Are you a health practitioner ready to uplevel your practice? Expand your reach without burn-out? What we know about how to change and heal is shifting. I want you to be a part of this change. Catch the replay of my SMART Goals: How they Sabotage Eating and Exercise Goals Workshop that involves a paradigm-shifting approach to goal setting and coaching and details on my Truce Coaching Certification. CLICK HERE for instant access.
Last week, I discussed the emotional nature of eating and exercise goals.
This makes SMART goals, the industry norm, ineffective when it comes to changing our food and exercise habits (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound).
And worse than ineffective?
You see, the entire design of SMART goals is “sticking to a plan.” There’s a rigidity to these types of goals that doesn’t allow us to pivot when real life happens.
This rigidity is a result of being all-or-nothing. This mindset says “Perfection” or “Chuck It, Fuck It eating”. It also then judges imperfect results as “failures”. Because there’s either success or failure in an all-or-nothing mindset.
The TL:DR? SMART goals reinforce the very mindset we need to change!
As behavioral change expert Michelle Segar, PhD says,
Sustainable behavior change is not a product of rule-following. It’s the outcome of making the small daily decisions that let us stay consistent with our goals and ourselves.
Many people try to make their choices automatic via habit formation, only to see these habits crash. The truth is that habits depend on predictable circumstances. The new thinking is that habit formation for complex behaviors (like healthy eating and exercise) generally can’t work for the majority.
Growing research shows that being flexible and willing to modify your eating or exercise plan as needed better predicts success with sustainable change than “trying to stick to the plan.”
To illustrate flexible thinking (i.e. nuanced and contextual), here’s my exercise goal and success snapshot as I got back into exercise, one year postpartum.
My exercise goal strategy was momentum. I set a loose goal of 3 days a week just to show up to exercise. Showing up was my goal because making the time was the first challenge.
After a few months of inconsistent “showing up, I unearthed the root-cause of my exercise inconsistency. I knew “skipping exercise” wasn’t a bad but protective habit because of my own cultivated nuanced health views (We’ll discuss how bad habits are actually protective at my upcoming SMART Goals: Sabotage workshop).
January – February 2021
Working through the root-cause of my exercise inconsistency, time freed up. Note when it comes to SMART goals, the entire goal would’ve been incorrect. I knew what I needed to do, which SMART goals focus on. I didn’t know how to do it.
Hired a trainer who could work with my foot and body pain to help me strength train 2x/week and would motivate me to show up.
March – August 2021
I discovered weight training “Quick Fixes” of more energy even on bad sleep nights, my body and foot pain resolves, and more emotional resilience. I lose 10 pounds.
I revise my exercise goals because I’m in a completely surprising place: I love lifting heavy weights. And I want to do more. I swap my trainer for Crossfit* classes at the same gym because I have intrinsically-generated momentum now and trust I won’t injure myself because I’m in better shape.
I aim for 3 days a week (because I also want my money’s worth!) but the days and times are loose because my sleep still sucks and I have to coordinate my exercise with how rested I am.
*I never got on the CrossFit bandwagon and had a negative bias towards it. This choice/strength goal wasn’t even on my radar.
One year later, I love my gym routine because I am challenging my physical limits, found a wonderful community, and feel back to my resilient, curious, enthusiastic self. I go 4x a week.
I’m naturally getting up at 6:30 am to workout (WHAT?), and riding my bike to the gym with new found energy. Who I am 🧐?
I still can’t believe I bike to the gym at 6:30 am and am happy about it! And I have new strength goals. I lost another 10 pounds.
There is so much more flexibility in my life that I didn’t even mention here, like daycare closures and endless house issues.
But by focusing on different stages of momentum or some strict plan, I was able to honor the reality (i.e. context) of the changing seasons of my sleep, perimenopause, and pandemic parenting life.
A flexible mindset key? Meeting yourself where you are by setting accessible, not (perfection) fantasy, goals. You will learn a lot about your body and self as you go.
A Truce with Food client gave me permission to share her realizations on breaking free from a perfection fantasy or bust mindset:
Another flexible mindset key? Stop labeling results as being “good” or “bad”.
And this is why I hate the term “non-scale wins”. I like the concept. And yet, the term “win” means we can also lose, which perpetuates a rigid, non-learning, Compete mindset. #itsamatrixouthere.
When our focus becomes on wins, setbacks become “losses” and “falling behind” instead of valuable research.
Instead, make it a practice to ask “What did I learn about what works?”, and “What did I learn isn’t working here?” to begin to learn how to think more flexibly.
Because a flexible mindset requires creative/strategic thinking. And a rigid, binary mindset often prevents learning from research (i.e. failure in a win-lose mindset).
For example, in the past few months, while my weight has stayed the same, the gym InBody showed I was losing muscle mass. And healthy body composition of adequate muscle is a main goal for me here at mid-life.
It turns out I was working out in a fasted state which is muscle wasting in perimenopause and wasn’t eating enough or soon enough post-work-out.
Had I been in a binary mindset, I would’ve doubled down on how I think “winning” works, which usually leads to some herculean measures versus the truth of some minor tweaks. I might have tried to increase how heavy I lift or added another day to the gym. This would’ve piled on the losses because my eating timing wasn’t supporting muscle building.
Flexible thinking in developmental psychology is called “complexity fitness”. This is essential to eating, exercise and healing goals because it allows us to collaborate with what is true for our bodies and live’s today. Not what worked in the past. Or in some fantasy life when we have no stress or distractions.
And if you’re a health coach or professional and want to take a deeper dive into how to get your clients out of being all-or-nothing, catch the replay of my SMART Goals: How they Sabotage Eating and Exercise Goals Workshop that involves a paradigm-shifting approach to goal setting and coaching.
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