For Americans, it’s one of the most common priorities: losing weight. About half of all adults in the United States say they’re trying to lose weight. And many of us try: We try out a new diet or develop a new meal plan, hit the gym, and hope for the best. But conquering an appetite isn’t easy, and changing a lifestyle is tougher still. If you’re still struggling, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to ask yourself if you’re going to reach your goal weight.

Why are you losing weight?

Losing weight is something a lot of people want to do, but it shouldn’t be an end to itself. To keep a smart perspective and ensure that our weight loss program is healthy, we need to keep our real goals in line. Don’t lose weight because you feel ashamed or hate the way you look — instead, choose to lose it in order to be healthier and happier.

There are many great reasons to lose weight. Excessive weight gain can be extremely unhealthy. It has all kinds of serious side effects, including a heightened risk of diseases like heart disease. Focus on the positives, like the healthy life you’ll gain, the energy you’ll have, and the new things you’ll be able to do when you’re slimmer. Use the carrot to lose weight, not the proverbial stick.

What makes a smart weight loss goal?

If your goal is to lose weight, you’ve got something in common with huge numbers of your neighbors here in the United States. But what you don’t have is a sensible weight loss goal. If you want to keep up your momentum and achieve real weight loss, you’ll need to come up with a better goal.

A better weight loss goal will be specific. It will afford you enough time to lose a reasonable amount of weight, and it will give you easy ways to measure your success. Don’t aim to fit into a swimsuit, because that’s not specific and measurable enough. Don’t aim to drop hundreds of pounds in months; that’s impossible and unhealthy. Work with experts and develop smart goals based on medical advice.

Big Strategies, Small Tactics

Weight loss goals should be small and specific. But your general weight loss strategy and meal plan doesn’t need to be as detailed as you might think. What you need is a big-picture strategy. You need a general sense of what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. You need to understand the value of exercise and other healthy habits.

One great big-picture strategy is to invest in a hobby. Adult golf clinics, for example, accept players in a wide range of body types. Maybe a trip to the golf course would help you see that the game of golf is for you. If it is, one clinic or a few group lessons could turn into a private lesson — or several private lessons — and then into regular trips to the course. Once your golf habit is in full swing, you may find that working on your short game helps make your workouts feel shorter. Work with a great instructor (look for PGA professionals, if you can), grab some gear at the golf shop, and make your next hobby a healthy one. Of course, it doesn’t have to be golf: As long as its healthy, any hobby will do.

Big strategies make a great way to get a sense of direction in your weight loss program. But don’t neglect the small-scale tactics that you’ll need in order to stick to your goals. Tricks like eating foods with low-calorie densities can help you keep your appetite at bay, and figuring out which healthy snack you like most will give you a much-needed weight loss tool.

Medical Priorities and Professional Support

Losing weight isn’t something you should try to do alone. You should work with a medical professional. Your doctor needs to know if you’re trying to lose weight so that you can stay on top of any medical conditions that might arise. Furthermore, you may want to consider working with the weight experts at your local weight loss clinic. Ask yourself: What’s the best weight loss clinic near me? Make the decision to show up and sign up for a weight loss program, and start changing your life.

Medical weight loss programs can be extremely effective, because they help you bring together a smart strategy, form specific goals, and map out meal plans. Adult clinics that specialize in weight loss can help you with prescription medications, including appetite suppressants. This won’t make things easy, but it will help!

So be smart: Get help, and don’t do this alone. A medical weight loss clinic with a proven weight loss program could be just what you need in order to finally reach your biggest goals.