Well-Being//

Outcome and Process Goals for Weight Loss

Without getting too meticulous, pretty much every goal can fit into one of two camps: outcome goals or process goals.


Without getting too meticulous, pretty much every goal can fit into one of two camps: outcome goals or process goals.

Both are important for the purpose of losing weight and achieving other fitness goals, but which of these should be focus on? And what’s the difference between them anyways?

Outcome Goals

Outcome goals are very focused on the result achieved at the very end.

If you read a lot of my stuff, you might have heard me relate goals to the use of navigational GPS in the past — I’m going to stick to that for now.

So if you’re using your GPS to go somewhere, the GPS is going to ultimately take you to that somewhere — your end destination.

The end destination is your outcome goal — it’s where you want to wind up at the very end of the entire process.

It’s the very reason you began the journey in the first place — to get to your destination.

That is the essence of an Outcome goal — it’s focus is on the end result or the final destination.

Process Goals


While outcome goals are fixated going from the very beginning to the ending destination or result, process goals are pretty much everything that happens in the middle.

So even though your final destination when using a GPS is the last thing you do — actually arriving, you do so by following a bunch of steps along the way.

Turn right at Hamilton Drive. Continue on the Interstate for 14 miles. Take a slight right onto Main Street.

These are all small goals required to get you to the end destination.

These mini steps, or mini goals, are all part of the process of getting to the final destination.

So essentially, process goals are the things you have to repeatedly do in order to reach the outcome goal.

You have to repeatedly follow the instructions given to you by the GPS in order to reach your final destination.

Are Outcome or Process Goals More Important?

This is a hard question to answer.

I don’t think either one of these kinds of goals is definitively more important than the other, but rather they’re each important for different reasons.

Outcome goals are important because they’re focused on the end result.

Without an outcome goal, there wouldn’t even be a reason for any process goals in the middle.

If you didn’t put an ending destination into your navigational GPS, do you think it would tell you any steps?

Of course not. There would be no conceivable purpose for any steps, since there’s no ending destination to focus on.

So if there’s no outcome goal, then what’s the point of having a process in the first place?

Hint: there isn’t one.

Outcome goals are also important because they help you stay motivated to continue to make progress and achieve those middle process goals.

Being focused on the process is great. It’s key to achieving the overall outcome goal.

But the process isn’t always fun and glamorous. It can be boring and monotonous instead.

When this happens, motivation can decline. You might find yourself trudging along through the process, becoming so discouraged that you’re beginning to wonder if the process is even helping you achieve the outcome goal at all. Sometimes it feels like the process is getting you nowhere.

That’s when you need to take a step back for a minute and look at the bigger picture.


Keep your eye on the prize and your trust in the process.

You’ve come up with a solid plan, or even better, you’re using a plan that someone else has already found success with.

The plan, or process, is not the problem — it will work and take you to your outcome goal if you trust it and stick with it — so that’s all you need to do.

So even if you’re discouraged and feel like you’re hardly gaining any ground on your outcome goal, use that outcome goal as motivation to keep going.

The success curve is certainly not linear — so don’t expect it to be.

Just focus on the process with bullheaded persistence and use the overall goal as motivation to stick with it.

On the other hand, process goals are important because they’re the very process that you follow in order to achieve the overall outcome goal.

Imagine trying to use the GPS but it didn’t have all the steps in the middle to take you to your destination, or outcome goal.

Instead, the GPS just said “proceed to your destination” without telling you how.

That GPS would be useless.

We need the process goals in the middle to keep us on track and assure us that we’re still making progress towards our overall goal.

Otherwise, we’d just be left overwhelmed.

Here’s another good example:

Imagine you decide you’re going to open a restaurant and your outcome goal is to make 1.5 million dollars in your first year — perfect!

That’s a great goal to have since it’s SMART.


But what do you do now?

What’s the first step to opening up a restaurant and achieving such results?

Should you start by leasing land to build on? Or is there an existing location with a building already on it that you want?

Before you get a place to start, do you need to hire lawyers to legally establish your restaurant business first?

Or maybe you should test your restaurant idea on Facebook with some advertising first to build up some hype and make sure people are interested in coming?

There’s a ton of different directions you could go in.

So what should you focus on first?

This is where it helps to have process goals to help keep you on track towards your ending objective or outcome goal.

How This Applies To Losing Weight

Let’s talk about how this specifically applies to losing weight.

Say that you’re trying to lose 100 pounds.

100 pounds is a lot of weight. That’s a big outcome goal to have.

And actually, we need to make it a smart goal so let’s say lose 100 pounds in exactly two years, 730 days from now.

