We're slowly creeping into Spring here in Michigan. Most New Years' resolutions likely long-forgotten at this point, I find that this time of year tends to bring out a renewed sense of vigor and enthusiasm in people. We get all antsy in our pantsy. Nothin like some teaser days of warm weather and good ol' Vitamin D to make you feel like you've been bitten by that motivation bug again!
But as we've talked about before, the feeling of motivation is fleeting - you can't rely on a mood to reach your goals. And even setting goals alone is not going to serve you well enough to actually achieve what you're after. So what DOES work??
Let's break it down!
I'm going to help set you up for success by walking you through some steps YOU can take to reach your goals, whether they're in fitness, nutrition, or life! Let's use the simple and common goal of "eating better". An awesome goal that lots of us have! However, it's also super vague, aaaaaand how the heck do you make it happen?? Follow me! Here we go...
Start with writing down the goal itself. Put it on paper. Let's see it! YOU need to see it. Get it out of your mind's eye and on its way to reality. Maybe you have multiple goals. Do them one at a time.
GOAL: I want to eat better.
Great goal! Love it. But most people look at that and think, "Okay, now what...?" And then nothing happens. So...
Give your goal a "why". Why is this goal important to you? What are you trying to accomplish? If your "why" is weak or you don't know what you're working towards, you're more likely to lose focus and peter out.
WHY: So that I can feel better, look better, and have more energy.
Almost there...now do it again. Chances are, the first time you think about your "why", you won't go deep enough. When you have a strong "why", you attach more parts of your life to your goal. It becomes emotional. Personal. It permeates through different levels of your daily norm and as a result, you'll be thinking of it more often, which, in turn, means you have the potential to be working on it more often.
WHY: So that I can feel better, because I currently feel anxious and depressed too often; so that I can look better, because I feel uncomfortable in my clothes and I'd like to be confident in my bathing suit at our family reunion this summer; and have more energy because I currently get winded going up stairs and find it difficult to play with my kids.
Better! Anything deeper than that you should probably take up with your therapist anyway. ;) I jest, I jest.... Next!
Give your "why" a "what". Be more specific. What are you currently doing that's not working? What is it that needs to change? What will you do to improve it? Identify that, and then refrase it to give yourself another step in your plan.
WHAT: I currently eat out too often, eat too much, and probaby the wrong things. I will eat better by focusing on eating more protein, getting more vegetables in each day, drinking my water, and watching my portion sizes.
Almost there again...dig deeper. The more specific you can be, the better. (Also, that was a lot of stuff!! All great stuff. But a lot. You can and should write all that down! But to increase your chances at success, focus on only one or two things each week until your new habits become second nature before moving on to the next thing.)
WHAT: I eat out too often so I'll cut that down to twice during the week and once on weekends. I will use a combo of the "hand method" and "plate method" to watch my portion sizes. I will focus on eating better things by making sure I get a "palm" of lean protein at each of my main meals, get more veggies by filling half my plate with them three times a day, and drinking Xoz of water each day (based on your body/activity level).
Boom! Awesome. Now we have some clear steps to take. Specific things that are tangible, measurable, trackable. And these are just examples! Find what works for YOU when setting your goals and breaking it down.
Give your "what" a "how". Now lay out "how" you're going to achieve those "whats". How will you be successful? What will work for YOU so you can set yourself up for success and be consistent?
HOW: I will eat in more often by planning meals with the family on Sundays and grocery shopping every Monday. I will print off the "hand method" and "plate method" (infographics credit: Precision Nutrition) for portion sizing and tape them to my fridge. I will serve myself on a smaller plate and make myself wait 15 minutes if I feel like I want seconds. I will buy myself a really cool new water bottle and set alarms in my phone to drink 8 oz. throughout the day.
Excellent! More very specific, manageable changes within your control with which you can start to build good habits. Next step...
Identify your hurdles and prepare to deal with them. What are your downfalls? What usually trips you up when you try to eat better? Be brutally honest with yourself. And address the situation in your mind before it happens so you have a game plan of how you'll leap frog right over that issue. Let's do some examples together:
HURDLE 1: Nothing in the house to eat so we order in/go out.
SOLUTION: We already covered this one, Rockstar! You're going to plan your meals as best you can for the week and start getting in the habit of keeping healthy groceries on hand with planned weekly grocery trips.
HURDLE 2: I don't know what to do at restaurants/family functions/parties, etc.
SOLUTION: Again, most hurdles on this subject will come down to preparation. Eat a small, healthy meal before you go out. When you're not starving, you'll make better choices and be less likely to "hungry hungry hippo" the entire buffet table at Johnny's graduation party. If you're going to a restaurant, look up the menu the night before right after dinner (note the reoccuring theme here of full belly=clear head for making good choices!) and pick exactly what you're going to eat.
HURDLE 3: My _____ (insert well-meaning or maybe even flat out sabotaging friend or family member name here)___ always gives me a hard time when I try to eat better which makes give in.
SOLUTION 3: This one's trickier. One question I always ask potential new clients is, "Do those you live with know about your goals and do they support you?" or (if you live alone), "Do you have a good support circle and have you discussed your goals with them?" To be blatently honest, I've seen friends lost before over lifestyle changes. So we don't hijack this post by getting too deep into that subject, let's just leave it at -- sometimes we outgrow friends/family/certain social circles for a reason. SOLUTION 3 CONT.: Have a conversation. It's not always easy. But make sure you are open and clear with your loved ones about what you're trying to do and why. More often than not, I've seen one person (YOU!) start a full trend in their family for the better. It's awesome! Just needs one brave someone to take the first step.
GIve yourself a timeline AND assess as you progress. Sometimes knowing that you only have to do a thing for a specific amount of time keeps you focused and makes the thing seem more doable. Some nutrition-related habits are great to work on for a week. Some, maybe a month. And this is not to say you stop the habit after that time. It's just to break things down into manageable parts and allows for easy reassesment as you progress. Which brings us to part two of this step...
Regardless of exactly what goal you're working on or what timeframe you set for it, it's always a good idea to re-evaluate every now and then. If the habits are sticking and things are moving forward toward your goal - awesome! Keep it up!! If it's not, look back through your process and see what's giving you trouble. Self-assess as you move forward to make sure what you're doing is working.
Who's ready?!? What goals do YOU have? Which one will you start with? Let's GO! I know trying to reach a new goal can seem incredibly daunting sometimes. New habits are hard because they are new! But when you have a plan of attack, and break things down into manageable steps within your control, it becomes far easier to achieve what you've set out to do. I really hope that this helped you break down the process a bit so you can start knocking out the dreams YOU have in your life. Feel free to message me if you need help, guys! I am always glad to chat with advice, or just to share experiences. Thanks for stopping by. Be well!
Cassandra R. Bradin is a certified personal trainer who is passionate about the essential idea of longevity in training, creating programs that enhance function, mobility, strength and internal well-being. She specializes in weight loss, Olympic weightlifting, nutrition, and fitness for seniors. With a full-time career in fitness, when she's not working with clients in her studio or coaching, Cassandra enjoys spending time on her mini farm in Oakland, MI.