Simple question, really. But I have a theory that this whole health, fitness and wellbeing malarkey pretty much boils down to it.
Figuring out what you really want – on a number of levels – is one of the most important things you can do to make a big ol’ lifestyle change. Essentially, it comes down to working out where exactly your priorities lie.
I mean – we’re not all doing this for the same reason. You might be doing it so that you feel good when you look in the mirror. That’s for you – and it’s still very much a valid reason to do it. It’s sometimes implied that wanting to change your body for yourself is “selfish” – but it’s not.
You heard me. It’s just not. Taking the decision that you’d like to improve your body, your health, and your wellbeing for you and you alone is a good thing – and not one that you should shy away from. But there are other reasons you might have for wanting to lose weight.
Maybe you want to be fit enough to play with your kids – or healthy enough to see them grow up. Maybe you’ve been told you have to lose a few pounds by a doctor, or perhaps you’ve found that your weight has stopped you from doing something you really wanted to – from getting a job, to riding a rollercoaster, to kidnapping Ryan Gosling and forcing him to marry you (unless that’s just me?)
But identifying your reasons to change before you start attempting to do so can be a really good way to make it happen, because it’ll help you to find realistic, achievable goals along the way that really inspire you, personally.
This kind of focused goal-setting can be really important. I spent several months watching TV, eating cake after cake (after cake, after pizza), looking at the women on there and thinking ‘I want to look like that girl.’
We’ve all done that, right? ‘I want to look like her, so tomorrow I’ll start a diet.’ It’s vague, it offsets the solution, and – deep down - it’s totally unachievable. I’m never going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model, because I look like me. No matter how much weight I lose, I’ll look good (damn good, in fact – confidence is not an issue) but… I’m not an underwear model. I can deal.
What I can have, however, is the perfect body for me. One that looks good, that can do what I need it to do – one that’s fit, healthy, and is in pretty good shape to survive any zombie apocalypses that might be coming up soon. That, right there, is a pretty realistic goal. Kind of.
But it’s also necessary to drill down a little more and get some specific goals in mind to help you along the way – just so long as they’re not numbers on the scale . ‘I want to lose 20lbs by next week,’ for instance, is a specific goal – but it’s also kinda dumb. Because it’s impossible.
On the other hand, ‘I want to be able to lift a 7.5kg weight, rather than a 5kg one by next week’ is something that’s in your control. ‘I want to run a 5k this year’ is another. ‘I want to play football with the kids,’ might work for you – or, ‘I’d like my jeans to fit a little better’ is cool too. Either way – it’s worth coming up with some specific goals to give you an idea of what you’re aiming to achieve.
Once you’ve got these in mind, it suddenly gives you something to bounce temptations off of. For instance, I’m being very well behaved over the next couple of weeks, because I’m starting a new job at the beginning of next month – so when a bag of Haribos wafts a strangely tempting smell in my direction, I’m able to compare and contrast the temptation with the outcome that I want. Yep, a few sweets would be pretty good right now – but walking in to my first day in a new job feeling like I’m at my very best will be far more satisfying in two weeks time.
I’ve got other goals, too. I remember last summer, when I was a good 20lbs bigger than I am now – but my God did I feel awesome. I was less self-conscious in strappy tops and skirts, and I was considerably more comfortable sitting on a picnic mat (or sleeping in a tent at a festival) than I’d ever felt before. I’d always dreaded summer for that very reason – because it’d always be a trade off between being really god damn hot in something that covered me up, or being really god damn self-conscious in something that didn’t.
So, when I’m contemplating skipping a workout, or having an extra biscuit, I think back to that feeling – and I think about how happy I’ll be this summer, when I’m enjoying strolling around a park feeling the sun on my back. Good times.
And going even longer term – I’ve had enough health issues over the years to know that I don’t want to spend my old age as a sick person. The way I see it, every good decision I make now is an investment in my health later on. There are obviously illnesses you just can’t avoid – but you can make yourself stronger, fitter, healthier and better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at you when these things strike. Knowing the misery of being unable to walk, or even get myself out of bed, because I was dealing with constant knee pain and the lethargy of a body full of pain medication…
I’m not even going to drag that out. I just don’t want it, ever again.
That said, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever treat yourself – God knows I’ve done plenty of that over the last month or so, what with the knee-surgery-birthday-Christmas-New-Year carb festival that I invented for my very own pleasure. But if you’ve always got these tangible, achievable goals in mind, it’s easier to work out where these treats fit in with you achieving your goals.
These goals, I might add, that are considerably more real-life-satisfying than that seemingly arbitrary, fluctuating, unreliable and overall pretty stupid number on the scales.
It’s easier to stay on track if you’ve got these sort of goals in mind – because if you know what you really want (and what you don’t) you can keep yourself motivated, and focused on living your life to the full, rather than just ticking off hours spent calorie-counting and scale-watching.