Two years is a long time, but that’s still a huge goal nonetheless.

If you’re trying to lose 100 pounds, you might run into the problem we talked about earlier with not knowing where to start.

That’s such a big goal that it can seem intimidating and not even worth trying to attempt — something I like to call goal intimidation.

When you’re faced with goal intimidation, what’s the best thing to do?

Break it down into smaller steps and focus on your process goals.


Let’s think about it like this instead — There’s 104 weeks in two years, so if you were to just lose just one pound per week (which is completely reasonable), then you’d lose the 100 pounds of the course of the next two years.

Now you’ve got a series of process goals to help you achieve your outcome goal — just focus on losing one pound each week.

But we can break it down even further.

How do you lose one pound per week?

By making sure you’re eating less calories than you burn each day.

So really, you just need to focus on eating at a calorie deficit each day — by doing so, those days being in a caloric deficit will result in one pound loss each week, and one pound lost each week will accumulate to 100 pounds lost over the next two years.

Boom. That’s how you break down a big scary outcome goal into much smaller, and more manageable process goals.

But Progress Isn’t Always Linear — Especially When It Comes To Weight Loss

You might not lose one pound every single week.

In theory, it should work — but that’s not the way it usually plays out in real life.

We don’t live in a vacuum — we’re human, not perfectly calculated robotic beings.

You might start out losing three pounds in the first week and two pounds in the second week — because of the way your body holds less water when you start feeding it less food.

But what happens when it’s your best friends birthday, the big fourth of july party weekend, or you close a huge contract at work and decide to celebrate with your co-workers?

Sure, there’s ways of making healthy decisions and sticking to your calorie deficit in these situations, but it doesn’t always happen.

Related: Ultimate Guide To Being Healthy In Social Situations

So maybe your friends birthday is the third week and you go out and have a few too many drinks and a couple extra slices of pizza.

As a result of falling off the wagon and letting your process goal get away from you, you end up gaining one pound back.

No big deal — just get right and get back to the process the next day.

Don’t Let The Lack Of Linear Progress Discourage Your Weight Loss Effort

There might be a period of three or four entire weeks in a row in which you follow the process perfectly. You’ve made sure to do all your workouts, and there isn’t a calorie out of place in your diet.

Yet, for some reason, the scale hasn’t budged in the last three consecutive weeks.

This is a completely realistic situation that could occur to anyone who’s in the middle of a weight loss journey.

Again, the way your body holds water weight will change as your weight decreases. There’s also factors such as how much food is in your stomach and intestinal tract as well.

For these reasons, it might appear that weight loss has stalled even though you stuck to the plan absolutely perfectly over the last three weeks.

This can absolutely crush your motivation to keep going.

Don’t let it.

Remember — progress isn’t linear.

If you stuck to the plan perfectly through the last three weeks but didn’t lose a single pound on the scale, you might see the scale drop four whole pounds on the fourth week.

Sometimes that’s just how it works — and it just goes to show how important it is to stick to the process with bull-headed persistence.

When it seems like you’re not making any progress, that’s the most important time to really buckle down and commit to the process even more.

When it seems like things aren’t working out, you’re getting discouraged, and thinking about quitting — absolutely do not.

More often than not, that just means you’re on the verge of a huge breakthrough — so it’s important to stay motivated and keep pushing.

Stay Motivated By Keeping Your Eye On The Prize

When it seems like the process isn’t getting you anywhere, when you’re thinking about giving up, remember why you started in the first place.

Remember how motivated you were when you first set out to achieve your goal of losing 100 pounds.

Let yourself feel that same motivation in this time of discouragement and remember that success is not far off.

Remind yourself that you really do want to lose that 100 pounds, but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen one week, or one day even, at a time.

Just stick to the process and let it take you down the path of success towards your outcome goal.

Outcome Goals & Process Goals are Both Crucial For Weight Loss

Both outcome goals and process goals are crucial for not only weight loss, but pretty much any other goal you have in life as well.

Whether it be opening a restaurant, losing weight, getting married — anything — there’s always a way to break your long term outcome goals into smaller, more manageable process goals.

By focusing on these short term process goals, you’ll make consistent progress and build confidence and momentum towards achieving your long term outcome goal.

That’s why I always preach that our habits define us.

Related: The Power Of Habit

If we focus on the process, and make the process a habit, we will eventually become so good at that habit that we inevitably find success.

So if you’re trying to lose 100 pounds, make it a habit of eating less calories than you burn. If you do this, you’ll lose 100 pounds — one day at a time.


Originally published at www.andrewschutt.com on December 19, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com

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