One of the reasons weight loss attempts fail is that people brainstorm abstract steps to reach abstract goals. For instance, the goal “I will lose weight” is abstract, and the steps:
1. I will eat less
2. I will exercise more
3. I will go to bed earlier
ARE ALL ABSTRACT!
Some may argue that the goal needs to be more specific (I will lose 15-pounds, 5% body fat, etc), but I disagree. The abstract goal of simply losing weight is okay, but setting out concrete steps for how you will do that will significantly improve your chances of actually dropping the weight!
Lets go back to the steps above. They are on the right track, but the human brain needs more information. Humans are very good at encoding information if they have a set process to guide behavior. Let’s use that strategy and revisit the steps.
1. I will eat a 1/2 cup serving (each) of two different vegetables and a piece of lean meat (no bigger than a deck of cards) for dinner every night at 6pm. I will plan these dinners for the week every Saturday and go grocery shopping for the week every Sunday.
2. I will get up at 5:40am to be at the gym at 6am every weekday, where I will do 45-minutes of cardio. For my cardio workout, I will select from… (list your workout options)
3. I will go to bed every night by 10pm.
Ah ha! Now we’re getting there! You are TWO to THREE times more likely to succeed if you use a specific strategy plan than if you don’t. In one study, 91 percent of people who used a concrete plan stuck to an exercise program, versus 39 percent of non-planners. I know the worry: if you set concrete steps, you may not be able to stick with them. Risk messing up! Risk failing! It is okay to set your steps and fall off the bandwagon every now and again, but at least you have a bandwagon to fall from. Without concrete steps, you are chasing that proverbial wild goose, and let’s face it- that gets downright exhausting!
Have you already tossed in your hat on your 2011 resolution to lose weight? Hey, pull out your pen and paper (or iPad as it may be) and set some specific steps, and give another go at it! With having a set of concrete steps to follow, weight loss is as simple as following the instructions.