Setting a weight loss goal is about more than just saying “I want to lose 20 pounds”. You need to figure out how much you want to lose, how quick you want to lose it, and how you’re going to go about it. Here are the steps you need to take to set yourself up for success.

1 How much do you want to lose?

This is the first question that will define your entire journey. You might change it down the road, deciding you are happier at a higher weight or maybe wanting to lose a few extra pounds. Whatever the case may be, you need a goal to begin with.

If you have no idea what a healthy or realistic weight could be for you, just go online and search for a BMI chart. This will show you healthy weight ranges based on your height, age, and gender. You’ll see the ranges for overweight, obese, healthy, and underweight. Pick one in the healthy category as your overall target.

2 How soon do you want to lose it?

Unfortunately, you can’t drop pounds overnight. But, you can decide realistically how soon you want to lose the weight. It can help you mentally if the target date means something to you. Maybe it’s the first day of summer, maybe it’s your birthday, maybe it’s a day of your next vacation. Whatever the case may be, setting a date will help you stay motivated to not put the weight loss off.

Generally, you should not try to lose more than 2 pounds a week. So, if you want to lose 20 pounds, set a goal for about 10 weeks from now. Keep in mind that your weight loss won’t be linear. You might lose 5 pounds in your first couple of weeks and then struggle to lose .5 to 1 down the line. As you near your goal weight, the loss will slow down.

3 What do you need to do to achieve it?

You need to burn 3,500 calories in order to lose 1 pound of fat. If you want to lose 2 pounds a week, that means you need a 7,000 calorie deficit each week (or 1,000 calories per day). Do the math to figure out how many calories you can consume and how many you need to burn through exercise in order to meet your goal.