I don’t remember the exact moment that we first met but it seems like we have been friends forever. They have shared in my special moments, graduations, birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving. I can always count on them in tough times to be encouraging, a comfort and a support. They are never hostile or judgmental. For years we would spend most of our weeks together. I am talking about my relationship with bacon and ice cream.
Most people approach fitness and dieting from the standpoint of what they will have to give up. We all have our favorite foods and activities that are part of our lives and we couldn’t imagine having to part with them. Your food crush might not be bacon or ice cream but there is undoubtedly something that you would dread giving up as a part of a fitness and diet routine. Luckily, becoming healthy doesn’t mean that we have to totally give up the things we love. It just means that we adopt a mindset of moderation and make a plan for success.
“A goal is your initial step to finding your passion,” says Sarah Tabbutt, Director of the Y Living Center and Healthy Living programs for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. “Without goals, your passion is only a dream.” Setting goals allow you to move toward success in your health and fitness pursuits. It gives you a framework of support that will keep you moving forward.
Not all goal setting is equal. We want to make sure that the goals we set are indeed effective and get us to the finish line. S.M.A.R.T. goals, first presented by a management consultant, George T. Doran in 1981, have been a time-tested method of developing effective goals not just for management but for every area of life including health and fitness. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
When we first approach a goal, we want to make sure that it is clear, concrete and pointed to the issue or problem we are trying to solve. It should not be stated as a broad wish.
Bad Example: I will eat healthy. While this sounds good, it is too broad to be effective. What does healthy mean? How will you tell if you are reaching it?
Good Example: This month I will read a book from the library about healthy eating. The more specific the better. This enables you and anyone else to see exactly what your goal is and how it will be achieved.
The goal should have a certain quantity or marker that can be measured for success.
Bad Example: I will run more. How much is “more”? When will you begin or end?
Good Example: Next year I will complete the local charity 10K run. This includes both a distance measure and a time measure that I can use to determine goal success.
The goal should be realistically attainable in a safe way.
Bad Example: I will wake up tomorrow morning and complete a triathlon. (This is with no prior training, preparation or experience.) Your goal should be reasonable and safe. In starting a fitness and/or diet program, you want to check with a physician or medical professional to ensure that the plan or program is right for you.
Good Example: I will walk for thirty minutes around my neighborhood every Tuesday and Thursday morning before work. For most, this is safe and doable. The key is being realistic with where your current fitness level is and what can safely be achieved. Again, it is recommended that you consult with your physician or a trained medical professional before beginning any fitness program.
The goal should be related to the current focus.
Bad Example: I will take French lessons for an hour once a week. Although this is a worthy goal, this is not related to your focus on health, fitness, and nutrition. You want to set goals that are associated with the problem you are trying to solve.
Good Example: I will eat a fruit or a vegetable at every meal. This directly relates to the focus on better nutrition.
There needs to be a specific time when the goal will be achieved.
Bad Example: I’m going to start lifting weights. When specifically will this occur? What days? How long will you lift?
Good Example: I will lift weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 6pm to 7pm after work at my local gym for the next two months. This goal has very specific, time-bound, starts and endings that can clearly be viewed to determine success or failure.
Let’s return to matters of bacon and ice cream. My current S.M.A.R.T. goal: For the next three months, I will eat 2 strips of bacon and a cup of ice cream only once a week following a workout. If I can find some bacon ice cream, that will work even better. This goal is in combination with other goals set concerning healthy eating and nutrition. It also considers my current level of fitness and my specific fitness plan. S.M.A.R.T. allows me to set guidelines for moderation and still enjoy my favorite things. The goals that you set will be different and vary according to your fitness level, your current nutrition goals and your love for bacon.
Though it may require some initial time and planning, setting goals will give you the path to success that you desire, more freedom to enjoy life and provide guidance in avoiding choices that sabotage your progress. You will be able to clearly look back and see your accomplishments and see the areas in which you may need improvement. This will allow you to both have your cake, ice cream or bacon and eat it too.
Julius Hunter is a personal trainer/group exercise instructor with the YMCA of Greater San Antonio and a doctoral student at Our Lady of the Lake University focusing on the intersection between leadership, health, and wellness, resilience, and grit. His personal story includes losing over 100 pounds through diet and exercise and he has a passion to see others live better and healthier lives. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and access more information about the services and programs of the YMCA at https://ymcasatx.org/programs/health-and-fitness