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Achieve Weight Loss & Fitness Success by Setting the Bar

Setting the Bar...and Clearing It

Setting the Bar – and Clearing It Image Courtesy of Microsoft Images

Leave a Comment: What’s the current bar you’re reaching for?

I had a great conversation with one of my clients the other day about setting expectations.  She told me that when she normally goes to the gym, she tends to expect a lot from herself – high intensity intervals, long-duration cardio bouts or hard training sessions – and anything less feels like a letdown.  However, for a variety of reasons, she has had to cut back on her training for the past few months.  Since restarting, she’s found herself just focusing on getting to the gym to do a brisk walk – and often times doing much more when she’s there.  As a result, she feels much more accomplished and motivated to continue going.  I wonder if the intensity she worked, in both instances, were similar and only her perception of the effort – where she set the bar – was different.  At least that’s what she told me, and I believe her.

Setting the Bar

Setting the bar, especially when it comes to losing weight and getting fit, can be a tricky thing.  Set it too high and you sometimes feel like you’re reaching for the unattainable.  Set it too low, and you don’t feel like you’re doing anything.  But like Goldilocks, set it just right and you’re motivated to put in the effort required to reach it, pleasantly surprised when you go above and beyond, and satisfied with the pace of your results – no bears required, only bars.

The question becomes, what’s “just right” for you?  Alas, many people have an idea of what they want, but don’t truly know.  Would I like to have six-pack abs?  Sure.  But the more important question is – am I willing to put in, and sustain, the effort needed to get six-pack abs?  Knowing my genetics and the effort I’ve put in the past to get close, the restrictions I’d have to make to my eating habits and schedule would not allow me to enjoy all aspects of my life.  For me, living a long, full life by preserving my healthy weight (post thirty pound weight loss) and fitness is a priority and I put in the effort to maintain it – six-pack abs, however, aren’t.  I’m focused on maximizing happiness across all aspects of my life – one part of which is physical wellness.  But hey, that’s just me.

How did I get to this realization?  I set the bar too high during my initial weight loss in 2005.  I imagined my “ideal” self: 8% body fat and six-pack abs.  And I started working towards it.  But the journey changed me – and my bar – as I progressed and received feedback from my actions and the mirror. By late 2005, I had gotten down to under 10% body fat, working out like a fiend and watching what I ate like a hawk.  But still no six-pack abs.

At this point, I had to make a decision – was I a failure for not reaching the bar I set myself, or did I just need to reset the bar?  I felt that even my habits at the time were a bit unsustainable (and people were telling me I looked a bit gaunt – I agreed), so I decided that maintaining a healthy weight and staying active and strong is what mattered most.  And I wanted to be able to have a piece of cake every now and then!  So I eased my foot off the gas pedal and have maintained a steady weight since, with a body fat percentage in the low teens.  I’m happy, and healthy.

What’s Ideal

Reflecting upon this story, I came to a conclusion that I use to help my clients achieve their fitness goals: it’s about setting multiple bars based on what’s ideal, and what’s real.  Without a doubt, set your sights as high as you want – imagine your ideal self: how you look, how you feel, your best athletic performance, etc.  That’s the final bar.  But know that to get to that ideal, final bar you must put in (and sustain) the effort required to achieve (and maintain) it.  Unless you’ve already been there at your current age and life circumstances, you may not fully know what it will take to get there.  But start with the first step.

What’s Real

Now consider what’s real: how much time you can devote to the effort, how often you can be active, what eating habit adjustments you’re willing to make, what indulgences you may be willing to cut down on.

Getting From Real to Ideal, Bar by Bar

Create multiple bars between your current reality and your ideal one.  Make sure the first bar is attainable and sustainable by asking yourself this question: “Based on my reality, how confident am I that I can achieve my first bar on a scale of 1 (no confidence) to 10 (total confidence)?”  Your answer should be a 9 or 10. If not, adjust the bar.  Once you achieve that bar, set the next bar where your feeling is similar: a 9 or 10 out of 10.  And achieve it.  Keep setting bars that are both keep you motivated to reach and are, in fact, within your reach.  Continue until you get to your final bar – or until you cross the bar that makes you happiest.

Remember, physical wellness is just one of seven aspects of wellness: social, occupational, emotional, physical, intellectual, environmental and spiritual.

Leave a Comment: What’s the current bar you’re reaching for?

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