New year’s always bring an influx of people looking to turn a new leaf with a new year’s resolution. Giving up smoking, weight management, saving money, or generally improving our station all top the list of most popular yearly decision.
Most people usually fail, they fail early or they fail late but failure is inevitable. Is there any way to avoid this seemingly unavoidable pattern?
SMART Goals – Sounds like one of those business buzzwords touted in boardrooms, because it is. It is also applicable for your new year’s resolution. One of the reasons so many people fail their resolutions is because they are too vague, confusing objectives with dreams and wishes. Smart goals help you break down your wishes into actual achievable and manageable goals which are easier to complete.
How many of us have the goal to lose weight?
A lot I bet, so that will be our resolution. Let’s make it Smart.
Lose weight is a vague goal, as the saying goes you can’t hit a blurry target. Make your goal more specific. For specificities sake we can put a number of it.
“I want to lose 10kg” – now this is more specific, whether or not it is Smart we will say later. But for now at least it is a specific goal.
When you have a vague goal like losing weight generally you have an idea of how much you wish to lose. You wouldn’t weigh yourself Jan 2nd and be satisfied with 250-gram weight loss would you? Probably not. Pick the actual specific amount you need to lose and measure your baseline weight at day 1.
“I am 98kg on Jan 1st– I want to be 88kg” Immediately we have specified a goal and we are able to measure it. Already the idea is easier to achieve.
This is one of the easiest ways to destroy a resolution. The goal needs to be possible, but not too easy. Like I said, 250gram weight loss is achievable, but it’s not a great goal. Analyies the target you have set for yourself and be critical – Is it achievable? Avoid fantasy – I’m pushing 40, while I can get fitter and stronger it’s unlikely I will win Mr Universe even though I really want to. Decide if your goal is achievable then move on to the next step.
Hand in hand with achievable comes realistic. Losing weight is certainly achievable for most people, but is it realistic? By making sure that your goal is both realistic and achievable means it will be easier to complete. In truth when people say they want to lose weight they don’t really mean they want to lose weight. If you chopped off a limb you would certainly be lighter. A leg probably weighs 10KG. I could reach my goal with a quick trip across the nearest lumber yard. Wouldn’t be the most realistic way to achieve my goal though. In reality when people say they want to lose weight what they actually mean -even if they don’t know it- is “I wish my body had a better ratio of excess subcutaneous fat to muscle”
Muscle is a lot denser than fat. So, if I was to stand next to a man of the same height and weight who had a higher muscle ratio he would look “better”. If you could weigh the exact same as you do now but have more muscle would you chose that instead of simply losing weight?
Bringing us back to our case, I am near 40, and I weigh 98 KG. It will be very difficult for me to lose a substantial amount of fat and increase my muscle mass by a similar amount. Heck, even if I was 20 I would find that feat tricky! Truth is muscle goes on hard. It is notoriously difficult to build muscle without the use of frowned upon techniques (by which I mean steroids). It is possible, however, to build approximately half a kg of muscle a month, more if you are a beginner. With the correct diet and plenty of protein I might be able to add 2 KG’s of muscle to my goal. An estimate of body fat is a good way forward at this stage, you can do so with callipers or a scale. Just remember that it is an inaccurate estimate. I would advise that photos are a better gauge.
“I am 98kg on Jan 1st I aim to reduce my body fat% and increase my muscle mass. I hope to weigh approximately 88-90kg’s and reduce my body fat to 25%” – Now the goal has taken shape into a manageable target. We are no longer grasping at straws, I have a measured start point and an achievable target. But I am being realistic as to reaching the goal. I understand that my total bodyweight is not the main achievement I am seeking; it is an overall re-composition of my body. I aim to lose fat and gain some muscle, I am measuring with photographs and a body fat scale. While there will be a natural reduction in overall size I do not need to fixate on the scale reading as the photographs I take will help my judge my progress.
The best for last. Time is usually what ties all of the other requirements together.
I could easily say my goal is to lose 10kg by February, which would probably be achievable but not realistic. If I was a young, healthy fitness professional with time and motivation to control every aspect of my diet then it is achievable. But for a near 40-year-old with a full time job, wife and kids who has to commute an hour each way then no, that is not achievable.
That kind of weight loss in 8 weeks or so is difficult, even for the best of us. Make the time frame more realistic then the same goal becomes achievable. Sustainable weight loss in a healthy manner is around 500-grams a week. So 20 weeks for our 10kg goal. That’s more realistic. Mid May.
“I am 98kg on Jan 1st – I want to be 88-90 kg by 16th of May, with a body fat of around 25%”
Now that we have a smart goal we can see how we can break it down to smaller goals, weekly or daily.
By aiming for 10 kg in 20 weeks, or ½ kg every week we can begin to structure a realistic diet or exercise plan that will help us reach that goal.
`There is a saying in weight loss that 1 lb of fat is 3500 calories. So to lose 1lb a week (just under 500g) we need to consume 3500 calories less a week, or burn 3500 calories more.
3500 calories a week is 500 calories a day. This is our new goal.
So by applying a SMART Goal to our resolution we have changed the vague and unmanageable wish of losing weight into a laser focused, achievable target of eating 500 calories a day less than what we currently do. Even I can do that.
The best way to follow this goal is to choose a high protein diet. This will help build muscle, but also reduce the number of sugars I consume. Hitting the gym and choosing a beginner weight lifting program will help me use this extra protein to build muscle. In turn this will re-compose my body and help with a better muscle to fat ratio. It will also mean that I am burning extra calories each day so I do not need to go on a low calorie diet. In the long run this is a better solution and I am less likely to break my diet.
Author : Alex Morgan