Overall, Beeminder seems to work best for me when I track the end-all final indicator (in this case weight)…a lagging indicator. This is really to keep complexity down, and also allow me to be naturally creative in how I achieve that goal.
But when getting started, leading indicator goals have been useful – for me at different times, a total calories tracking (via myfitnesspal),so on a 3 month plan, I want to want to eat 1,900 calories a day. I might do a 1,900 * 90 = 171,000 calories road to stay under for those three months. That works better for me than daily goals as it allows for off days and such, by getting ahead of the curve.
If you’re willing to log it all, a net calorie goal from food - exercise = net calories (= weight change) would be the best. But after doing any of those for a few months, I’d rather just track weight. But that IMO is a personal thing if what you need for yourself. You might also want another goal that enforces actually logging or else you could easily fake your numbers by inaction.
Outside of Beeminder, something that sort of turns weight tracking into a leading indicator – and IMO a much better way to look at weight beyond your daily ups and downs is The Hackers Diet. And an excellent (and automatic, via Aria, and etc) tool to execute it is the free TrendWeight.com …it’s an amazing (and simple) perspective. And can tell you when things are going to go wrong well before they do…or let you not worry about one bad weigh-in. The body goes up/down/down/up/down/up/down/down…not down/down/down/down…when you measure on a daily basis…and this can be hard to deal with.
That’s also why I don’t usually retro-ratchet weight goals. If you plan is aggressive enough, short term gains can be followed by a flat period. (Assuming daily measurements, I also let myself delete increases after a downtick that would make me eep…I don’t see it as cheating as the road still goes down further and it only gives me a day or two to return to the track in addition to the still dropping road. Just keeps you from failing because you’re body decides to hold on to some water one day. ie. Makes you work even hard to stay on the road for a day or two.)