2010 Resolution #1: Lose 40 Pounds

In an effort to talk about the power of goal-setting along with some methods of setting and achieving goals, I’m going to discuss my four resolutions for 2010 this week.

I’m overweight.

One of the biggest reasons for this is hypothyroidism, something I’ve had literally since I was born (and have treated with medication since I was three days old). In essence, it mostly means that it’s extremely easy for me to gain weight due to dietary choices. If I’m not highly careful with my diet choices, I gain weight really quickly. Even if I’m careful, I usually just maintain my weight.

Lowering my weight has many personal and financial benefits. It reduces my health care risks – and my potential costs. It improves my quality of life – and likely my length of life as well.

The one thing that has consistently worked for me in reducing weight is a regular exercise routine. During much of 2009, I had a successful routine and lost about 35 pounds. However, during the run-up to the completion of my book manuscript, my exercise routine fell apart and I gained some of the weight back (about 15 pounds of it).

In 2010, I’m ready to get back on the wagon. My goal is straightforward – I intend to lose weight at a healthy rate in 2010 due mostly to more exercise.

Making the Goal Specific
One major step to take when setting any goal for yourself is to make the goal specific and clear so that success and failure are clear and unambiguous. For me, this meant turning to my doctor and asking him what some healthy and realistic goals for 2010 would be.

He indicated clearly that I would be perfectly safe losing one pound a week. He encouraged moderate exercise and minimal dietary change beyond the addition of more vegetables. He encouraged me not to run, but to look for other forms of aerobic exercise.

If I followed the doctor’s advice and lost a pound a week throughout the year, I would lose 52 pounds. It’s a very noble goal, but it expects perfection throughout the year. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Thus, I’m going to aim for a lower goal. I intend to lose 40 pounds in 2010.

Breaking It Down Into Microgoals
What can I do each day or each week to achieve that goal?

In a given week, I should exercise several times. I intend to do three serious exercise sessions in a given week, along with a light one on the weekend. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ll head out for an exercise routine at the gym, and on Saturdays or Sundays, I’ll do a lighter routine.

What exactly will that routine be (remember, specificity is key)? I signed up for a session on Monday, January 4, to identify a good routine for me to follow, and I’ll just follow that assigned routien.

Thus, each week, my microgoal is to do these three moderate exercise sessions and one light session. My overall weight loss goal will happen as a result of achieving that microgoal.

In addition, I’m going to eat a vegetarian lunch three out of five weekdays, replacing my usual lunchtime meal. This enables me to still eat leftovers for lunch and also eat out on occasion with coworkers, but also subtly improves my diet. It will also provide more incentive to eat vegetarian-focused dinners at home, so that the leftovers are vegetable-based.

Feedback and Adjustment
Each week, I’m going to record my success at each of those two microgoals, along with my weight. Over a period of time, it will become pretty clear whether the plan is working – am I consistently losing any weight over a period of a few weeks?

What happens if I’m not meeting my microgoals? Clearly, I’ll need to step back and re-evaluate my efforts. My suspicion is that the vegetarian microgoal will actually be trickier because I’ll forget about it, as it’s not tied to particular days. The exercise will be harder, as it’s already entered into my calendar (which I nearly live by). One potential solution to this would be to simply assign vegetarian days to myself.

What happens if the microgoals aren’t meeting my weight loss goals? My first response will be to visit my doctor again and simply ask for suggestions and perhaps some pointers on what exactly I can change. More exercise? Bigger dietary changes? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Tomorrow, I’ll address my second 2010 goal – one that’s a bit more directly related to finances.

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