Recently one of my clients (we’ll call her “Jen”) asked me a critical question regarding what goal she should set for herself prior to her 40th birthday which was about 10 weeks away. There’s a lot of really important information to extract from this great question that is often misused in many arenas of our lives most of which are in the weight loss arena.
First, goals are an essential part of waking up and moving towards a personal vision that you create for yourself whether it pertains to your finances, key relationships, career endeavors, material aspirations or weight loss (I prefer “fat loss” by the way).
Goals should serve as the “juice” that lights your fire and keep you excited about being alive! The common mistakes I often see with goals is that they are 1) overly outcome driven and barely, if at all, process driven (more about that later), 2) they’re not specific enough (e.g. – “I want to lose weight”), 3) they’re not big and audacious enough which keeps your expectations of yourself way too low and your action steps too inconsistent, 4) they usually involve faulty metrics (i.e., weight loss vs. fat loss = the scale vs. your measuring tape, and 5) no accountability or time line is built into the goal so things rarely get done towards the goal.
In Jen’s case let’s talk about how she could set a goal that will lead to her ultimate goal. I encourage clients to focus on the “controllable” steps (process) first that actually take you towards your bigger goal. For example, the key elements of effective “weight loss” (remember I like “fat loss”) are: metabolic conditioning (what I recommend) + meal planning/prepping + daily execution of eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day + water drinking + adequate sleep + purposed de-stressing + accountability (do you have a coach or objective friend to hold you accountable?) and maintaining this regimen at least 90% of the time for however long it takes you to reach your goals. That’s it. That’s your process barring any known metabolic or other health issues although you’d do well to stick to this type of regimen for your health’s sake.
Armed with this information Jen can set her daily, weekly and monthly process goals. For example, she can commit to exercise for at least a ½ hour 6x’s per week, meal plan and prep every Sunday afternoon, eat 5 small meals daily, be sure that she has water on hand every moment of the day, check in with me or others in our support network every week to share her successes and ask for feedback if/when she gets stuck in some way and do this for a period of say, 10 weeks to see where she lands at the end of those 10 weeks.
Those are powerful process goals that most people overlook which is precisely where goals are actually achieved. Doing the small process stuff and managing the details of the process moment by moment have a funny way of making the ultimate goal come to life almost magically. It’s not glamorous work to say the least, but it’s the most rewarding feeling when you look up at the end of the day and you accomplish the action steps that take you closer to where you want to be.
People tend to forget the process, get distracted and then lament that they haven’t reached their goal. They then get depressed, beat themselves up and actually learn how to be helpless b/c their behaviors haven’t yielded the success they’re after. Diligently working on the “boring” details on a daily basis will yield the results you’re after. I’ve seen it time and time again.
Here are some important considerations to remember as it pertains to your weight loss goals: I prefer fat loss goals because when you engage in a metabolic conditioning program or any other form of resistance training, you may actually lose body fat & GAIN lean muscle mass along the way provided that you’re following the principles of effective fat loss. This is when I usually hear from clients after about 6 weeks, “I’m working so hard and doing everything right, but I’m still not losing any weight!” To which I reply, “Awesome! Congratulations!” Of course, they look at me like I’ve completely lost my mind.
I say congratulations because I know what’s going on and I know that positive changes are taking place. While they may be losing body fat, they’re also gaining lean muscle mass often at about the same rate which nullifies any noticeable movement on the bathroom scale. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds prior to training and after 6 weeks of consistent effort you lose 3 pounds of body fat and gain 2 pounds of lean muscle mass, the scale will seemingly laugh at you and show you’ve lost only 1 pound which obviously doesn’t reveal the entire story.
The common response is to get frustrated which leads to doubts about the process and yourself which then leads to pain in the form of depression and despair. You then want to throw in the towel and start complaining about having tried everything and not ever being able to lose “weight”, the worst gauge ever invented for fitness and fat loss! The downward spiral needlessly continues simply due to misinformation and lack of understanding of how to appreciate the process of body composition improvement over time.
You should know that the added benefit of resistance training is that as you develop more lean muscle mass, you’re increasing your body’s resting metabolic rate and therefore you’re burning more calories at rest. Something that wasn’t happening prior to your training program. Additionally, more muscle means you’ll be burning more fat because muscle is where fat is burned for energy use. The more muscle you have on board the more you burn at rest which is one of the most effective ways to regulate your metabolism.
When you focus or obsess about the scale or your body mass index, BMI (you know who you are) and neglect the more supportive indicators and measures of inches lost, how your clothes fit better, how you feel much better, how you sleep better, how you’ve recaptured your energy, how you move better, how you perform better in your activities of daily living and/or in your respective sport, how you’re mentally tougher, how you’re emotionally more resilient and the list goes on and on, you do yourself a HUGE disservice to the process and, in effect, get in your own way of success by refusing to redefine it and by allowing poor markers to define you.
Success is multidimensional as it pertains to your health and fitness and to focus on a silly scale in your bathroom or your BMI that tells you absolutely nothing about how you rock as a human being is an egregious waste of time. By the way, as of this morning I have a BMI of 26.9 which puts me in the category of being “overweight”. According to the BMI “measure of nonsense” I should weigh 150-155 lbs. for my height which tells me absolutely nothing about how much lean muscle mass I have, how strong I am, how fit I am, how athletic I am, how healthy I am or how much my wife and children adore me ! For the record I currently vacillate between 165-170 lbs., and I have done so since graduating from undergraduate school many years ago.
I wouldn’t want to weigh and probably couldn’t weigh 150 lbs. if my life depended on it no matter what chart or index says I should weigh that ridiculous amount. I’d be rail thin and totally unhealthy for my body type!
So, Jen, to answer your question, I’d recommend picking your waist measurement (measuring the smallest part of your torso) and a clothes size that you see yourself in on your big day of celebrating your life. I’ve seen many women safely drop 1-3 dress sizes in an 8- to 10-week time period given their daily commitment to the details of the process.