If you haven't seen part 1 yet, it's here.
This post looks at:
- Getting clear on what you really want.
- How emotions and motivations affect your adherence and ultimately your success.
- Creating SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic Time-sensitive goals).
- Using process goals to change the focus and ensure long term success.
- The 10 most important and useful lessons I learned from the first 3 months of my transformation.
Getting clear on what you want
Have you ever said to yourself (usually at the start of the year), "I'm going to lose weight"? Start by doing a bit more exercise, making a few better eating decisions and then weeks later it's all forgotten. I have!
Have you ever said, "I'm going to lose weight for my holiday this year"? You stat in May, giving yourself until July and drop a few pounds and go on holiday feeling great. You enjoy yourself so much that when you get back you forget about all the momentum you've built and slip back into old ways. Start again next January. I have!
Have you ever put yourself through one of those punishing 30 day programmes with no real plan for what happens after the 30 days? Me too.
So this time I was determined to do it differently, starting with what is it that I want?
Lets get real now. Trying to get a bit leaner, toning up, losing a belly etc... they don't really inspire you. They don't help you get up at 6am to go to the gym before work, or push as hard as you can on your 6th hill sprint and definitely don't make it any easier to pass on that Friday night take away when you've had a week like that.
What really gets us going is the emotional connection (what we feel) about achieving the goal, and failing to achieve it. So before you work towards the goal have a think about what it means for you to attain it.
What do you want?
I'm going to share with you my genuine reasons behind #project30 - to get into the best shape of my life by age 30.
Before you say that's a bit vague isn't it? Yes it is. So I'll break it down quickly:
- visible abs (6 pack)
- body fat in single figures
- weight around 66-68kg
Based on the evidence I have from years of testing myself I know that satisfying the above criteria will put my in the best shape of my life and vice versa. For you this might just be, "weigh 10 stone or less / get to my pre-baby weight / size 30 waist jeans," whatever you know will have you in the 'best shape ever'.
Incidentally the target body weight for me is what I weighed when I finished secondary school (now I'm more muscular to achieve the weight I'll need to be WAY leaner than I was - I don't want to lose any muscle).
Why, REALLY, do you want that?
We're all different. Different things motivate us and inspire us, so you're going to need to look at what it is that really drives you.
This will give you a little glimpse into my psyche, but I think deep down we're not all that different. In no particular order:
- to have a better understanding of myself and my clients.
- to be a role model
- to look and feel sexy in my own body
- to have abs that turn heads
- to feel comfortable in tight clothes in the gym and with my t-shirt off at the beach
- to look back at pictures in years to come and say, "whoa!" but in a good way
Why not go one better and take a piece of A4, divide it into two columns titled, "what are the benefits of achieving x" and "what are the consequences of not achieving x".
Bear in mind these are my personal reasons and might be aligned with yours or not. If you choose to copy them but they don't resonate with you, then you'll find those reasons alone don't push you.
For me I can:
I want to point out that since starting this process in Nov '16, I've learned a great deal about myself, the human brain and have found ways to deal with both negative and positive feelings. I had some amazing help from wonderful people who I will give details of in the next part of this transformations blog.
To keep you focused on the target you need time to scale your efforts. Remember those 30 day programmes that were sort of successful, and the mad dash to get lean for holiday? They worked, right? Sort of... There was a positive result, but then things went back to normal and we found ourselves repeating the process again.
Well right now I'm boasting 6 months of positive results. It will be 7 when I weight myself at the end of the month and I'm heavier (and slightly fatter) than at the start of the month. That's positive for me, because I planned for it to happen.
I planned for the Christmas period, so I didn't feel like I'd wasted a month of hard work in a week of boozing and chocolate comas.
I've given myself a year to hit my target. But it's too long. No one can sustain an effort towards a single goal 12 months away. I love sports and cycling in particular, and some of those guys and girls are working with 4 year targets, and in that time they will plan for time off, children and all the things life has to throw at them.
So we look at shorter term targets as well. Anyone can sustain an effort for a short period of time and achieve success. The next step is to review progress and set another short term goal, always working towards the end goal. This gives the end goal some fluidity - in that it can be adjusted if you're going to surpass your target, or fall short of it. Both are okay as long as your progressing and learning along the way.
