You say you want to get in shape. How will you know when you are there?
You say you want to lose weight. If you're losing muscle and water, does that count?
You say you want to get stronger. How are you going to measure that?
You say you want to eat better. What does that mean?
You say you want to be healthy. Who determines what is healthy?
I can't count how many times I threw around these vague, arbitrary terms. Why it never dawned on me that any time I uttered one of these statments (either to myself or out loud) I was essentially saying nothing.
Let's go through some former thought/action processes of mine using these catch phrases:
I want to get in shape. Ok. Great! That sounds like a plan! I'll just start exercising and eating well. If I do that long enough, I'll be in shape! But wait. How will I know when I'm in shape? Can I run a 5K? A marathon? What if I can run a marathon but I'm still larger then I want to be? I give up.
I want to get in shape and lose weight. Ok, even better! I'll keep running and training for races, and I'm bound to get smaller. I mean, look at runners, they are tiny! Now I can run distances longer then 5K, but I can't do a push-up to save my life. I'm smaller, yes, but I have to keep eating less and less calories to get/stay smaller. I give up.
I want to get in shape, lose weight, and be stronger. Wow! That sounds great. I'll keep running long distances, throw in some push-ups/lunges/and sit-ups, and call it good. That way I can build up my muscle mass so my metabolism revs up, burn all sorts of fat with running miles and miles, and its a sure fire way to get in shape, lose weight, and be stronger! I do all this and nothing changes. The scale doesn't move. I don't see abs after 2 months. I give up.
I need to focus on eating better. Yes! I'll keep my calories between 1200-1400 per day! I'll have an oatmeal packet for breakfast, a banana for a mid-morning snack, subway sandwich at lunch, handful of peanut M&M's at 3pm, and pasta with tomato sauce and broccoli for dinner. So low fat! Whole grains, fruit, veggies, nuts (wrapped in chocolate), its so balanced! I can't go more than 3 hours without getting insanely hungry (and SUPER grouchy), I'm starving after a workout and tend to eat everything in site, I lose a few pounds over the course of a month, and slowly start eating more meals out, eating more junk food, and end up even fatter a few months down the road. I give up.
I just want to be healthy. Be at a healthy weight. Not have my doctor want to test my cholesterol. I don't want an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disese, or any other ailment. I'm going to start taking a multi-vitamin and eating more salads. I'm going to join a new gym and go everyday. I'm going to stop eating out at restaurants so much. I'm going to cut back on sweets. This lasts for 1-2 months. I give up.
Looking back now with new eyes and new knowledge, I see that none of these statements were specific. Let's do a small revision:
I want to get in shape. I want to be able to run a 5K in under 27 minutes, perform the majority of my crossfit workouts Rx'd and faster then the majority of the people in my group.
I want to lose weight. I want to keep muscle mass, but lose fat. I'm going to take measurements of my body and use that as a gauge. The scale can not tell me everything. I realize this is going to be a long process as I build and retain muscle, fat will be slow to come off, and it will take weeks for fat loss to be measurable on the scale, but my body will be getting smaller.
I want to get stronger. I want to be able to do at least 2 strict pull-ups in a row, and multiple kipping-pull-ups. I want to increase my major lifts (power clean, dead lift, squats, press) by at least 20lbs each over the next few months. I want to be able to do one-legged squats (pistols), and 30" box jumps.
I want to eat better. I have done extensive research and found that the standard American diet (SAD) is not conducive to my genetics. I read study upon study debunking the link between cholesterol and heart disease. I have experimented on my own body, and found that eating wheat/gluten causes me to have allergies, and that eating refined sugar and carbohydrates only makes me want more refined sugar and carbohydrates. I need to balance my blood sugar levels by eating foods that don't cause my blood sugar to spike. I'm going to eat real foods. Meat, vegetables, naturally occuring fats, occasional fruit, and nuts.
I want to be healthy. By eating a diet of real foods (but not "going on a diet") and exercising in the form of mimicking human movements (walking, occasional sprints, lifting heavy things, squatting, etc.) I will be doing what my body is programmed to do. If its in my genetics that I will gain more muscle, I will. If its in my genetics that I will lose fat, I will. Overall health is a result of the activities I choose to repeat. The more times I repeat ingesting real foods and performing functional exercises, the healthier I become.
By making my goals specific, I create a starting point (not just a starting weight), and my progress can be measured in other important realms. By working towards one of my strength or healthy eating goals, I reach a goal of health by default.