On Being Healthy: Setting Goals

It is a new year and with new years come resolutions. For many years, the most common NY resolution has been to change to a healthy lifestyle, either by losing weight, improving diet, or exercising. Goals without plans of execution are destined to fail. So no matter what your goal is, whether it is to lose weight, exercise, read more, make new friends, do a daily devotional, or find a new hobby, you must have a plan.

1.) Setting Realistic Goals

Goals must be attainable and realistic. When I counsel patients on obesity, they usually have some unrealistic expectation for weight loss. Women especially! (Women, just face the fact that you will not lose weight as fast as your male counterparts. God designed us to hold on to calories in order to continue the human race in the event of famine. So… if you get marooned on an island, you will out live your husband.)

  • So what is a realistic goal? For weight loss centered on lifestyle change, 2-4 pounds a month averaged over several months, for there will be plateaus and dips. For those wanting to read more, start with 1 book if you read 0 last year. If you read 10 last year, increase it to 12. For those wanting to improve diet, pick one thing you will REMOVE and one thing to ADD to your diet.
  • Start small. Accomplish the small goals. Count the victories. THEN improve upon those results. Did you lose 5 pounds in a month? Great! Lets do it again next month. Did you go 1 month without a soda? Great! Now see if you can go 1 month without soda and dessert. Did you get to your book goal by June? Awesome! Double it by December. No one was ever discouraged by meeting goals early, but I have seen many people set too lofty of goals and get discouraged and quit. You must know yourself. Do you have the will power to push yourself to lofty goals or do you need tiny victories to help encourage you along the way?

2.) Be specific.

Do not be vague with your goals. Don’t say “Lose Weight”, instead say “Lose 15 pounds by June”. Don’t say “Read more”, say “Read 5 books this year.” Don’t say “Exercise more”, say “Walk/run/swim/bike 3 times a week for 30 minutes.” Know exactly what you are striving for so that you can celebrate when you achieve that milestone.

3.) Making a Plan

So you set your goal… Now what? You need to come up with a way to get from point A to point B.

  • So you decided to lose weight. Are you going to do that by exercising? Dieting? Both? See below for further specifics.
  • You want to try to eat healthier. What are you going to do? Weight watchers? A fad diet? Paleo? Keto? Whole 30? South Beach? Does heart disease run in your family? Do you need to think about low fat/cholesterol diet plans? What about osteoporosis? Do you need to increase your dietary calcium?
  • You decided to exercise. What type of exercise do you think you will enjoy? When are you going to exercise? Where are you going to exercise? If it is outside, what is your indoor contingency plan?
  • You want to do a daily devotional or quiet time. Are you going to do a guided devotion plan on the Bible app? Are you going to use a Bible reading plan? Will you journal your findings and prayers? Will you do this in the morning or evening? How are you going to adjust your schedule to make time for this?
  • You want to find a new hobby. What are you going to try first? Do your friends have any hobbies you find appealing? What hobbies fit into your lifestyle- budget and time?

4.) Accomplishing the Goal

Celebrate! Do not be ashamed to tell your friends or family. Be proud of what you accomplished. That 5 pounds is great! That one book is a milestone! Walking 30 minutes 2 times a week is an improvement for you!
Do not compare yourself to others because that will rob you of joy or plant a seed of envy.

5.) In the Event of Failure

If you do not meet your goals, take time to reflect to see why you failed. Then alter your plan and try again!

  • You didn’t meet your weight loss goal… So did you cheat on your diet? Fail to stick to your exercise schedule? Did you have some health problems that hindered your ability to exercise? Did your metabolism come to a screeching halt because of menopause? Are you getting empty calories somewhere that you don’t realize? Are your portion sizes too big? Is your lifestyle to sedentary?
  • You didn’t reach your book goal… Did one book bog you down because it wasn’t enjoyable? Did you have a hard time finding time to sit down and read a physical book? Would it benefit you to start reading on a kindle book since you will always have it with you? (Waiting rooms and car pool lines are great for reading instead of browsing Facebook) or listening to audio books on your commute (mine is only 12 minutes and I listened to 60 audio books last year)?
  • You didn’t find a hobby… Did you make time to try several activities? Did you go with a friend? Did you give each activity more than one try? Sit back and reflect on what you truly enjoy. Do you like to be active, still, creative, indoors, outdoors, interactive, reflective? Have you considered things that are not traditionally considered hobbies? Vacation planning, tutoring, volunteering, meditation, yoga, trivia night, board games, wine/craft beer tasting, cooking, yard work/gardening.