Roughly speaking I've split the year into 4 quarters, and each quarter into 3 individual months to break it down into easier chunks. You don't stand at the bottom of the mountain and see the summit. You can only see the first bend, or crest, and that is THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW.
When I started in December I didn't think I'd be eating over 3,000 calories a day and weightlifting like beast to put on some muscle, but it's how it's worked out. I only figured it out a few months ago when I reviewed my progress and decided it was the best thing to do RIGHT NOW.
This is so simple and beautiful that it baffles me that we don't do it more often. Imagine, if I asked you to quit your job and start a new one in 30 days at the end of your notice. If you were to focus on the outcome it would look something like this:
Day 1 - Quit job
Day 2-30 - Start at new job
Your busy doing all your normal day-to-day stuff that you're going to try and cram in some time looking at jobs and sending out a few CVs. Good luck with that.
By putting process goals in place it might look something more like this:
Day 1 - Quit job
Day 2 - update CV, send to 3 close friends / family members for feedback
Day 3 - make adjustments.
Day 4-7 - Send out 10 CVs each day
I think you get the point. On no day in the second example did we mention the outcome, starting a new job, but we ensured tasks were being completed to make that outcome way more likely.
What I did was have a general focus for the month, like eating home cooked meals 6 nights a week, or attending at least 3 classes a week. At the end of the month I'd weigh myself, take a selfie and have an idea about what to do next month, or the one following it. I've laid out the first three months below.
October - About to go on holiday in Poland for my 29th birthday.
Food: Eating whatever I want - including takeaways as we'd not long moved house and were settling into a rhythm. Frequently having sweets or desserts. Making no specific efforts to avoid certain foods (wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar etc...)
Training: Taking 2 classes a week. No weightlifting (for a long time). Had taken part in Ealing half marathon at the end of September but no running since.
November - Back from holiday and preparing to make a start on #project30
Food: Tried to make simple cut backs by only having treats (puddings, chocolate, alcohol) at the weekend. Started eating a higher proportion of home cooked meals - less takeaways and less eating out. I had a tin of small treats like, Lindt chocolates, in the living room and when I was really struggling (usually coming home late during the week, hungry) I would allow myself 1 treat from my tin - this definitely stopped me from eating the other 5 I would have had the month previously.
Training: No real increase in activity. This was a month in which I was concentrating hard on my business, and very busy at the time. I knew what I was going to be doing in December and that notion was good enough for me at this point and the dietary improvements were a step in the right direction.
December - The true start of #project30
During December I took on 3 weeks of the Arbonne 30 days to healthy living and beyond. This was introduced by a friend, but I really liked the concept because it mirrored a lot of what I was suggesting for my clients. I was also in the process of becoming an Independent Consultant for Arbonne and this was going to provide an opportunity to get to know the products... I bought shit loads.
Food: Followed the Arbonne plan mostly ~80%. I ditched wheat, gluten, sugar and alcohol. Continued eating even more home cooked meals and got into a good routine of preparing batches so I had fewer chances to make the excuse, "but I have nothing good ready, so I'll just have a pizza."
I didn't cut out dairy as I have done in the past. I never have any feeling of ill health with regards to dairy unless I'm drinking large quantities of milk (which I never do anymore).
At the weekend I would have 1 or 2 'cheat / normal / take out / restaurant' meal in which I paid less attention to the diet in order for me not to burden my girlfriend with my dietary restrictions.
Supplements: Protein powders, fibre boost, fizz sticks, hemp oil, evolution: full control, energy stick, some pre and post workout and nutrition bars.
Training: Started working out WAY more. I was getting at least 3 sometimes 4 workouts in every morning when I would practice my BodyPump/BodyAttack choreography. These were tough sessions because I could go a bit heavier than I would when teaching because I wasn't encumbered by talking.
January - Keep riding that wave
Having built A LOT of momentum throughout December I pretty much kept everything the same. I liked what I saw despite the Christmas period (which I made no attempt to ruin through 'dieting') so I kept my diet pretty much the same.
Food: I'd figured out what was working for me. It's a balance between delivering enough energy to maintain high function - training, working long hours, life etc... and being in a sufficient calorie deficit to lose weight.
