“My goal is to lose two pounds a week for six weeks.”

Is that a good goal?

I had this very question from a very committed middle-aged coaching client just a few days ago.

I’ll post a chunk of what he said, and then I’ll show you my response:

I was thinking I need a concrete, near term target to hit. Here’s what I was thinking:

Setting a weight goal for the next six weeks.

I think having my target date on Monday morning will help me be better focused on the weekends.

Goal for next Monday (2/28) is 191.
The following Monday (3/7), weight goal of 189.
Then Monday (3/14) goal of 187.
Monday 3/21 goal of 185
Monday 3/28 goal of 183
Monday 4/4 goal of 181.

What do you think?

Here’s what I said in my response:

I hear you about hitting goals & hard targets. But I’m a little nervous about the goals you picked.

Not that 2 pounds a week isn’t doable. It is — though probably not for you. You’re just not carrying that much fat.

I mean, we could bounce off 2-3 pounds of weight by Monday pretty easy, and maybe another 2 by the following Monday.

But after that? I doubt it. I don’t have many committed bodybuilders who can bounce off 2 pounds of FAT a week consistently.

The body just gets wise to it, unless you REALLY want to suffer — and then you risk losing more muscle than fat. Not to mention many things affect your scale weight, from sleep to stress to sodium.

Though honestly, that’s not why I’m throwing a flag.

The problem with outcome-based goals is that you don’t really have much control over them, so you’re setting yourself up to fail.

What DO you control? The process.

How well you eat and how much (and of course how you sleep, manage stress, etc).

So let’s plant our flag there and adjust the process as per the results you get — or your ability to hit the required process targets.

THAT MEANS: this week, just return to our plan and execute at a VERY high level.

From experience you’ll probably drop 2 pounds of fat & water from just this.

Then Monday — and every Monday after that — we evaluate your results.

Stay the course & maintain calories?
Nudge down calories / increase cardio or movement?
Or if you had trouble hitting targets, figure out why?

It likely won’t be a perfect two pounds a week, but it will be realistic, attainable, and within your control.

This seems like a small thing, but… well, it ain’t.

Forcing the number on the weight scale to go down isn’t that hard. Most people can do that for a few weeks. Hell, you can do it for three pounds a week or more if you want to get really silly about it. And plenty of coaches out there will be happy to take your money to help you do it.

But if you want long-term success (i.e., if you “wanna look jacked year round”) this is actually a huge thing.

It’s how you prevent forcing your body to lose a specific amount of weight, so that by week 6 of your plan, yeah, you hit your numbers, but you feel absolutely awful: you’re tired, you’ve got no juice in the weight room, you’ve got no sex drive in the bedroom, and you just seem to keep snapping at anyone who interrupts one of your magical recurring daydreams about binging on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Get caught in that trap and that weight’s coming back on, and it’s coming back on at a rate faster than two pounds a week.

Focusing on the stuff you can control doesn’t mean just vague mindset stuff. Notice in the email I’m still suggesting the client checks in on his progress Monday. And we’re still looking at external stuff like how much weight he lost. (Hell, notice how I told that client that in that first week he’s still probably gonna lose those two pounds!)

I know from experience how clients, if they have those external outcome goals, can fall into that old temptation to start doing “just small things” here and there to speed things up so that they keep hitting their numbers.

But that’s a trap.

It’s a wrong turn that, sure, looks okay for awhile but it leads eventually to a dead-end.

In a sense, my entire job as a coach is to keep you from making those wrong turns. Don’t make this one.

– Bryan