I’ve been taking some time to reassess my fitness goals and rework my food plan (as we are always works-in-progress!) and I figured I’d share with you my 10 steps to setting realistic fitness goals. When we set goals that aren’t realistic, it is easy to get discouraged and feel like we failed. Follow these 10 steps, and enjoy your journey!

1. Lose the idea that your goals will be achieved quickly. They won’t. While there are strict plans that would be quicker than others, adherence is key. If you don’t yet have the discipline, the meal prep skills, the organization, and the awareness of what works best for your body, even the best plan won’t work quickly. Give it time!

2. Realize that it will take planning and work. You’ll have to stay home and prep meals when you’d rather be out. You’ll need a good night’s sleep when you’d rather be up late watching Jimmy Fallon. You might even need to adjust your social activities to support your fitness goals. You’ll have to accept this in order to achieve any substantial fitness goal. It needs to become a priority before it can become a habit. It’ll get easier over time, but in the beginning it will seem like quite a bit of planning and work.

“It needs to become a priority before it can become a habit.”

3. Make a list of your favorite physical activities. Do you love running? Lifting weights? Kickboxing? Swimming? You’ll want to include your favorites in your plan, so this is an important list! If you don’t already know what kind of physical activities are your favorites, you should plan on incorporating a variety of activities into your plan! Keep it interesting, and find what you love!

4. Make a list of your desired physical outcomes, and be specific. Do you want to lose fat? Gain muscle? Run a marathon? Have more energy? Be stronger for daily life? Make a list of your desired outcomes, and prioritize the list. And be honest with yourself. If your most desired outcome is to look great in a swimsuit, that’s ok! But be specific about what changes that means for your body. Without identifying the specifics, you won’t end up with a plan that is suited to your desired outcomes. And without the right plan, you’ll work hard and not feel satisfied!

5. Develop a fitness plan to fit your desired outcomes. For this you’ll probably want to consult a personal trainer or coach. A good trainer should be willing to set you up with a basic program to get you on your way to your goals. A good trainer should also be willing to incorporate your favorite activities into the plan. It is worth investing in a few sessions to get on the right track, and to make sure you have correct form with your exercises. Keep in mind that your favorite exercises may not correspond so well to your goals, so you’ll have to be flexible there. For example, if you want to put on muscle (total body) but your favorite exercise is running, you shouldn’t expect to be running several times per week. A good trainer will probably set you up with a lifting plan and include sprints or hill repeats as your HIIT cardio, and/or one long run per week. The important thing here is to develop a plan that works toward your goals, and one that you will enjoy!

6. Make a list of your favorite foods. You’re not looking for a diet, here; you are looking for a food plan that is sustainable for you. And in order for it to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable! So think about the foods you love, even the unhealthy ones. Write them down. Also think about the healthy foods you enjoy, or wouldn’t mind eating. Do you feel better on three meals per day, or do you like several smaller meals/snacks? Do you get full easily, or do you often feel hungry? These are important to note as well, so you can create a food plan that is right for you.

“In order for it to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable!”

7. Consider common food allergens, and how you feel when you eat them. I know that if I eat a bowl of pasta, I’ll soon be in a head-fog. I don’t do so well with wheat, and so I limit my wheat intake. I choose other complex carbs (like brown rice or oats) instead. If I eat a lot of almonds or strawberries, I scratch myself silly! So I’m mildly allergic, and I limit my intake of those, too. Think about how you feel when you eat wheat/gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, berries, or any other foods that may be allergens. I’m not saying you should eliminate everything from your diet, but consider what makes your body feel its best. I still eat pasta, almonds, strawberries, and other foods that aren’t the best for me, but I eat them in moderation. (And have I mentioned? I LOVE my food plan!)

8. Develop a food plan that fits your fitness plan and goals. Your trainer should have some ideas for you to explore, but you should consult a dietician and/or your physician to be sure it is healthy for you. You’ll need to properly fuel your body for your physical activity. And the food plan you choose should definitely be able to include, at times, your favorite foods. Obviously you can’t eat all pizza and ice cream, but perhaps a large salad and a slice of pizza can be a reasonable meal for you. Perhaps you can have a cup of ice cream twice a week. Figure it out. Do the work. Crunch the numbers if you need to. Create a few sample food plan days for yourself. It’s worth the work! And macro-tracking apps are a great help! I like MyMacros+, and I know MyFitnessPal is also very popular.

9. Find an appropriate way to measure your progress. This is completely dependent upon your desired outcomes. If your goal is to be stronger, then the amount you lift (and/or ease with which you lift it) would measure your progress. If you want to lean out and have more defined muscles, pictures and measurements are probably the best way to assess your progress. You get the idea. Figure out what makes most sense to measure your desired outcomes, and think about an appropriate frequency for making those measurements.

10. Accept that you won’t be perfect at your plan. Don’t let one slip-up throw you off plan completely. Accept it, see what you can learn from it, and get right back on plan! Each time you go off plan gives you the opportunity to better your habits or tweak your plan so that it fits you better. Maybe you didn’t realize you’d be stuck late at work, and you hit the vending machines. Well, now you can be sure to always have an emergency snack on hand. Maybe you didn’t expect to be enticed by the pizza at the kiddie party this weekend. Well, keep that in mind for the future, and fit that into your plan. Maybe you didn’t realize you’d be up late working on a big project, and that you’d be SO HUNGRY! Well, maybe your plan needs an up-late-working extra protein shake. (I have that in my plan, because I am not happy or productive when I’m hungry!) You get the idea. Learn as you go, and tweak your habits and your plan to make it sustainable for you over the long run.

Now stick to the plan! Although it will always be a work-in-progress, whatever the plan is at the moment, stick to it! Consistency is key! Make tweaks when you need to, and check in with your personal trainer and dietician when you need to. You WILL achieve your goals. Give it time, and be kind to yourself. You’ll get there! :)

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Disclaimer: Although I have a few advanced degrees, none of them are in nutritional science, sports training, or medicine. Please consult the appropriate qualified professionals before embarking on any new diet or fitness regime.

To read more about me, visit the About Me page.