Show of hands, please: how many of you have set goals that sound something like this?
“I want to lose/gain X pounds by (insert arbitrary date here).”
Most of us, right? I mean, it seems like a good goal; it follows the rules: it’s specific, measurable, attainable (theoretically), realistic (I hope), and time-based.
Ok, one more show of hands: how many of you have set a goal like that and not followed through with it?
Most everyone again – yup, thought so. I am here to tell you that if you’ve ever set a goal like that and not followed through, it is not your fault! Not in the least. You just didn’t set the right goal.
“But coach,” you may be thinking, “I still want to lose/gain x lbs! That IS my goal!”
If that’s your ultimate goal, that’s cool – let’s make it happen. The big question is, though, what behaviours are you willing to change to get there? Because if we don’t talk about that, your goal is just a wish, and let’s face it – you don’t actually have control over the number on the scale.
Change What YOU Can Control
Let’s talk about what you CAN control. As far as weight management goes, there are three pieces to the puzzle that need to be in place for weight gain/loss to happen:
3. Rest and Recovery
All of these things are controllable, so let’s start our goal-setting there. For example, if you aren’t currently exercising at all, a good goal would be to spend one hour in the gym two times a week for the next six weeks. (Why not three? Because the goal needs to be easy – almost too easy. And remember, sometimes life gets so crazy that it’s hard to find time to take a shower…so even if it seems too easy now, in a couple of weeks it might not be. We want to set you up so that you can be successful even when the rest of life gets a little hairy). If you are currently exercising moderately and you want to step it up a notch, try adding one workout per week each month so that you have time to get used to the change.
Make Changes Slowly
What might this principle look like if we applied the idea of changing one small habit at a time to your diet plan (remembering, of course, that your ‘diet’ is just a word that describes what you eat; it’s not something that stops and starts)? Again, we want to find a behaviour-based goal that is easily implemented and will give you the most bang for your buck. I find that with my weight-loss clients, the first meal of the day is the easiest place to start making changes because there’s not much time to get distracted by the rest of life and it sets you up for success for the rest of the day. The most common pitfall at breakfast is not including a source of protein. Breakfast for most people usually consists of toast, cereal, baked goods, cereal bars, etc. So, if we can get a serving of eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or even peanut butter on whole-grain bread, into your breakfast, you will stay satisfied for longer, your body can keep building lean mass, you’ll have more energy, and you will EAT FEWER CALORIES FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.
In a nutshell, it’s changing your daily habits that make the number on the scale, or your reflection in the mirror, change. Losing or gaining ten pounds is a lovely idea…but the real goals are the ones that are based on your behaviour. If you set behaviour-based goals, and then do whatever you have to do consistently to achieve them, then fat loss/muscle gain will be a pleasant and inevitable side effect.