You’ve found your motivation to start your fitness journey, so the next logical step is to set some goals! What is the best way to set goals, how do you make sure they are realistic enough to maintain, and how do you plan to meet them?
Clear, personalized, and continually adjusted goals were important throughout multiple studies regarding managing weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and creating and sticking to a fitness routine. While externally defined goals (such as goals defined by weight loss groups or goals set by doctors) were found to provide guidance and accountability, self-defined goals (that are intrinsically motivated) were more important and beneficial overall to sustained weight management. Having highly personalized goals for yourself regarding your gym schedule, fitness level, and diet enhances your feeling of bodily autonomy and your overall success rate!
Part of making goals for yourself is understanding that unexpected things happen- you may have to skip the gym one day because something comes up, or you might have to skip making a healthy meal because you need to eat quickly on your way to an unanticipated event. While this was common for individuals in these studies, the individuals who successfully overcame these obstacles had this in common- they prioritized their long-term goals. They adjusted them in regards to daily, weekly, or monthly activities instead of tossing out their goals altogether when faced with unexpected obstacles. This is a part of long-term goal setting.
Instead of only focusing on today, you must realize that you must focus on the bigger picture and set goals for long-term success. Gotta make a quick meal that wasn’t on your plan for the day? Instead of grabbing junk food, reach for a healthier alternative. A good way to do this is to meal prep some grab-and-go foods that you can put in the freezer and quickly warm up. Can’t make it to the gym today because of a surprise meeting? Fit in a quick workout or walk after work, or prioritize going on a day that wasn’t in the original plan. If you can’t find an alternative, remember that it’s the long-term that matters. Never let one day derail you. Just because you didn’t do your best today doesn’t mean that you need to toss the plan altogether!
So, what does goal setting look like for individuals who could maintain long-term weight management? Setting goals for activity level, such as gym time, steps taken each day, or even just cycling to and from work, as well as setting healthy eating goals, such as calorie intake per week, reducing alcohol intake, reducing snacking, and increased fruit and vegetable intake where some of the most common goals that were able to be sustained long-term. Planning for the unexpected helps, too. Checking in with yourself and ensuring you are not doing too much all at once is important. Remember that any step in the right direction increases your confidence that you CAN find your internal motivation and continue to set new goals in the future!
Make your goals permanent lifestyle changes, and do not expect instant results. This is key- it helps you stay on track long-term. In addition, individuals reported that it was easier to stay on track when they did not take an all-or-nothing approach! We all make mistakes, but realizing that mistakes are okay means we must reflect on the motivation behind those goals and what changes we need to make to adhere to them. This focused, long-term goal-setting approach continues to motivate you in your fitness journey!
Remember, when setting goals for yourself, there is no “one size fits all” approach to weight management. You may need to change goals you previously made based on what changes in your life, but continuously reassessing your goals and ensuring you stay on track in the long term will make the biggest impact. At Fit St. Charles, we understand this and can help you make and maintain realistic fitness goals that fit your individual lifestyle!