Tuesday, January 31, 2006

5 Critical Steps To Take Control Of Your Body

This post was inspired by a friend’s blog post about making a personal plan. I strongly agree with idea, and having written on the subject of goal setting in the past my self I decided to bring you this post about planning and goal setting with a little twist. The blog which inspired me can be found here: http://savingmyself.blogspot.com/2006/01/how-to-write-personal-plan.html

Have you found that for whatever the reason, your motivation to obtain a certain goal is just not there? You have already thought about what it is that you would like to accomplish; you have a mind eye's view of what you want to look like when you get to your goal. But for some reason, you cannot get out of the starting blocks!

The fitness and weight loss goal is one that collectively, many Americans want to tackle over the next few months. Most people start their programs in the first week of January (the New Year). If you're the type of person who has good intentions but doesn't act on them, then read on.

Don't Pre-Contemplate
Psychologists will tell you that when one starts thinking about a particular goal or accomplishment that they wish to achieve they are in the "pre-contemplation stage."
Goal setting is something that we are all asked to do.

Athletes are asked to set goals for the season. Teams set the goal of winning the championship, and athletes, coaches and trainers plan the tactics to get the team to their ultimate goal. Before a season starts, teachers, coaches, management and of course the players think about what they wish to achieve (this is pre-contemplation) and this naturally leads to putting together the specific action plan that will allow the goal to be obtained.

If your goals involve things such as weight loss, getting into an exercise plan, learning to read food labels, how to meal plan and so on you have already pre-contemplated, so once the idea pops into your head, move ahead to the next stage "making a plan."

Formatting the Plan
Let's say, for sake of argument, that you have been longing to lose weight and get into better shape, but have not really done anything about it. How about grabbing a pen, a piece of paper or even your PDA and writing down what you wish to achieve?

Leave plenty of room for elaborating on each goal between your bullet points of your ultimate goals. Use this time to contemplate exactly how you can (and will) achieve your goals. Your plan needs to be specific in other words, allow yourself to have methods of determining small or short-term goals, medium-term goals, long-term goals and of course, your ultimate goals.

For example, if you are looking to lose weight, one might plan to learn how to read a food label, learn how to count calories, determine realistic meal plans, weigh in once per week, setting realistic weight loss goals (1-2 pounds a week), and other such related ideas.

The plan for success at any endeavor needs to be written. Writing out your life plan (or weight loss plan or fitness plan, etc.) will empower you to be accountable to yourself for planning, staging, achieving and accomplishing each rung on the ladder to success. Planning allows one to learn in-depth about the topic or area that one wishes to achieve. Having a coach, a trainer or a partner to join you in achieving the goal can only help by providing a natural support system for success. Have you ever observed a winner who achieved any goal solely on his or her own? It's okay to have a team in your corner too.

Take Action
Let's say that by now you have written three of four realistic goals that you wish to achieve over the next few months or one-year. Also, let's add that within each of these goals, you have formatted the plan of attack to achieve your goals you have taken the correct steps so far, but there is more to do.

Now that you are armed with a global and a specific plan, it is time to enact your plan. It is time to take action. Be bold and do not be shy. Go grab yourself information on what the taking action part of your plan means. This may be information on a personal trainer or a new pair of running shoes, plus a subscription to a magazine or an online coaching tool to help motivate you week in and week out.

For example, if one of your goals is to gain muscle, your action plan would be to start keeping a log of your workouts, to read and implement strength gaining routines into the workout, and other such simple ideas.

The gist is simple; you have the ideas, note your action plan, then make the action a reality. Do whatever it takes to get on the road to success. Five easy steps are all that it really takes to be on your road to success, no matter what the goal is.

The Five Steps of Action Success:
1) Lay out a realistic short and long-term plan.
2) Keep a diary of your progress on the plan so that you can reformulate your plan as needed.
3) Utilize professional services so that you have assistance and a support team in achieving your goals.
4) TAKE ACTION
5) Repeat the actions that it takes for you to achieve your goals until these patterns become part of your normal routines (this can help from back-slipping and losing your achievements).

