The Fitness Zone

The importance of tracking progress and setting realistic goals for weight loss

Jun 07, 2023 | by Lahnee Castro

People have been discovering the value of goal setting for dramatically increasing the performance of individuals, teams, and company margins for over fifty years. With so many failed attempts, the goal setting theory appears to be one of the most popular motivation theories that has stood the test of time. Goal-setting and tracking a particular goal can help to:

  • Clarify ideas
  • Determine the focus of efforts
  • Understand the efficient use of time and resources
  • Increase the likelihood of attaining the most critical objectives

While many business or personal goals seem similar in terms of establishing what the goal is, creating timelines, tracking progress and implementing ongoing coaching and support, there are so many factors that will contribute along the way for accomplishments to be made. Firstly, we need to begin with what the goal-setting theory is. 

The beginning: What is goal-setting theory?

Goal-setting theory was developed by Edwin A. Locke, an American psychologist who pioneered goal-setting research with the publication of the article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives” in 1968. His organisational psychology theory explored the relationship between goals and task performance, bringing into focus the notion that hard, specific goals inspire a higher level of performance than easy goals with a “try” or “when you can” approach. Before applying this to weight loss, it’s fundamental to understand that the goal-setting theory works by defining what type of goal will drive motivation performance before setting up the steps to take to track it. 

What is the difference between setting a goal and tracking a goal?

Goal-setting can be extremely effective in helping oneself look into the future, deciding the results to aspire for and making a plan to get there. With clearly defined goals and incentivising or rewarding yourself along the way, you will be more likely to set and reach those individual goals. Yes, there can be more than one goal being worked on throughout work, life, study and weight loss. Furthermore, the same principles can be used for an opposing goal like weight gain, so setting and tracking goals go hand in hand but they are not the same.

Tracking a goal helps you follow through with the plan and maintain motivation until you see the results you want. Having constant visibility of the key results, milestones, tools or strategies planned for any variances all contribute to always knowing whether your goals are on track or at risk, and you can make adjustments as needed. With applying the right principles from the goal-setting theory, you can stay aligned with what you are working towards.

The middle: What are the main principles to apply to a goal?

In order for a goal to be challenging yet attainable, understanding Locke’s principles of the goal-setting theory plays a huge part. You might already be familiar with the concept of SMART goals; the idea that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely which is the application of the principles put into practice. However, there is more to it than that, and the five determining factors include:

1. Clarity

A clear goal is one that can be quantified and provides no opportunity for ambiguity. The more clarity there is when setting a goal with/for exercise, the less of a chance there is for misunderstanding. This then leads to higher levels of success. To put it closely with the SMART goal: effective goals are both clear goals and specific goals.

Clear goal for weight loss: ‘‘I want to lose 5 kilograms in 6 months time with healthy nutrition choices and a weekly exercise plan.’’

Unclear goal for weight loss: ‘‘I want to lose weight this year.’’

2. Challenge

How difficult the goal created is tied into the effectiveness. When the overall goal presents a challenge to reach, it leads to a higher level of commitment and motivation which can lead to a higher chance of success. To put it closely with the SMART goal: a goal should be achievable but it should have an element of stretching you further outside of your comfort zone.

3. Commitment

Needing a higher level of commitment can seem obvious but in order to attain your goal objectives, you must be completely devoted to them. This dedication will keep you going when you face setbacks along the way. If the sense of commitment is not apparent within the goal you could be less likely to have the follow-through necessary to succeed. 

4. Feedback

In addition to determining the goal and having measures of success, there is also the importance of regular reflection of your progress to determine how well you are doing. Staying on track and keeping motivated is encompassed in ensuring that your goals are still realistic and relevant. Making milestones part of your goal-setting plan is a fantastic idea, plus it can take some of the self-judgement away. Pausing and reflecting whenever you reach one of these milestones is one aspect, but feedback doesn’t necessarily have to come just from you and it can be from other people.

It’s also helpful to check in regularly with how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, do you need to adjust your target weight loss/goal or your timeline? An approach to this can be to divide the aim into smaller, more manageable subtasks.

5. Task complexity

If a goal appears excessively complicated or burdensome, it can have a detrimental effect on motivation. Instead, like the feedback approach, you should divide significant goals into smaller, more feasible tasks. As you accomplish each small task, it will provide a surge of motivation. That rush of Endorphins that can help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being will assist in working towards the larger goal.

The Benefits of Tracking Progress for weight loss and overall health

It is often overestimated how frequently we do things, but tracking reduces this weakness. When tracking goals, there are only the facts – not any personal opinions. You will be surprised how much fun tracking goals can be. When first starting, it can seem like a necessary chore to keep yourself in line. However, if you continue consistently you can find the process of tracking and seeing the progress such a powerful tool to apply again to so many areas of life.

