Losing weight and improving health requires a lot of work and sacrifice. Weight gain and lack of physical fitness doesn’t happen over night – it’s a gradual increase in weight and a gradual reduction in strength, endurance and flexibility. To counter these effects you need to identify ways to gradually decrease your weight and increase your physical abilities. Again, it’s not going to happen over night!
As a personal trainer I work with my clients to help them set weekly individual goals around diet, weight and exercise (depending on their long-term needs). The goals are specific and measurable and at the end of the week there is a definitive answer if those goals have been met.
I find the key to success in achieving both short and long-term goals is realistically evaluating the change based on the following criteria:
- Am I ready to make the change?
- How will this change impact my quality of life?
- Am I willing to make this a lifestyle change?
All change requires willpower. The key is to gauge your readiness for the change so you aren’t solely relying on willpower to accomplish your goals. Why? Because your willpower will fail you.
Think about it…we all know what the right choices are. Faced with the decision of a cupcake or a bowl of berries you know what’s the healthier choice. The same is true with exercise; you know that being physically active is a much better choice than living your life in a recliner.
Our willpower fails us because we allow excuses to override what we know is right. For instance, “I know I shouldn’t eat the cupcake but it’s my friends birthday and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” Or, “I know I should go for a bike ride but it’s been a really long day, I’m tired, it’s getting cloudy, I need to air up my tire, I’m not sure where my bike helmet is…”
Take the pressure off your ability to battle your own excuses and choose goals that you are ready to achieve.
Quality of Life
It’s also important to consider how working towards a particular goal will affect your overall quality of life.
Let’s say your exercise goal is to workout for 45 minutes 5 days a week and 60 minutes 1 day a week. Decide in advance what current ‘activity’ you are willing to sacrifice and how it ultimately impacts your desired quality of life. Will you wake up early or does getting up before 7 am make you cranky and tired for the rest of the day? Will you go to the gym after work or is that the time you normally spend with your children?
The purpose in setting goals is to improve your quality of life so don’t set a goal that steals your happiness and enjoyment in life.
Lifestyle Changes vs. Quick Fixes
Reaching your goals is only half the battle. It takes just as much (if not more) work to maintain weight loss and physical fitness over time. Quick fixes may contribute to achieving your goals but they aren’t a realistic long-term solution because none of them really require behavior modification.
Think about it this way…most people who go on an extreme diet or exercise plan usually have a set number of days associated with that plan and have no plan for maintaining it once the program is over. For instance, if your method for losing weight is to drink two shakes a day as meal replacement you may achieve your weight loss goals. However, to sustain that loss are you willing to drink two shakes a day for the majority of days for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss? I’d guess most people would not be willing to do that.
Take some time to think beyond reaching the immediate goal and evaluate if the changes you are making are sustainable over weeks and months to come.
You’ll find that long-term success is built on a solid foundation of small victories all along the way. Start out simple and give yourself a chance to succeed. Each time you achieve a goal you become more confident in your ability to achieve bigger and better.