Slow and Steady Achieves the Goal!

Written by Zoe Carr, ACSM-EP

As winter fades and spring starts peaking its head, I see many people with big goals for establishing a healthier lifestyle. Goals that usually involve lofty workout plans and intense, restrictive diets. In my experience throughout the years, I’ve seen people get disappointed in themselves far too often and give up. I started teaching that slow, small, but consistent changes are really the key to achieving and maintaining success.

There are two different types of goals; behavioral or outcome goals. Outcome goals tend to be broad and have the potential for disappointment. Goals like,

“I want to lose 50 pounds.”

“I want to fit into my old jeans again.”

“I want a six pack!”

Behavioral goals are the goals I want to get people to set for themselves. This type of

goal setting is more realistic, and you can easily tell if you are achieving them. These goals might sound something like;

“I want to move in some way every other day for 20 minutes.”

“I would like to start eating a cup of vegetables with 2 out of 3 of my meals.”

“I would like to put down my phone an hour before bed so I can get more restful sleep.”

“I want to start a routine at night where I set out my clothes for the next day so I feel less rushed in the mornings and not feel frazzled by the time I get to work.”

There is no rush in achieving these behavioral changes all at once. I know you want to get where you want to be as soon as possible, but you didn’t get to the point of wanting to change overnight. You shouldn’t expect to change overnight either. I would start with the easiest change to achieve for you in your life situation. If you don’t like vegetables, I probably wouldn’t start with that change right off the bat. Pick one that is realistic for you. Some people might be able to wake up early and workout in before work but you may never be a morning person. You realistically would be able to get a workout after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays at home. That is a perfect movement goal. Work on making those two days a week a habit.

Once you have mastered one goal, you can pick one that might be more challenging, such as trying a new vegetable and see how that goes. Remember, life is a journey and change isn’t easy. I have noticed that as you keep achieving small goals, your confidence will grow!

A very small change that really made a difference in my own journey to overall health was to be more mindful about how I was eating. Not even changing what I was eating yet. The only goal I made was to put my fork down in between bites, eat slowly, and enjoy my food. I noticed I didn’t put down my fork because I was distracted by my cell phone. So I stopped looking at my phone during dinner. When I noticed that I still ate too quickly it was because I was so hungry after work and I would overeat at dinner. After that realization, my next goal was to plan to bring more snacks to have throughout the day. So as you can see, these behavioral changes and awareness can lead to other changes you can make. You may even find that the root of your problem is something different than what you expected!

One mentality that I really try to help my clients change in their life is “guilt.” If someone has been getting lax in one of their goals, I try to ask them why it happened. I don’t believe that guilt is a motivating emotion. Understanding why a certain choice was made, so the next time something happens, you have control to be able to fix it if you want to. Have you ever had the thought of “I just don’t feel like going to the gym today, but if I don’t, I’ll feel so disappointed in myself”? Ask yourself, why don’t I want to go to the gym? Are you tired? Is there something at home that needs your attention more than the gym? These are valid reasons. I would hope that asking questions would give you the power to decide what is an excuse or a valid reason, and be confident in that choice.

Maybe one of your behavioral changes needs to be adjusted. I had this exact feeling before I realized that adding another gym day each week wasn’t going to work for me in my life at that time. Instead of going five times a week to the gym, I needed to pull it back to 4 or 3 days, depending on the week. That change alone gave me more freedom and balance to be able to take care of home responsibilities and myself and be excited to do both. It was an amazing feeling. Remember, working out is my career, hobby, and passion and I still can’t maintain a “perfect” attendance record.

I want to say again that I think people have to understand at the end of the day, that wellness is a journey. There really isn’t a destination. There is a joke by the comedian Jim Gaffigan about going to the gym, seeing fit people working out, and asking the question, “Why are you even here? You’re done!” And we all know that this is a joke but since I’m on my soapbox, I’m going to make a point; you will never be done. Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to your wellness journey and “off” weeks here and there aren’t going to derail you if you know that you will be able to return to your sustainable routines that you have created for yourself.

The whole point of life is to be lived and adjust from there. I will never forget one of my first clients would work extremely hard in the gym. Whenever she went on vacation, she would spend most of her time working out and feeling guilty about indulging so much that she forgot to enjoy her vacation! Vacations, holidays, parties, life changes, and schedule changes shouldn’t be scary, they should make you feel confident in the fact you know that you are going to make great conscious choices for yourself no matter what shifts in your life. Then when the change is over you’ll be right back to your established routine or you can adjust to a new normal. You are ultimately making all these healthy lifestyles changes for these “life” moments. Go out and live them!

Zoe Carr, HFS, is a certified health fitness specialist with Mount Nittany Health Fit for Play.