I was having a conversation with a client last week about her weight loss goal. This client -- let's call her Amy -- has lost 20 pounds over this last year and wants to lose those "last five pounds" in a month, just in time for a beach vacation.
First, I'd like to point out: Amy has CLEARLY demonstrated that she can put in the work, both with exercise and nutrition, to lose weight safely and I have no doubt she can reach her goal. Girl's got skills! So why not say, "More power to you, let's do this!"?
Here's Thing One: Like me, Amy enjoys yummy food and an occasional cocktail and summer in Chicago is full of those.
Here's Thing Two: Like I said, it's summer. We're out of hibernation, being more social and therefore presented with more opportunities to accept (or decline) the offer of the aforementioned food and cocktails. And after this LONG winter we had, I personally don't want to limit my frolicking time being out and about.
Here is Thing Three (and the most important): I want Amy to set herself up for success. Success being getting to her goal feeling happy and whole, NOT feeling deprived and frustrated. You know what happens when people's diet/lifestyle regimen leave them feeling deprived and frustrated? Weight gain boomerang/depression/feeling isolated and miserable. WHO WANTS THAT?
So my first question to her was: What are you willing to do to lose just over one pound a week for the next month?
As Gary John Bishop explains in his book, Unf*k Yourself (I highly recommend the audiobook), we often lament about what we don't have, who we aren't. One example he uses is "Why aren't I rich?" His answer, posed as a series of questions, went something like this:
"Are you willing to put in the work it takes to make it to become the next [insert name of a millionaire here]?"
"Are you willing to miss major holidays with loved ones to make the extra money?"
"Are you willing to put the most important relationships in your life aside to put work first?"
"Are you willing to never have a vacation without emails and phone calls for an extended period of your life?"
Obviously for some people the answer to those questions is "yes" and that's awesome! Just as awesome as it is for people to say "no" because then it is an active and informed choice.
When it comes to fitness and aesthetic goals, we are very good at stating what we want and lamenting what we aren't. We want to lose the last five pounds; we want six-pack abs; we want to run a marathon.
What we're not so great at is asking ourselves what we're willing to do to reach those goals.
Here are some questions I asked Amy regarding her goal of losing five pounds in a month:
"Are you willing to cut back on portion sizes during all of your meals?"
"Are you willing to feel hungry for 30-60 minutes before each meal?"
"Are you willing to cut out all snacks out for the next 4 weeks?"
"Are you willing to keep alcohol consumption to maybe 1 drink per week or 1 dessert per week?"
"Are you willing to put in 4-5 workouts per week, 2 with me and 2-3 on your own?"
Like I said before, this girl's got skills. I know she CAN do all of the above. But is she WILLING.
I don't know what her decision is yet and that's frankly neither here nor there as far as this story is concerned. The point is, we often set goals for ourselves that make us feel like losers when we don't reach them. And that's sad because it doesn't have to be that way.
I want to leave you with four ways to set a goal and reach it:
1. Write down your goal and by when you'd like to reach it.
2. Break the goal down into multiple actionable steps (ex. to lose 1 lb per week I need to cut out/burn 3500 calories; to do that I will need to do x, y, z and a, b, c).
3. Put the steps into a timeline.
4. Assess your timeline and actionable steps. Can you execute your plan while still feeling happy and whole? Yes? Great! No? Can you make the goal more realistic? (ex. lose the last 5 pounds in 2 months or lose 3 pounds in one month) Can you make the actionable steps more appealing and doable? (ex. I can happily limit my summer rosé intake to 3 glasses per week rather than 1 glass per week)
Friends: Rethinking your goals and what you're willing to do to reach them (also known as taking a good, hard look at your values) does NOT make you a failure. It makes you a rockstar who might be finally freed of the shoulds and coulds and the why-am-I-nots.
(Usually) we don't reach our goals because we don't do all that we should have done to get there in the timeline we gave ourselves.
(Usually) that happens because we don't know how to break down the goal and make a plan and timeline.
And we don't know what we don't know until we know it! So take the steps above and run with them! Set yourself up for the win! Be the rockstar you are ON YOUR TERMS.
Or, as Gary John Bishop bluntly says, unf*k yourself.