For me this meant 3 to 4 decent meals a day, plus supplementation. On training days I had more, and on rest days I needed less.
Supplements: same as December
Training: FINALLY introduced strength training into the mix. It was fun. I'd do those sessions in the evening (as well as the classes in the morning still). I followed a simple 3 sets of 5 strength programme called 'Starting Strength'. It was disheartening how little I could lift compared to 'the glory days' but we all have to start somewhere. Weights went up every week on almost every lift, and most importantly it reconnected me with what I was asking my clients to do, day in day out. I was empathising and coaching better than ever.
- Don't try and do everything at once. It's said a habit takes 28 days to implement. As Nutritionist and Strength and Conditioning coach Phil Richard's so often says; chase one rabbit and catch one, chase two rabbits and catch none.
- 30 day strict programmes can be of great use, but work best when they're part of a bigger overall picture. Make sure you're prepared and have no (or as few as possible) potential road bumps in the month.
- Supplements are great at helping you adhere to your diet plan. I found them particularly useful at keeping me fuller making it less likely to 'cheat' on my diet. They make great snacks, which is so often people's downfall.
- When it comes to exercise, do the things you love. You're so much more likely to get out of bed on a cold morning, or go to 5-a-side with when you're feeling rough or walk around the park with your favourite music IF it's the thing that you love.
Especially if you're starting an exercise programme, keep it fun for you. There's a time and a place to do the things you hate, or the things that scare you but I don't think it's at the start of your training journey.
- Bi-weekly progress pictures, at least. This is tricky, because taking them too regularly might not show changes and will set you back psychologically, but don't leave it more than a month or you risk forgetting what you're doing it for.
I found Friday mornings are a great time to do this because it helped keep me 'honest' throughout the weekend. You get such a boost from seeing the evidence of your hard work.
- Weigh yourself AND measure yourself. I always stress that weight isn't the be all and end all, but it's a good indicator of progress. You really want to measure yourself around your waist, belly button and bum if you want a better idea of what's happening to your body. I've never met anyone who would rather lose weight than inches around their middle if they could ONLY have one of them.
- Buy something for you to wear that's closer to your ideal size. On black Friday I bought myself a pair of TIIIIIIIGHT jeans from Next size 28. I didn't try them on until I got home. It was funny in a way to battle my way into them unable to zip them up and spilling out.
I wore them in January no problem.
- Be prepared to change your goal. Things crop up, and whilst the goal should stay the main focus it also needs to be achievable.
Look at the picture above. I honestly thought that when I started I would be WAY further ahead than this by now. Progress is SLOW. But it's sustained, and I haven't had to deny myself much, I know I can continue like this.
- Set mini-targets. Think about mile stones - lose 1kg (2lbs), lose 3.5kg (half a stone), get below 100kg, or whatever is significant to you. There are apps like myfitnesspal, and lots of the fitness trackers like fitbit will help you track this. Maybe I'm just sad, but there's something satisfying to me about getting an electronic badge acknowledging my achievements.
- Set mini-goals to work towards. Holidays are great for this. You can push a little bit harder, the same way and athlete would up their game before the big championship, if it's only a few weeks. I call this sprinting - when you almost put your life on hold and focus everything towards one goal. Here I'd be as strict as possible and train harder knowing that it wont last forever. It's all part of the bigger plan, and just because you ease off when you get back from your holiday, it doesn't mean your going backwards.
You can't sprint forever.
- Get clear on what you really want. Understand the emotions and motivations behind it and write this down in the benefits and consequences exercise.
- Put a time frame on it, and review the goal periodically. Split the overall goal time into smaller chunks and smaller still. Generally you'd work with years, quarters and months, but if you're target is shorter you might look at months, weeks and days.
- Use process goals to keep you on track. If you're starting an exercise programme from scratch then make the process goal for the first few weeks to be to just go to the gym (or wherever) 3x a week (or whatever's feasible for you). It doesn't matter what you do, just that you're building the habit.
- Make note of the lessons you've learned. They form the basis for future success. Failures are dispatched, modified and improve where possible. Successes should be continued, focussed on and enhanced where possible.