Have you ever started something new in life, only to find that you never had any real intentions in the first place? Sometimes we add things to our already-busy schedules because we feel like we have to. This often happens with weight loss programs, as many people feel that they have to start a new program for the New Year. It doesn’t take long before people are comparing numbers and success stories, and you’re left feeling like you’re lagging far behind.

The best weight loss program is one that is fun, enjoyable and motivating, as this is what will keep you going strong. To achieve this goal, you’ll want to set your intentions beforehand. Be honest with yourself and consider what’s important to you. Instead of just saying that you want to lose weight, think of the specific factors that will make a difference in your life. Maybe you want to be able to participate in a marathon or hike a particular trail with a friend. Perhaps you want to take part in professional surfing lessons or join a kickboxing class. These are all intentions that will keep you fighting for progress.

For some, their intentions are more serious and focus on health-related factors. As we get older and our metabolisms slow, people are often faced with health conditions that are a direct result of not eating right and lack of exercise over the years. Your weight loss program may have intentions to lower your cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart attack. By defining your intentions early on, you’ll have more to work toward than just the same old adage of, “I want to lose weight”.

When you do have your purpose clearly defined, it’s important to build your weight loss program around these goals. For example, if you want to be able to participate in a 5K and raise money for cancer research, cardio workouts and fat-burning foods will help you reach your goal more than lifting weights and eating protein-rich foods. If you want to lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good, eating high fiber foods and exercising regularly will be most effective.

It’s also important that you don’t focus so much on the details of your weight loss program. Many people get wrapped up in how many calories they’ve eaten and burned for the day, as well as how much weight they’ve lost. This can be dangerous and actually cause you to fail in the long run.

Consider this example: During a steady weight loss program, you lowered your bad cholesterol and began eating a high-fiber diet. You are off to a great start and making a healthy difference in your future and longevity. However, since you only focused on losing pounds and fitting into your old jeans, you got deterred and quit the program. If you had stuck to your original intentions of lowering cholesterol, you would have kept with the program and continued to improve your health.

By focusing on the larger picture, you set yourself up for success. Everyone loses weight at different intervals and have individualized target weights. To help you keep on track, it’s a great idea to keep a log of your progress. Record the things you can do now that you couldn’t do before. Maybe you can run for 30 minutes at a time instead of 20. Perhaps you have the confidence to swim at the health club with your friends when you didn’t before. These are real examples of progress made and the practical intentions that help you get there.