Recently, my fellow Hollaback Health blogger and weight loss veteran Bridget posted “The Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss.”  In her post, Bridget recommended that those who are just starting out set big and small weight loss goals, and it made me think back to those early days, in May 2005. I had been a gym member for one week when I finally summoned the courage to weigh myself, and the needle finally stopped in the neighborhood of 309 pounds.

Weirdly enough, I did not think “I want to lose 25 pounds by this date” or “I want to drop this many sizes in this many months.” My goal was just to lose weight and become “thin,” although what I considered thin five years ago is drastically different than what I consider thin today.

My 22nd birthday party in 2006 — I wonder what this version of me would have considered “thin”

Within a few months and a few dropped dress sizes, I did have a goal, one that was entirely arbitrary: A size 8, because that is the largest single-digit size. I remember saying once that if I would be “happy” to end up a 10-12, but that my ultimate goal was an 8. Now, I would have to say that size 18 Ashley did not know what she was talking about, because I am a 10-12 and I am not satisfied.

I am not ashamed to say that some of my proudest moments of the last five years have happened in a dressing room. The last size goal I set — and met — was to be in a size 12 before my friend’s wedding in May 2009. I found one pair of size 12s that miraculously fit me before then, but I didn’t become a true 12 until a few months later.  Funnily enough, my mother won my pair of size 10 jeans in an online contest; they barely fit when she gave them to me in February but were wearable by the middle of March. I eagerly await the day they become too big. 

It was also in the summer of 2009 that I set another goal: To run a 5K race. My goal was to run the whole thing and not walk once, and I did it on Sept. 19, 2009. I’m hoping to run my first 10K just as well this fall, and after that, it’s on to the half marathon.

I can’t help but wonder if my weight loss journey would have gone differently if I’d set more mini-goals along the way. Perhaps I would have progressed faster, but I think it is more likely that I would have become really frustrated.

 The truth is that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, the scale will not reflect it, or the pair of pants you plucked off the clearance rack will just not fit. Maybe it’s water weight; maybe it’s the way the pants are cut. Instead of trying to measure all of my efforts by one number, one pair of pants, one moment in time, I have always tried to look at the big picture. If you are not where you want to be today, you just have to keep working and moving forward. It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.

I can, however, appreciate how mini-goals could help motivate someone when the big picture seems to be an insurmountable task. I love setting goals with my running and working toward them — adding a mile here, working on my speed at different distances.

What kind of goals do you set? Big? Small? Do you reward yourself?