.”

I don’t know about you, but a 37X improvement sounds like success to me! Just remember that you’re starting from where you are right now, and even a 1% improvement is a huge success! Any time you don’t quite hit 100% consistency with your promise, work to understand the reasons why, and then use that knowledge to propel you even closer towards your goal.

#3. Support.

Surprised that support is one of the three main components of a successful weight loss plan? Throughout my many years of helping people achieve their transformation goals, I’ve learned just how important a support system can be throughout the process. Research has also found that a support system can help you stick to your program and nail your goal. Here’s why:

  • Keeps you motivated. Losing weight is an up and down process, and you will hit stumbling blocks along the way. We all do! Your support system can help you understand what’s going on, help you realize that this is part of the process, and help to keep you on track—especially when you want to throw in the towel. Your support system will also be your biggest cheerleaders, and knowing that others are rooting for you can keep you motivated!
  • Keeps you honest. There will be times when you might start to rationalize or make excuses for any slip ups or setbacks, and your support team can call you out and not let you continue down that rabbit hole. They can lovingly and without judgment help you get back on track and stay on track.
  • Keeps you consistent. When you know you’re accountable to others, you’re more likely to do your workouts, stick to your nutrition plan, and not go off your plan overall. And while it might not make sense that simply checking in with your team can make a difference, Stanford University found that getting a check-in call every two weeks led to a 78% increase in workout completion! And let’s be honest: If you know someone will be asking how you’re doing, you totally want to save face and do the things so you can give a positive report. Right?!

Your support system can be one person or many people, and your support system will meet you where you are right now and help you all along the path until you achieve your goal. You can do the same for them, and it’s important to be the type of support they need for their goals too.

Now that we’ve uncovered the three main components of a successful weight loss plan, here’s what you can do to build your foundation for success:

  1. Create a SMART Goal. Go through the steps above to get your overall goal into more concrete and achievable terms.
  2. Choose and make that first promise to yourself. The most important thing with any promise is to make it so you can be consistent 100% of the time, allowing for that little bit of wiggle room since we all know that 100% consistency might not always be realistic. Aim high and learn from any inconsistencies. That’s the way to nail a goal and maintain your progress long-term.
  3. Find a support system. Whether it’s a friend, a neighbor, someone with a similar goal, a local community, or a group on social media, find that group that will support you, be real with you, and cheer you on. And don’t forget to do the same for them too.

Need an awesome support group? Join our Transform App Users Facebook Community here! You don’t even have to be using the app to join!

One last thing: Take your time on implementing these three components. They don’t all have to be done today! In fact, the longer you take to ensure that you create a solid foundation, the more it will help you with your weight loss goal and any other goals you have.

I’d love to hear about your SMART Goal and your first promise, so be sure to share them on social and tag me!