Breaking down the "Actionable" Steps (using weight control as an example):
Goal setting
Each week you must set two small nutrition and fitness oriented goals to achieve that week. Setting small, but obtainable goals and reviewing these goals at week’s end will allow you to mark your progress towards your larger goal.

Planning ahead
It cannot be said enough, "those who plan, achieve. Those who fail to plan, fail!" With weight loss or lifestyle enhancement, nothing happens by chance. Your first right step was in seeking information. Now, it is up to you to continue planning through goal setting and menu planning. If you plan ahead what you are going to eat for your meals/snacks it will make it that much easier to achieve your goal.

Positive attitude
Having the belief that you can obtain your goal is the first step in getting there. Once the mind commits, the body follows.

How to Pick a Support Team
Have you ever watched a medical drama show such as ER? In these types of shows there is always a physician or three, nurses, medical assistants, clerks, therapists and so on. When you look at the whole as just described, this defines a support team. The lead physician running the code or a surgery or whatever has the support of other physicians, nurses and so on.

Let’s take that analogy to you and your goals. In our drama, you and your goals are the lead physician and all of the other team members are the assistants there to help you achieve the goal. For weight loss, a Registered Dietitian or nutritionist and smart nutritional foods are in order. For exercise, a strength and/or running coach top the list; for flexibility, perhaps a yoga instructor; for mental health a psychologist, and for many a life coach can help coordinate keeping the life in order.

Of course, you can do all of this yourself. Just find someone that you trust that you can be accountable to on a weekly basis. Even the most seasoned athletes have assistants that keep them in top shape, why shouldn't the person who is just starting out on the road to fitness of wellness do the same?

Key Take-home Points
1) Do not let yourself become stuck in the quagmire of “pre-contemplation.”
2) If you have an idea, something you wish to obtain or change, write it down and elaborate upon it.
3) TAKE ACTION!
4) Inform your friends, partners and others about your goals, get their support.
5) Make sure that you use a support website and the ideas within this book for formulating and achieving your own success.

Goals
Continuing with the fat-loss/health improvement theme, lets expand on how to go about goal setting and achieving success. Many times achieving your goals requires behavioral changes, changing your habits. Changing the rules you follow in your life.

Now I’ll admit it. Changing the rules and changing your habits is difficult. Not only does it take a desire to change – “want to” – but it takes a strategy for change – “how to.” You’ll, most likely, need some help. Surround yourself with all the things and the people which will allow you and help you with these things. Eliminate all the things and the people who will work against you. What you need to do is to build a support system which will help you do just this, to change your rules and change your habits.

In changing these rules and habits, everything changes – the way you’ll eat, the way you’ll sleep, the way you’ll look, the way you’ll feel when you wake up in the morning, and the way you’ll perform in day-to-day activities.

Habits are more powerful than momentary desire. Habits are more powerful than information. Habits are more powerful than guilt. And only a concerted, conscious effort to override habits will lead to success. So, in some respects, better nutrition is more about altering lifestyle habits and less about the food. Sure, you’ve gotta know which foods are good to eat and plan to eat them But, as GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle. Even if you know what’s good and expect to eat good foods, if the good foods aren’t around when it’s time to eat, you’re doomed. In other words, preparation is the other half.

Immediately attainable
When setting goals of any type and for any purpose you should have two things in mind. First an idea of what it is that you eventually want. In other words, the purpose of the endeavor, your long term goal. Second is the short term goals you will use as the steps to climb the mountain of success and reach the summit of your ultimate happiness. These short term goals should be in very small increments. You know, “baby steps.” By making your goals very short term you insure the perception of progress and will thereby be encouraged by the feeling of accomplishment. At the same time, don’t make them so small they become trivial and lose their significance all together.

