Few things in life are more difficult to achieve than permanent weight loss. Setting goals for losing weight can be particularly effective if they include strategic or process goals that spell out how the weight loss will be accomplished. Permanent lifestyle changes are required and well-designed goals can help by motivating effort and persistence and by directing the formation of new habits necessary for the task.

There is no escape from the fact that it takes a combination of a low-calorie diet and increased physical activity to lose weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose a pound of fat. Calories measure the energy we get from food and the energy we expend in basic metabolism plus physical activity.

An adult’s daily calorie requirement is on the order of 2,000 or so calories, but varies by age, gender, weight, height and level of physical activity. People can visit MyPyramid Plan to assess their caloric needs from food and drink. Regular consumption of more calories than are expended leads to steady weight gain.

A safe rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week which equate to calorie deficits of 3,500 to 7,000 calories per week. A very realistic goal is to lose one pound per week by creating a 500-calorie deficit per day. Calorie deficit strategies or process goals might be to restrict daily intake of calories to 250 less than are needed and to expend 250 calories more per day through exercise.