Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goal Setting

Happy Sunday everyone! Today I want to take a bit to talk about setting goals. Back in January I knew something had to change. The first step was to set some goals. Not only does clearly defining and setting goals give you a solid target to work towards, it feels really great when you reach your goal. However, there are some goal setting guide lines I'd like to share with you. If you set goals that are unrealistic or unachievable, you will not be able to reach them and you will feel pretty depressed and likely not stick to your plan.

So, how to set a good goal. In one of the martial arts books I'm reading right now, "The Way to Black Belt", they talk about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific - answers the question who or what. Your goal should identify a specific action that is going to take place.

Measurable - Define measurements that will be used to determine the outcome or goal has been achieved.

Attainable - It is important to challenge yourself, but do not set the bar so high that it is unrealistic of you to reach your goal. Try setting a series of smaller goals as stepping stones to get to your ultimate goal.

Realistic - Some goals may be obtainable, but not realistic. For example, wanting to exercise every day is both attainable and realistic. However, wanting to train for 10 hours a day is technically attainable, but not very realistic.

Timely - You want to set a deadline for yourself. Again, be sure this deadline is realistic and attainable, but be sure to challenge yourself.

By following these some of these guide lines you can set realistic goals that can be measured and reached by a certain date.

Since my goals were a little ambiguous, "Eat better, get in shape, take up martial arts again" I broke them down into chunks so that I would not feel overwhelmed.

I started by first going to see a personal trainer to discuss some actual physical measurable goals for getting shape. (Please note, my goal is not to be skinny, but to be toned, healthy and in shape.) I'm about 5' tall and when I went in for my consultation session I was almost 140lbs. My Body Mass Index (BMI) measured to be about 30%. This is pretty unhealthy, right along the danger line. In general women will ultimately have a higher BMI than men since we have curves and breasts. Thats just the way it is ladies. But typically women need to be in the low 20's to mid teens as far as a healthy percentage of body fat. Men can go as low as the low teens to high single digits if they're in great shape. We calculated my BMI using a device that sends electrical current through your body, but you can look online and find charts to get a good idea of where you stand. Keep in mind, chart numbers will vary depending on gender, so it is a good idea to make sure you're looking at one specific to your gender. So, in order to get in shape, I needed to lose a little bit of weight and bring my BMI down.

I know you see on T.V. lose 10 pounds in a week with this miracle diet! Blah blah blah. This really isn't healthy or safe for you. When you do what is called yo-yo dieting, which is dropping weight very fast, your body can go into shock and it will start to store fat which is counter productive to the weight loss process. So, realistically, you shouldn't aim to lose absolutely any more than 2 lbs a week. Real, lasting weight loss takes time and effort. The best, healthiest way to to lose weight is eating right combined with exercise. I definitely knew I wasn't eating well, and I wasn't getting enough (coughANYcough) exercise. So here is where I started to really define my goals. They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit, and I wanted to make lifestyle changes, form good eating habits, not just 'go on a diet' so I set my time frame in spans of one month. Here is how I went about breaking them down into smaller chunks that I felt more capable of handling:

For the first month of January, I decided to cut back on eating fast food as much as possible. I decided to focus ONLY on fast food, a small, attainable, realistic goal. I would start bringing my lunch to work at least 3 or 4 days a week, and when I did eat out, I would steer clear of places like McDs as much as possible. At my office we always have Chipotle Monday, so I allowed this to be my one cheat a week. If you completely deny yourself of everything right off the bat when it comes to changing your eating habits, you're more likely to be miserable, to go crazy and instead of eating that one brownie you're craving, you'll eat the whole pan. So its important to reward yourself and allow yourself to cheat once a week or so. Chipotle Monday is my once a week cheat.

Once I cut about 98% of the fast food out of my diet, I started focusing on trying to eat a little better at home. Instead of frozen pizza or nachos for dinner, I started trying to cook more balanced meals. (I'll go over some good guide lines for food next week) I would cook chicken with a side of rice and a side of veggies instead. Or make wraps with a side salad. I also tried to focus on cooking JUST enough for us to eat, one helping of chicken, and more helpings of rice and veggies. (Again, I'll address portion size later). This was all I focused on in February. Just trying to buy and eat more veggies and less processed food. (High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated oils are in everything and we eat waaaaay too much of them, check your labels and you'll be shocked.)

