One of the best ways to achieve the results you desire is to set goals and track your progress. You need to be clear with your goal setting. Just so you know, aiming for nothing and hitting nothing isn’t really meeting a goal. You should take your goal on a long-term basis, but then use smaller achievable goals that will mark progress towards the larger goal.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, don’t just write down “lose weight” and expect that because it is now written down the fat begins to fall off your body. I would recommend first identifying the extent of the problem. Consider measuring your waist circumference, your hip circumference and calculate your waist:hip ratio. This is a good indicator of metabolic syndrome risk. Measure your height and weight and calculate your BMI (body mass index). Have a BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis) test run that will measure your lean muscle mass and body fat percent. Once you know this information you can set clear, realistic goals.
We will use “Anna” as our test subject. Anna presents to my office with a desire to lose weight and increase her activity level. She’s tired of dragging around all the time and doesn’t like how her clothes are fitting and the extra weight she is carrying around. We perform a vitals assessment and find the following:
- 5’4″ (64 inches) tall and weighs 197 pounds. Her BMI is 34 placing her in the obese category.
- Waist is 37 inches and hips are 35 inches giving her a waist:hip ratio of 1.06 and giving her the “apple-body” shape associated with metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
- Her BIA shows fluid retention of 2.5 liters outside the cells in the extracellular compartment. This places increased stress on her heart, kidneys and liver and lets us know that toxins are a big issue since the “solution to pollution is dilution”. We also know that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) stored in body fat increase her risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
- Her BIA shows sarcopenic obesity…meaning she has too much fat and too little lean muscle. This will disrupt her metabolism, alter her hormones and affect the entire balance of her body.
- Her ideal weight is 134 so roughly 60 pounds of weight needs to be lost. We know that it is possible to lose weight on the scale which is actually from continued loss of lean muscle. This has significant health side effects. We know that lean muscle weighs more than body fat so the scale won’t be the only measure we want to use when goal-setting.
Allow me to digress for just a moment. While this is a made-up case, I see cases like this literally every day in my practice. The research is clear that for those that lose 20 pounds of body fat or more there risk of cancer goes up. For those that are obese their risk of heart disease and diabetes goes up. So what is the solution? The first is prevention. Don’t go there in the first place. It is much easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble. Fad dieting has major negative alterations to your metabolism and should be avoided at all costs. If you are in this predicament you need to make sure that you lose weight and move right correctly.
The research shows that a 7-10% decrease in body weight in the first year of a weight loss program confers significant health benefits. For a 197 pound individual this would equate to a loss of 14-20 pounds in a year (or 0.27-0.38 pounds per week!) as realistic goals. Now obviously it is possible to lose weight much faster than this and still do it safely. However, for those with significantly altered health and metabolism it may be a long process and there should be an understanding they can’t give up! You have to committed for the long haul and that is why goal setting is so imperative.
So we would design a very specific program for her unique health needs. This would include diet, exercise, and lifestyle interventions. We would also work on goal setting. Here might be a sample of what we would compile.
Goals / Tracking for Initial Six Weeks
- 30 minutes of moderate exercise logged each day in the form of walking, elliptical training or biking. Goal would be to work within 50-60% of maximum heart rate for the duration of the 30 minutes. Heart rate should be logged before and after the exercise.
- Weight should be measured on bathroom scale each morning before getting dressed. Weight should be recorded.
- BIA on a weekly basis to assess fluid status, lean muscle and body fat compartments to ensure proper weight loss and not catabolic weight loss.
- Goals: Lose 8-12 pounds the first week. This is largely “bloat” due to fluid retention. A liter of fluid weighs 2.2 pounds, so this can add up fast, but can also be lost fast. Monitor with BIA.
- Goals: Lose 0.38-2 pounds each week thereafter for the next five weeks. Monitor with weekly BIA.
The goals could then be broken down into further 2,4 or 6-week increments. You see the issue is having this broken down into doable bite-size pieces. The activity levels can increase in each stage, the weight training for muscle can begin, improved dietary compliance, etc can all take place when the goals appear doable.
Losing 1 pound per week is much more desirable than always looking at the 60 pound behemoth that is yet to be lost.
Goals and Progress Tips
- Give yourself a reward when you meet your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals.
- Employ the help of others and encourage them to join with you in regaining your health.
- Save up for a vacation and place money in the vacation jar each time your goals are met.
- Create a vision board with images and quotes that motivate and inspire you. This can help you keep going when the road gets tough.
Start today. It’s never too late. It’s never useless. You’re never “too far gone”. Make small changes, clarify your goals, set your direction and then stay the course!