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Ep. 08 – How to set (and reach!) health and fitness goals more easily

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A photo of James on an orange background with the words Vegetarian Health and Longevity

Here’s the eighth podcast of Vegetarian Health and Longevity from Hurry The Food Up and Sports Nutritionist James LeBaigue.

Masters certified Sports Nutritionist James LeBaigue shows you how to set and reach health and fitness goals more easily, as well as how avoid common traps.

Listen to the podcast on your favourite provider or click play below.

Setting and Achieving Goals

Most of us know what we want to do. We have a certain goal, a certain challenge that we want to complete.

Maybe it’s finishing a running event, maybe it’s improving your diet, or maybe it’s a promise to yourself to stop a bad habit that you’ve got into.

You can think about it, you can dream about how it will make you feel when you achieve it, and you know you want to do it… But often it’s so difficult to actually get there.

You start working towards it and it feels like slow progress, and sometimes it even feels like you’re moving backwards.

Wasted Time

Demoralizing, frustrating, and upsetting are probably some of the politer ways to express how you might feel about this.

In today’s episode, I’m going to delve into goal setting in relation to the things that help you live longer in better health: think exercise, diet, alcohol, smoking, sleep – it’s all part of it.

I’m going to cover the massive pitfalls which are holding you back from achieving your goals, and I’ll give you some personal experience from working with clients on a 1:1 basis.

We’ll explore what makes a goal a good target to go for and the common barriers that you should consider when creating your aims.

Millions and Billions

Just like millions, if not billions of people, I used to set new years resolutions. I used to create them at the start of the year and tell myself this would be the year.

Often they revolved around fitness. Trying to set a new personal best in a running race. One time I remember deciding I wanted to stop smoking for good.

I never smoked that frequently, but it was something I wanted to pack up forever and leave in the past.

Whatever it was, I’d usually do pretty well for the first couple of weeks, maybe the first month or so. And sometimes I’d complete my resolution.

How to Fail

Other times I’d ‘fail’ miserably – and I say fail there in loose terms, because I don’t think it’s a fair thing to say, and this is something I’m going to come back to later.

I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was sabotaging myself from the start, and as we’re going to talk about in this episode, if I had applied what I know now, it would have been a completely different story.

Understanding Goals

But first, we should talk about goals in general. What are they? Now bear with me, because that might seem way too simple a question.

Goals are a target or challenge that you set and plan to complete at some point in the future, it’s pretty obvious.

But in order to set realistic goals, I think it’s important to understand more about the different types of goals and how they tie into the psychological aspects of goals, because without that, it becomes even harder to set and accomplish achievable goals.

Short-term Goals: The Immediate Steps

The first type of goal are those immediate objectives we set to achieve something tangible in the near future; our short-term goals.

For example, if you’re training for a marathon, a short-term goal might be to increase your weekly mileage by 10% next week.

These goals are particularly satisfying because they’re often easily measurable and directly actionable, giving you a quick sense of accomplishment.

The main advantage of short-term goals is their achievability, which helps keep your motivation high. Because of the short timeframe, you can also get feedback much sooner, meaning you can make quick adjustments if things aren’t progressing as planned.

You can change direction early on, which increases the likelihood of success in the long run.

However, there are drawbacks. The focus on immediate results can sometimes lead you to overlook your broader, long-term ambitions and it could engrain bad habits.

For example, following an incredibly strict weight loss diet might lead to significant weight loss and you might be pleased with the results, but is it sustainable over the long term, and is it actually going to be counterproductive?

Additionally, the quick wins from short-term goals can sometimes result in complacency, and it’s not uncommon for people to start relaxing their stance on the things that have been helping.

One of my clients actually had exactly this; she had been making amazing progress with improving her diet and successfully losing weight at a slow, steady rate.

And then things plateaued, and it took a bit of investigation to understand why. It turned out she had stopped portioning like before; she had been eyeballing her portions and they had gradually been increasing in size.

After addressing this, she got back on track.

The Challenges of Short-term Goals

The final thing to consider with short-term goals is what happens if you don’t achieve it – how will it make you feel? If you miss your target, is that going to make you want to throw in the towel and give up?

This is probably the biggest issue with them that I see. If someone sets too strict or unrealistic a short-term goal they can lose sight of the bigger picture and end up giving up before they start seeing the real fruits of their labor.

My personal take on short-term goals is that they can be incredibly helpful if used correctly; which means aligning them with your long-term goals and understanding that whatever the short-term goal, it has to be achievable through sustainable habits.

Long-term Goals: Crafting Your Future

Next up we have long-term goals, and these are your vision for the future. These goals require a sustained effort and are more about where you see yourself in the months or years to come.

