Earlier this month, my family lost our grandfather to liver cancer. It was a fast and unfortunate tragedy, but one that brought my family closer together and closer to God. I love my family immensely and until this, we have been so fortunate not to have any other major fatalities or illnesses. Each time I went to the doctor when I was younger, I considered myself very blessed and lucky to have impeccable genetics, not having to check any of the boxes under "family illnesses" on the background questionaire. Going to see my grandfather suffer from such a widespread and ever increasing illness made me realize one thing - nobody is exempt from disease, no matter how "perfect" your genetics are. We all have the right to live long, healthy lives...and setting health goals puts us on the path to exude the happiness ensued from living a healthy lifestyle. Goals concerning health can be tricky and hard to make, focusing only on how much you want to weigh or putting up a picture of someone who has a totally different body type than yourself and saying "this is what I want to look like". These goals often leave us feeling depressed, hungry, and usually less healthy than when we started. So here are a few tips in setting health goals that will actually strengthen you, motivate you, and sustain you!
While our goals need to be motivating, they need to be realistic. Goals like "losing 10 pounds in a month" may be motivating, but may not necessarily be realistic. So what are realistic goals? Think of things you have control over every day. Start with those simple things. Can you go for a walk or run for 15 minutes in the morning? Can you park a little farther away from the grocery store and maybe carry in an extra bag when you take the groceries inside? Setting goals where you can track your progress and see results will not only motivate you to keep going, but will help you realize the power you hold in setting and achieving goals. As you set these small, daily goals, these decisions and actions will transform into habits. Before you know it, it will not even require mental effort or strain to do this, but will be a part of who you are and feel natural, easy, and even fun.
Health goals should constantly be reevaluated and changing. A few months ago, I set a big goal to lose 10 pounds. In order to achieve this goal, I started with small goals that put me on that path. For me, I knew diet was my biggest fall-back. So I set a goal to just simply record everything I ate each day. I didn't set a goal to change my diet, because I wasn't ready for that, and I didn't necessarily know what needed to be changed. As I just recorded what I ate, it made me realize a lot of my weaknesses and gave me the mental preparation to change. Each week, or couple of weeks, I have reevaluated what I was doing and how that was working to get me to my larger goal. After recording everything I ate for two weeks, I then planned my meals - everything I was going to eat - for the next week. I planned 5 meals a day, with extra healthy "snacks" in case I got hungry. Knowing when I would eat and what I would eat put my body at ease and helped me not to binge eat...ever. It was incredible. I allowed myself one cheat meal in the week as well. I continued to do this for a few more weeks until binge eating was no longer a habit, and my body relied on those healthy, sustainable meals. Since then, I have not had to plan every meal of every day, but have a rough idea of what I will eat each day. Since our bodies and fitness levels are constantly changing, so should our goals be changing constantly as well.
In addition, we should always focus on positive things when setting health goals - what you want to eat every day, instead what you cannot eat. Set goals of how many servings of vegetables you want to eat every day, instead of saying "I can't eat chocolate this week". If eating sweets is where your weak spot is, set a goal to eat a serving of vegetables, or drink a glass of water before you eat those sweets. You may find your appetite decreases and you do not have as great of a desire to indulge as much as you normally would! This can serve as a stepping stone to that healthier, fitter you.
The way to a healthy lifestyle is not an overnight change, nor is it something that you do only for a month, or 100 days. It is a series of small changes added up to make up your lifestyle and destiny. Setting motivating and realistic goals, constantly revising and changing those goals, and focusing on the positives will allow you to change into the person and see the results you may have never thought possible. As Shawn Achor says in his book The Happiness Advantage, "Happiness is not the belief that we don't need to change; it's the realization that we can."
**Disclaimer!! Sorry I haven't written in a couple weeks...I GOT A PUPPY!! It was a lot more work than I thought and I haven't had time for much else. I pretty much have down a good schedule for him though, so I should be able to find some more time to write!