This month, March, now that I have myself more or less weened off of fast food and junk food, I am working on trying to eat the right things at the right time. For example, breakfast is very important, so I'm trying to eat a breakfast that contains protein and other good for you foods. Like eggs and whole grain toast, or yogurt with nuts and oatmeal. Making sure I eat complex carbs before I work out, and having protein plus a simple carb after my workout. Eating good is great! Now, I'm trying to challenge myself a little more and eat good things for me at the appropriate times. For me, its easier to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to absorb no fast food, no buying junk food, eating specific things at specific times, etc. I didn't want to get overwhelmed and disappointed when I forgot something or didn't quite make my goals for the day, and give up.

The trick is to find out what works best for you. Maybe starting out by saying, I will not have fast food this week. Or even, I will not have fast food today. Just make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.

I started going to kempo, and coupled with changing my eating habits, one smaller, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely goal at a time, I'm making progress towards my overall goal of health and fitness, and ultimately Martial Arts Mastery.

As of the end of February, which was my last measurement, I have lost 7 lbs since January and 4% off my BMI. My clothes are staring to feel loose. Working towards your goals and making them is really great. When I meet one goal, I feel all that more excited to try to make it to my next goal.

A personal thing I want to share which I hope might be helpful to someone reading this, Do NOT fixate on the numbers. I don't even own a scale, if I want to know how much I weigh, I'd have to go to the gym to find out, and to be honest, I don't really care enough to find out when I am there. Especially when losing weight is concerned, try not to say "I want to be 120 pounds." Or however much. Muscle weighs more than fat, so at the end of my time set for my overall weight loss goal, (Which is May) I may be in great shape, but weigh more than I expected to. Instead, I have decided I want to be able to see muscle tone in my arms, legs, and even my abs. I can both see and feel a difference in my body as I work towards this goal.

Numbers on the scale and clothing size are completely arbitrary. I might be a size 5 in one brand of pants, and a size 9 in another, even though I have walked right out of one store and right into another. I could be a large T-shirt in one store, and a small at another. Buy clothes that you like and that fit you, then when you get home, cut all the size tags off. The number doesn't matter. Are you happy with your body? Do you feel healthy? In my opinion its the answers to those questions are what matter the most. I wasn't happy with my body and I certainly didn't feel healthy. But as I am eating better and working out, I can see and feel my body getting stronger and healthier. I'm really starting to love my body and feel confident and attractive. I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever felt this way in my entire life. I always felt bad because I wasn't like the models on T.V., but now I see what is important is to take care of you body, love who you are, and ignore all those skinny air brushed magazine and bill board adds.

I hope this was helpful, sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent there at the end. Have a great week everyone, get out there and set some S.M.A.R.T. goals!

~ Samurai Girl Sahara


  1. I LOVE reading your posts and you are being so incredibly smart in the way you are trying to attain your goals. You're already making amazing improvement!

    You were so right when you broke down S.M.A.R.T. It's like with me and nano. Nano's goals were all about word count. That's all that mattered. Just the count. Now that it's over (and I'm FINALLY getting back to working on the story) I've learned I have to make my own goals. I don't know whether I'll find the end at 100,000 or 500,000 words, so a word count is unrealistic for me now. What is realistic is time, so my new goal is to write at least 3 days a week for at least 1 hour each time. I can certainly write more than that, but that is my minimum. I'm finding if I stick to that I'm definitely making progress and I'm also very happy with myself, because I'm making my hobby/goal important to myself by setting aside a reasonable time for it. I'm also allowing myself to focus a bit more on substance (something nano doesn't always allow for), but still following the rule of no editing and just constantly pushing forward. After all, I have to finish it once to make it better a second time.

    Anyway, that was lots of rambling. I'm following you now and can't wait to see what else you say!

  2. Thank you!

    I'm so happy to hear you're back on track with your novel. I like your goals, keep sticking to them and you'll be done in no time. :) Keep up the hard work, I believe in you!

  3. Wonderful post. Keep up the hard work. I am truly feeling inspired!

  4. Thank you Nick! I appreciate your support and I'll be here for you 100% of the way! :)