Additional benefits to goal tracking include:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • It helps you identify roadblocks
  • The chance to make adjustments
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Increased satisfaction and likelihood to reach and surpass the goal

For those who regularly log and track their progress, they may not require convincing why they should do so but for anyone starting out with a goal they should know the ‘WHY’ of two key aspects relating to the goal.

  1. Why is it important to achieve the goal?
  2. Why will tracking the progress keep me accountable?

So how do you track your progress? There are so many different ways these days that you can do this.

Different Ways to Track Progress

Without touching on personal experiences, there are similar ways that all humans typically track their progress in various areas of their own lives. 

Here are some common methods people use to track their progress:

Goal Setting: Setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can help individuals track their progress. They can regularly review their goals and assess how close they are to achieving them.

See a handy tool HERE for practising SMART Goal Setting.

Journals and Diaries: Maintaining a journal or diary allows individuals to reflect on their daily activities, accomplishments, and areas for improvement. It provides a written record that can be revisited to track progress over time.

There are an abundance of Fitness Journal options out there from websites like Amazon, Kmart/Big W and leading Bookstores. 

Tracking Apps and Software: There are numerous apps and software available that help track progress in various areas like fitness, finance, habits, and personal goals. These tools often provide visual representations, reminders, and statistics to monitor progress.

When thinking about setting realistic goals for weight loss some popular fitness/health related apps that stand out are:

  • 8fit Workout & Meal Planner
  • Aaptiv
  • Apple Fitness
  • ClassPass
  • Daily Burn
  • Daily yoga
  • Fitbit
  • FitNotes – Gym Workout Log
  • FitOn Workouts & Fitness Plans
  • Fooducate
  • Freeletics
  • Google Fit
  • Gym Workout Plan & Log Tracker
  • Headspace
  • Home workout
  • Map My Fitness Workout Trainer
  • Map My Run by Under Armour
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Nike Training Club
  • Peloton
  • Runkeeper
  • Sleep cycle
  • Strava
  • Sworkit – Custom Workouts for Exercise & Fitness
  • Yoga daily fitness

Metrics and Measurements: Depending on the specific area of progress, people may track metrics and measurements. For example, in fitness, individuals might measure body weight, body fat percentage, or the number of repetitions performed in a workout.

It’s fantastic to have a starting point but other measures can include fitness challenges, in-house competitions in a gym, body scans, photos, assessments, and the list goes on. Check your health cover too as you might be eligible for a scan with little or no cost.

Feedback and Evaluation: Seeking feedback from others, such as mentors, coaches, or supervisors, can provide valuable insights on progress. Evaluations and assessments, both self-assessments and formal evaluations, can also be helpful.

Be proud of yourself. One of the primary goals of the self-evaluation is to showcase your successes and recall key moments in your professional progress. Being truthful but not critical of yourself makes you feel like even small steps have contributed to a difference while you strive for continuous improvement.

Progress Photos or Videos: Taking periodic photos or videos of a project, physical transformation, or skill development can visually capture progress. By comparing these visuals over time, individuals can see how far they have come.

Reflection and Self-Assessment: Regularly taking time to reflect on personal growth, skills acquired, and lessons learned can help individuals track their progress internally. Self-assessment can provide insights into strengths and areas that need improvement.

It’s important to note that the methods used to track progress may vary depending on individual preferences and the specific goals or areas being tracked. Some people may use a combination of these methods or explore other personalised approaches. While some people love to track every single workout, all results and all food consumed, others may just want to get it done and go by how they feel, which is OK. With the constant change in technology in the fitness industry, tracking progress has become easier however you want to ensure that it benefits your training.

The end: Wait, there is no end!

To stay healthy, the primary goal of weight loss is frequently combined with a very active lifestyle. There can be no true development unless prior changes are examined, goals are set up and physical training is no exception. Tracking changes in one’s general fitness level has only positive outcomes, the most crucial of which is surely speedier growth. Constantly evaluating your progress will result in considerably better results – and isn’t that what is the overall goal all along? Applying the principles of goal setting to all facets of life will be helpful. 

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, share your vision for the goal with positive like-minded people who will give you feedback!

My goal to share with you all: I want to learn to play the Iconic song Adele – ‘Someone Like You’ on piano by the end of June 2023. 


  • Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2019). The development of goal setting theory: A half century retrospective. Pages 93–105.
  • Hollenbeck, J. R., & Klein, H. J. (1987). Goal commitment and the goal-setting process: Problems, prospects, and proposals for future research. Journal of Applied Psychology 
Lahnee Castro

Lahnee Castro

After graduating from the AIF over 10 years ago, Lahnee began her fitness industry career conducting membership consulting in a gym. Setting her sights on personal training, she started training clients and instructing classes with Fernwood Health Clubs. Moving into management gave Lahnee a great insight into the daily operations of clubs, and she has applied this experience to her work in a number of facilities, including Healthworks and Fitness First locations. With boundless energy and enthusiasm, Lahnee has been helping online students complete their studies in fitness, business and nutrition for the past 5 years.

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