A few days ago, I shared that identifying my most likely times to sabotage myself was my first step towards becoming healthier. To recap, looking over the journal I created in the previous step, I learned that I wasn’t nearly as active as I thought I was. We ate out 4-5 times a week, which was stretching my budget and my waistline. I rarely ate if I was alone and was prone to late night snacking. Arming myself with that information prepared me to start some personal goal setting.
Identify Long-Term Goals
Goal 1 – Lose Weight
What should your goals be? The most basic one should address the weaknesses you pinpointed while journaling. Of course, losing weight is your ultimate goal, but what does it take to get there?
First, how much do you weigh now? What is your ideal weight range? No single magic number exists on a scale for any person. However, there are healthy weight ranges for your age, sex, and body type. I like WebMD’s Body and BMI Calculator. Whether you prefer to aim for a healthy BMI (body mass index), that calculator gives you both. Their calculator also shows you where you currently are in the scheme of things.
Summary: I needed to lose 55 pounds based on the latest relative medical advice.
Goal 2 – Get Healthier
Do you have health conditions that may be aggravated by carrying around a few extra pounds? If you don’t know what your numbers are, talk to your doctor or visit a wellness clinic. According to the American Heart Association, a healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. WebMD says that healthy fasting blood sugar levels are below 100. WebMD wrote a good article to help you understand your cholesterol numbers, but the latest advice is about the ratio of good and bad cholesterol.
Even as a 10-year vegetarian, I had high cholesterol. One of my not-so-astute doctors told me to lay off the sausage. I pointed out to him that I’m a vegetarian and switched doctors, but that’s a story for a different blog post. My blood pressure began a slow creep to the high side, as well. Thankfully, my blood sugar hasn’t also risen, despite a family history of diabetes.
Summary: I am blessed to have healthy blood sugar levels, but I was Hypertensive stage 2 (had high blood pressure) and high cholesterol. I needed to lower both.
Goal 3 – Get Stronger
Is your weight keeping you from doing things you normally could do?
As if my health falling apart wasn’t bad enough, I found that I couldn’t do the things I used to be able to do. I don’t mean riding a bicycle in a marathon (although it was keeping me from that, as well). I mean things that were eventually going to mean significantly restricting my daily care abilities. I had a difficult time reaching around behind me or bending over. While I do have a touch of arthritis, this was different.
Summary: I wanted to increase both my strength and flexibility.
Break Goal Setting Down
My long-term goals were unmistakable. I needed to:
- Lose 55 pounds.
- Lower my cholesterol and blood pressure
- Take steps to preserve and restore my physical capabilities.
Before I made the strong commitment to my healthy weight loss, I had no idea how much I should weigh. I shockingly discovered I needed to lose 55 pounds and felt immediately distressingly overwhelmed. Before I comforted myself with a bag of Sweet N Spicy Doritos and tub of sour cream in a fit of hopelessness, I decided to break it down into a series of goals – long term goals (which I had just set), mid-range goals, short-term goals, and daily goals.
Since monitoring glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol isn’t easily performed at home without equipment, I opted to just monitor my weight and fitness level.
Mid-Range Goal Setting
I knew that I wanted to be in the middle of that healthy weight range for me, but decided to make my first major goal the very top of that range. Next, I decided to break it up into 10-pound increments. Instead of seeing the year-long goal ahead of me, I would tell myself “Right now, I am focusing on this 10 pounds.” It actually helped. Some weeks, I felt so discouraged that I had to look at it as this half pound. However, since I had a small goal, I didn’t give up.
Short-Term Goal Setting
While I am not interested in riding in any more bicycle marathons, I would like to take care of myself without undoing obstacles. I didn’t want to need to rely on my sons to carry in heavy groceries. I wanted to be able to reach my toes to tie my shoes. I took a baseline measurement. How many sit ups could I do? How many push-ups? How long could I hold a plank position? How far could I bend over? The answers were none, none, I couldn’t, and I couldn’t reach below my knees.
My short-term goals? Increase the amount of each (sit-ups, push-ups, and planks) I could do on a weekly basis. I also determined to decrease my daily caloric intake and do physical exercise 5 days a week. If 5 days seems too much to you, choose something that you feel is doable. This is just my plan of attack and what worked for me in my healthy weight loss journey.