Write out your short and long term goals
How many times have you vowed to lose a few pounds? How many times have you lost those pounds only to see them creep right back on weeks or months later? In addition with a few extra! Next time; don’t set your goals by the scale. Your weight on the scale fluctuates from what you had for dinner last night, to what you had for breakfast, to your monthly cycle. It isn’t representative of body composition, and the number can be very discouraging. Instead, try setting behavior based objectives such as S.M.A.R.T. goals that can not only help you stick with an exercise and eating regimen but can be used in almost any area of your life.

S.M.A.R.T. is:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time-bound

Make your goals measurable, not generic like simply losing weight. You’ll then be able to evaluate whether you’ve met your goal and adjust accordingly. Ensure that your goals aren’t so lofty that achieving them seems impossible.

Ease Into It
Don’t try to eat perfect all of a sudden as this will just send you into a cycle of severe restriction and bingeing that will become increasingly more difficult to control. Eventually this leads to worse eating habits than you probably already have. Choose one aspect of the eating plan and concentrate your efforts on achieving that single simple thing and making it a habit, second nature, before moving on to the other aspects. Take it one step at a time and one day at a time and you will soon find that you don’t even miss the things you’re missing.

Do something Better than you have been
Anything Better is Good. By the same principle as above, don’t try to completely quit eating every perceived “bad” food all at once, “cold turkey.” Instead, slowly restrict these foods. For example, if you normally drink five cans of soda a day try to resist the urge to drink a soda once a day. Soon you won’t miss that fifth can and you will be drinking four a day, however continue trying to resist as much as possible. Soon you will be down to three then two then one or even none at all. You can make this easier by replacing the soda with a naturally squeezed fruit juice, caffeine free tea, or, best yet, water. I call this method “La Resistance!”

The point here is keep the big picture in mind. You may not be able to be perfect now, but with perseverance you can get close to it one day soon. You have to strive everyday to do one thing better, that brings you one small step closer to perfect, than the day or week before. You know what needs to be done. You know where you want to be. You just need to find the path which you can follow, without stumbling too much, to get there. Vive La Resistance!

What you do is more important than what you know
Most lifetime dieters can recite grams of fat and calories by memory and have read everything from Atkins to The Zone to South Beach. However, when it comes to fat loss, what you do is more important than what you know. You can read all the information in the world, know the precept of every diet plan ever created, and have the lowdown on all of the latest in exercise techniques but if you don’t have a clear, concise, easy to follow plan of action, you are doomed to failure. You must be able to consistently and continually follow even a basic set of nutrition and exercise tenants in order for change to occur. Therefore, you must insure that the course of action you select to follow is one that you will be able to keep up with over an attenuated duration. If you create a plan of action which is unrealistic or difficult to follow, you won’t. You’ll fail.
Lesson: Make sure your plan is built around YOUR life. One you can and will follow day in and day out.

Change your habits before you worry about the food
Make sure your basic eating habits are solid and in the right place before looking to the details. Don’t get caught concentrating on the minute details when the basic axiom of your diet is off target.

Failure is not an option
Most important, don’t throw in the towel if you skip a workout or eat too much cheesecake. Get right back on the wagon with the next day’s tasks. Remember it’s all about changing behaviors. It doesn’t happen over night. You have to continually attempt the momentarily impossible in order for real change to take place. Keep trying and keep at it, sooner than you think these “tasks” will become habit and cease to be so difficult to accomplish.

-PJ

If you are interested in finding a plan to follow which lays all the variables out on the table and discusses strategies for success, you should check out my "Plan For Success" series located on my Health and Nutrition blog. I've just posted the third installment and number four is on its way. In it I discuss everything from the basics of health and nutrition; to exactly what, when, and how much to eat; to logistics strategies to fit a healthy lifestyle into your already busy life. Later in the series I'll discuss exercise protocols and strategies. My Health and Nutrition blog can be found here: http://pjlusa-nutrition.blogspot.com/

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