Habits and Goals

When I was younger, I lived in an outcome-oriented universe. Goals were set and either met, or not met. As time passed, I found myself drawn to the process side of of things. If you do the right things, you’ll get something. If those happen not to be the right things, at least you’ve learned.

The outcome goals and the process goals work hand-in-hand, giving some direction and a plan in a way outcome goals by themselves, even SMART goals, can’t match. One goal in-process now is an MSW. There are other things to work on. My health is important to me, even if I haven’t acted like it for a few months. When the semester ended, I made phone calls to the massage therapist, the counselor, and a personal trainer as part of that incomplete SMART goal.

Specific: Achieve 25% body fat so I can do more and feel better. Letting go of my workout habits during Fall semester reminded me how awful I feel this big and weak. The change has to be sustainable, even after graduation. Right now, time is a constraint and it is easy to push hard things aside.

Measurable: The goal is achieved when bodyfat, when measured with calipers by trained personnel is 25%. Monthly measurement demonstrates progress.

Achievable: The goal can be accomplished with consistent diet and movement. The steps to take are establishing accountability and finding expert help for managing anxiety in healthy ways, establishing a movement and exercise routine, establishing healthy Level 1 eating habits.

Relevant: This goal is fundamental to aging well and there is not going to be a better time than now. This goal is wrapped up in so many other areas of life and I have access to low-cost counseling and personal training for what may be the last time.

Time-Bound: There are no guarantees. However, I will walk the stage in May 2018 at 25% bodyfat. This goal is a 24/7/365 kind of thing.

There are many sub-goals and steps still missing. This large goal has three major parts

  1. Managing anxiety. Stress affects body chemistry. Body chemistry affects body composition directly, in addition to influencing hunger and satiety cues. In the past, carbohydrates were my Xanax of choice, which destroyed my nutrition.
  2. Strength training. Muscle mass changes how the body responds to nutrition. I also know from past efforts, strength training helps me feel better which makes it easier to maintain good nutrition.
  3. Level 1 nutrition. Eating to appetite, lean proteins, healthy fats, a variety of vegetables and fruits consistently is Level 1 eating. This isn’t draconian and can be fun, but difficult to do if I’m trying to “treat” myself with milkshakes and other processed carbohydrates.

Down in the weeds of managing anxiety, strength training, and nutrition are where process goals are found. Here are the small, daily choices which will add up to the big, visible changes in body composition. Process goals are excellent, especially for large, long-term outcome goals like this one. Tracking process goals shows what works, what doesn’t, and, in the case of non-linear progression, can give me small wins to celebrate even if progress on the outcome measure is stalled.

Process goals for anxiety will include meeting with the counselor as scheduled and whatever she and I establish during the course of treatment. The strength training is similar, go to the gym as my trainer and I agree and do what he says while I’m there. Nutrition habits can be broken down into whats, how muchs, and whens, but we always start with a benchmark. Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t.

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