Goal Setting- What do you REALLY want?

We all set goals. Some of us want to lose weight.  Some of us want to save money. Some of us want to start a new career.  Whatever your goal, the way you set it may be the key to achieving the desired outcome.

Problem #1: Only seeing the BIG picture

“Leigh Ann, I want to lose 50 pounds”

To my weight-loss focused clients, I often ask “What do you want to get from the PROCESS of losing weight?” and they look at me like “DUH, I want to get skinny.” Beyond fitting into an old pair of jeans, I like to have my clients list out some intentions for their weight loss process. Since a 50 pound weight loss could take up to a year, even with consistent work, it’s more motivating to set smaller, action-oriented goals along the way so we, as a team, aren’t just staring at the scale every week. Here are some examples:

On my way to a 50 lb. weight loss, I will:

  • Log my food honestly each day
  • Take at least 3 fitness classes each week
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Run my first 5k

Little accomplishments along the way lead to long-term motivation and a realization that ‘I want to lose 50 pounds’ also means ‘I want to become a healthier, more active person’.

Problem #2: All or nothing mentality

Often, clients come to me expecting that I’ll put them on a regimented diet and punish them if they eat an Oreo. That’s not my style.  In fact, a 2002 study by Stewart entitled “Rigid versus Flexible Dieting” showed that rigid dieting strategies are associated with symptoms of eating disorders and higher BMI in non-obese women.

Given the studies and my own experience, I’ve found that long term success comes from a MODERATE, CONSISTENT approach.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it until I retire – for every period of deprivation, there is an equal and opposite binge.  This is why I don’t advocate “dieting” – dieting, in the fad diet/magic shakes/pills/etc method is not maintainable for the long term and EVERY person I’ve ever known on one of these diets gained back all the weight and then some. Trust me, I was a fat kid.  Been there, done that.

I recommend that my weight-loss focused clients work within a calorie budget, but eat how they want to eat.  If they want pizza, they can have it – they just have to ‘budget’ their calories appropriately. Find something that works for you, and STICK TO IT.

Problem #3: Inflexible thinking

In the words of my father, there is more than one way to skin a cat. (Did I mention I’m from Shelby?) A common misconception among my clients is that running is the only way to lose weight. This is, interestingly, especially true of my clients who HATE RUNNING.

Much like dieting, if you want to stick to it, exercise should be something you enjoy. Huberty et. al. (2008) showed that enjoying exercise, and realizing how exercise improves quality of life, is a major motivating factor for exercise adherence. It doesn’t matter if it’s circuit training, indoor cycling, or joining a Zumba class – find something you like, and stick to it! Exercise doesn’t have to be torture to be productive.  If your goal is weight loss, all you need to do is burn calories.

It sounds to easy, doesn’t it?  Set little goals on your way to the big goal.  Eat what you like, but stay in a calorie budget.  Do exercise that you love and stick to it.  The approach is not as fancy as your Rachael Ray Show ‘diet of the month’.  I don’t make promises about losing 10 pounds in a week, Prevention Magazine style.  What I give you is science-based, moderate, and maintainable over a lifetime. Expect missteps. Expect set-backs. More importantly, with consistency, expect results that work with your body, not against it.

Leigh Ann Yeager, MS
INDY WEEKLY “Personal Trainer of the Year” 2012, 2014
Director of SYNCWELLNESS, Programming

Cycling – Yoga – Wellness
[p] (919) 572-7962
[e] la@syncstudio.net


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