Experts at the Mayo Clinic agree that making “process goals” (such as exercising regularly) as opposed to “outcome goals” (such as losing 50 pounds) are more likely to be successful. Setting realistic goals and starting with small, positive changes leads to results that are more likely to stick. Another big help is finding a plan that you can live with on a long-term basis.
Read how some of our Solutions team members made lasting changes to their health and routines in ways that were small at first, suited them personally, and led to great results.
Ellie’s wake-up call came in 2003, when her cholesterol went into the danger zone at 241.
“It hit me that I was putting my husband at risk of becoming a single parent to our three girls,” Ellie says. “I knew it was time to make a real change.”
Ellie had struggled with her weight in the past and, discouraged, assumed she couldn’t lose weight. So she reset her goals, redirecting her focus toward lowering her cholesterol and improving her overall health.
“I started counting fat grams,” she says. “That really worked for me.”
Ellie is a good cook who likes to experiment, and soon she was using non-fat yogurt instead of butter when she baked, roasted garlic as a spread, and making the switch to leaner meats.
“There were some kitchen nightmares,” she admits with a smile. “But for the most part it was surprisingly easy – easier than anything else I’d tried!”
A year later, Ellie’s cholesterol had dropped to 174. And a bonus she hadn’t expected? She also dropped 52 pounds! Now, Ellie has had more energy for lunchtime walks, as well as weekend hikes with her family. She now makes sure to include healthy fats (like salmon, nuts, and olive oil) in her diet.
Ellie’s advice: “Instead of worrying about losing weight, concentrate on eating right. You'll lose weight much faster. Don’t diet. Dieting is about depriving yourself. Eat right.”
While she was growing up, Elaine’s schools encouraged her to train her mind – but put very little emphasis on training the body.
“The private school I attended didn’t even have a gym, and in high school, being in the drama club got you out of PE,” she remembers.
Apart from weight control and watching her cholesterol, Elaine needs to look no further than her own parents for motivation.
“My mother and father both suffered from health problems as they got older,” she says, “some of which may have been avoidable if they’d been more active and careful of what they ate. I’d like my later years to be healthy ones.”
Elaine tried a number of different diets to keep her weight in check, but finds that the plan that works best for her is a simple one she devised herself.
“Portion-control, definitely,” she says. “Also, I keep my carbs to no more than two servings a day, and aim to have at least two servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit every day.&rdquo
Nowadays, Elaine is very faithful with her workouts, running with a neighbor (“rain or shine!”) and weight training with her husband at a gym several times a week. She likes the commitment of having one or more exercise “buddies.”
“The accountability is definitely good for me,” she says.
Elaine’s advice: “As far as exercise goes: find a time to work it in, then stick to it! If you decide to do it in the mornings, then make sure you get up every morning and do it. If you do it lunchtimes, fine – but don’t let doing anything else even be an option.”
Good health is important to Louise, but she admits that her primary motivation to exercise is weight control. She enjoys baking (and we at Solutions® can attest to her skill – she brings in her tasty treats for us to sample!), and her husband loves to cook, so Louise knows she needs to stay active.
“I’ve always enjoyed hiking, bicycling and tennis,” she says, “but it’s hard to keep up with those things when you have a full schedule. I make a point of always keeping an active gym membership, to give me motivation. Plus, there’s never any excuse for me to miss my workouts because of weather!”
Louise faithfully attends aerobics classes two evenings a week, and manages to fit walks in at other times – outdoors or on the treadmill.
“I get bored easily, and so I like that the gym offers different activities,” she says. “My goal for the New Year is to start weight training more regularly.”
Louise’s advice: “When it comes to exercise, just make up your mind to do it – you don’t need to do a lot at first to get good results and stay healthy. And pick activities you enjoy – that makes it easier to keep up with it.”
Jennifer had fallen into a pattern of dieting, losing about half what of what she wanted to lose, getting frustrated, quitting, and gaining it back.
“I tried a lot of different diets,” she says. “It was very discouraging.”
In 2005, Jennifer joined a group that emphasized calorie counting. She is still amazed at her own results.
“After years of yo-yo dieting, the weight just fell off,” she says. “I lost 85 pounds in just under a year – I actually went ten pounds below my goal weight!”
While such fast results weren’t typical of everyone in her group, Jennifer credits her dramatic success to calorie counting.
“Before, I’d thought I was cutting down my intake, and I was – but not nearly enough,” she says. “I’d made improvements, sure, but I was still eating way too much for a 64-inch tall woman with a medium build. It astounded me when I realized what a real portion size was!”
Two years later, Jennifer has kept the weight off, and goes fitness walking five times a week. She also continues to track her caloric intake carefully.
“I’m definitely not a numbers person, but this was the only thing that ever worked for me,” she says. “And it’s the only thing I could ever see myself doing long-term.”
Jennifer’s advice: “Write down everything you eat. It’s a hassle at first, but you get used to it. There’s nothing else that drives home just how much food you’re putting into your body...it keeps you aware of how much you really need.”
Have you made successful changes to your health and fitness routine? Do you plan to make changes this year? Share your tips, goals and progress with us here at Solutions®, and we’ll include your story in a future newsletter. Send your email to email@example.com.