Make Your Goals Measurable
While goal setting is admirable, it’s meaningless if your goals aren’t measurable. You can’t measure the statement “I want to exercise more.” You can measure “I will exercise 3 days a week.” The more specific your goals, the better. For example, these were my goals:
- I will do my cardio workout routine 3 days a week.
- On two additional days, I will perform yoga or other strength/flexibility exercises.
- I will eat at or below my calorie target 5 days a week.
- 2 days a week, I can eat no more than 150 calories above my calorie target.
- I will increase the number of situps and pushups by 3 each week.
- I will accurately track what I eat every day.
Make a Plan of Attack
I knew that I couldn’t accurately remember everything that I had eaten throughout the day. In addition to monitoring caloric intake, I still wanted balanced nutrition. I signed up for a free account at MyFitnessPal (feel free to add me as a supportive friend if you like). I use their app to track my food intake and exercise. The app tells me how many calories I have left and how I am doing on nutrients, as well.
In a future blog post, I will cover the nuances of MyFitnessPal. You should also check out SparkPeople.com. Both of these websites boast a social community and great tracking tools. I just prefer the interface on MyFitnessPal’s Android app – but more on that later. Tracking my daily caloric intake helps me to stay at or below my target. I don’t know where I’d be without this website.
Eating alone is also an issue for me. I’m a social eater (which can also be an issue). I love eating late night snacks with my hubby. Tracking what I ate and when I ate helped me to ensure that I was eating – even if I was the only one in the house. I also learned to limit how much I ate for those late night snacks. I could have a few Doritos (or other salty snacks) instead of a whole bag and would not feel deprived. In goal setting, you also need to figure out what you absolutely aren’t willing to give up and decide how to fit that into your healthy lifestyle.
Cook more – eat out less!
I’ve never been known for my cooking skills, so I tried a home delivery service (Blue Apron – horrible experience). That didn’t work out so well. I eventually signed up for a meal planning service. I do all the grocery shopping, they just tell me what’s on the menu. I love CookSmarts and will be writing a future post on them as well.
If cooking isn’t an issue for you and you are good at meal planning, start with that. It’s just never been my forte. However, planning out meals and having healthy food on hand is paramount to good nutritional goal setting and a cornerstone to losing weight.
Find a physical activity that you love to do and stick with it. Notice small changes and successes to stay motivated. The first time I was able to reach all the way behind me, I was elated! I told everybody. Yes – it’s a small step, but it felt great to see (and feel) the progress.
Prepare for Imperfection
I have yet to meet anyone that is successful at this every day. In fact, as I was writing this blog post, I ended up missing one of my workout days. I saw a great irony in writing a blog post about motivation on a day that I just couldn’t find any.
Over the last year, I’ve learned that not every day will be perfect. Your reaction to a disrupted schedule is more important than the schedule itself. Get back up the next day (or the next meal) and continue like it didn’t happen. Allowing a small setback to completely sabotage all of your success is not worth the heartache. It’s really no big deal. Continue on. You will be glad you did.
Accountability in Goal Setting
Some people do well working with others. I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to weight loss. I tried to find a fitness pal or, as some people call it, an accountability buddy. However, I found that they usually gave up before I did. Discouraged that my partner gave up, I would go back to my unhealthy eating. This year, I did this on my own. I had encouragement. My best friend’s mom, Pat, gave kudos every time I logged a workout – but as far as being accountable to someone? I found that I had to be accountable to myself or it just wouldn’t work.
Reward your progress
Lastly, reward your progress with non-food rewards. I had 55 pounds to lose. Every time I lost 20 pounds, I needed new clothes. For me, shopping is a daunting task. I decided that when I lost 50 pounds, I would try one of those subscription box services. I’m expecting my very first StitchFix box this week. My little town isn’t exactly a fashion hub and I wanted something special. I will be sure to let you know what I think.
NOT having to shop for clothing and still getting new clothes? That’s rewarding for me. Find something you find rewarding that motivates you. Put aside a few dollars every week that you meet any of your goals. Take that money and spend it on something special, just for you, when you’ve met one of your mid- or long-range goals.
We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.