For the past few years I’ve wanted to eat healthier, lose weight, tone up, etc. but I’ve always managed to get set back. This time, I’m doing it differently. My most lasting behavior changes come when I focus on one thing and have structure- this year I accomplished a 17 day exercise streak. For a recovering couch potato, that’s a big deal! I’ve also done a lot of research on fitness and nutrition. I’ve found the following takeaways:
1. Goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART), or else they’re just wishes.
2. It takes a MINIMUM of 21 days to form a habit. On average it takes 66 days.
3. Weight loss isn’t just about the quantity of calories consumed, but the quality (i.e., 100 calories of cake =/= 100 calories of broccoli).
4. Body type determines how easily you’ll lose weight, where you deposit fat, and what type of workout is most effective. Cardio alone doesn’t work for everyone, but strength training helps almost all female body types shed pounds.
5. Macronutrient ratios are important because everyone metabolizes food differently. For instance, I know that for weight loss I need to get more of my carbs from fruit and vegetables, and less from grains and starches.
6. It’s okay to be a little bit over or under your calorie limit as long as it balances it out long term. It’s okay to indulge occasionally, but make it to the gym and eat lighter the next day to cancel out the indulgence. The key is to stay mindful.
7. The timing of your meals isn’t crucial, but it has an effect. Intermittent fasting is just what it sound like and you can do it a lot of ways: A traditional 24 hour fast 1-2 days per week. Eating all your meals within a 4, 6 or 8 hour window. Skipping one meal a day. In studies it has been shown to improve life expectancy, reduce bad cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar and much more. For a detailed regimen, click here. My takeaway: Close the kitchen after dinner. It’s rare that I’m truly starving late at night, and I’m never actually done squats while brushing my teeth to burn off a snack.
8. Accountability is key. Find someone who will encourage you in your goals without being overly critical when you have a setback.
So that’s the background. I’m giving myself two or three measurable goals for each month. My tools are my new Fitbit Flex tracker and associated food/water log, the Gym PocketGuide app (a strength training reference guide), a gym membership, and a YouTube playlist of workouts I can do at home. This is how it works: I have two overarching goals. I have broken them down into smaller, incremental goals that I will tackle each month. Ultimately, I want exercise and healthful eating to be as automatic as showering or brushing my teeth. That’s why I’m building them. Instead of committing to hourlong workouts six days a week, I’ll commit to 15 minutes, 5 days a week. Then 20. Then 30. I made my goals reasonable enough that I could meet them, but ambitious enough so that when I occasionally fall short (because nobody is perfect), I’ll probably still be doing better than I am currently. My hope is that by adding goals on gradually, the process won’t seem so overwhelming and I’ll be less likely to quit due to a sense of deprivation.
Overall Goal: Move towards optimal health and fitness by eating cleaner and exercising consistently.
First Quarter: Foundation
– Workout 5 days a week (at least 15 minutes)
-Drink 64 oz of water a day
-Continue January goals
– Limit 4 servings a day of grains/starchy carbs (1 slice bread or 1/2 cup grains equals a serving)
– Repeat February goals
Second Quarter: Acceleration
– Continue January thru March goals
– Limit 4 meals out per week
– Continue goals thru April
– Clean Eating Challenge: 2 weeks without bread, and two weeks without sweets or added sugars
– Repeat May goals (minus Clean Eating Challenge)
– Booty Challenge: By the end of the month hold a 3 minute squat, at least 45 squats in one minute, and at least 60 leg lift pulses in one minute (back and side) on each leg.
Third Quarter: Maintenance
– Continue goals thru June (minus Booty Challenge)
– Abs Challenge: By the end of the month be able to hold a 60-90 second plank, 50 crunches in one minute, and 40 sit-ups in one minute.
– Repeat January thru July goals (minus Challenges)
– All workouts at least 20 minutes
– Repeat August goals
Fourth Quarter: Finish Strong
October, November, December
– 10,000 steps a day
– Limit 4 meals out per week
– Limit 4 servings a day of grains/starches
– 64 oz water a day
– 5 workouts per week (at least 30 minutes)
– Repeat Clean Eating Challenge in October, Abs Challenge in November, Booty Challenge in December