If your short-term goal is about increasing your running distance, a long-term goal might involve completing a marathon in under four hours.

The strengths of long-term goals lie in their ability to provide a sense of direction and purpose, because they’re usually aligning to much higher, significant changes.

Achieving these goals typically leads to significant personal or professional growth. However, maintaining motivation over a longer period can be challenging, especially when immediate results are not evident.

This is where I see the power of realistic short-term goals tying in with long-term goals; they should support you through the period to get to where you eventually want to be.

Sometimes, long-term goals need to be adjusted to stay relevant, which requires a willingness to reassess and adapt your plans.

This is actually a huge problem that I see with clients in both their personal and professional life, as I’m going to discuss later.

Stretch Goals: Pushing the Boundaries

But before we get there, let’s talk about something which, in my opinion, is a bit more controversial, because I think there’s a significant element of individuality as to whether or not these are useful.

They are something that is designed to push you beyond your current limits and expand what you believe is possible, and the goal is typically outside of what is considered realistic.

For instance, not just finishing a marathon but aiming to place in the top 5% of all runners when your current projected pace is the top 20%, or reading 40 books in a year when you normally read 10.

These goals are transformative as they encourage innovation and can lead to breakthroughs in personal performance, and they are something called stretch goals.

The positive aspect of stretch goals is that they can bring about significant change and enhance self-confidence by achieving what once seemed impossible.

For the right individual, they might be highly motivating and incredibly rewarding, and something that absolutely fits their mindset and approach to life.

On the downside, the ambitious nature of stretch goals brings a higher risk of failure, which can be demotivating if not managed well.

This is especially true when relating to longevity, because the whole point is to allow personal growth and lifestyle habits that are sustainable over time, and importantly, healthy.

If you set too ambitious a stretch goal, or one that requires real sacrifice to get there – think significant weight loss or significant improvement in sport – the focus can be extreme. This can easily lead to burnout or adopting practices which aren’t actually the best in the long term.

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The Role of Structured Systems: SMART and OKRs

To manage these various types of goals effectively, people commonly use systems like SMART and OKRs.

Both of these are acronyms, and SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results.

Both of these can be useful for setting goals, and are subtly different.

The SMART way to reach goals

The SMART criteria help ensure that each goal is well-defined and quantifiable, ideal for short-term objectives where you have a clear goal that you want to complete.

Here, think of aiming to lose 0.5 kilos of weight per week, or reading 1 book a month. They are very easy to track, have a time-bound element, and are realistic.

OKRs are commonly used with broader objectives in mind, and are often used in organizational settings to connect individual efforts with group outcomes.

The aim is to link the objective, which is often a wider goal, to the key result which helps to get you there – essentially creating a stepping stone project of one result after another to get you to the greater goal.

So your overall objective might be to lead a healthier lifestyle, with your key results being exercising five times a week, creating a fresh meal for dinner every day, and reading a positive mindset book every month.

One Step at at Time

So they’re smaller, actionable items that lead to a broader change.

From my own personal experience and working with clients, I think there’s a huge individuality in terms of which is the most helpful because it depends on what stage someone is at in motivation, in terms of ability to deal with setbacks, and what their goal is.

I tend to lean towards the SMART framework, especially when working with clients because they’re easier to measure.

Conclusion: Creating Achievable Goals

So with all of this in mind, I think the takeaway message is to think about your own goals and consider a few things.

What is your goal, and what are you ultimately aiming to achieve? Is this realistic, or is it too ambitious, and if you don’t achieve it, what is that going to do for your mindset and your motivation?

Then think about how you can break this into smaller, achievable goals that you can tick off on a regular basis.

Maybe weekly, or even daily, and don’t be afraid to adapt these. I regularly talk about having a plan, but don’t be afraid to adjust this plan; this is something I’ve learned to do more and more with my clients, because I realize the need to adapt for them as an individual and the journey that they’re going on.

Finally, think about why you’re aiming to achieve what you are. What’s the intrinsic motivation? This is the biggest one in my opinion because it helps you keep focus and stay on track.

When times get tough, and motivation dips, and it will dip, knowing your why is such a huge factor in your eventual success.

That’s it for today’s episode, I hope you’ve taken away some good advice to help you stay on track and work towards those long-term goals.

Please hit subscribe if you haven’t already, and if you found this episode useful, please leave a comment – it helps so much.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to apply these techniques to your own health goals, visit hurrythefoodup.com to learn more about the personalized programs we offer.

Until next time, keep striving towards those goals, and remember, health is not a destination, it’s a journey.

Studies used in this podcast and article:

Mediterranean Lifestyle Study

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