The #1 Piece of Advice I Give

After many years of water cooler chats, family Christmas advice sessions and long texts to dear friends about nutrition, I began to notice a pattern in the advice that I gave. Shaped by my passion and knowledge of behavior change, it became clear as to what often rolled off my tongue when offering nuggets of knowledge to both clients and my grandpa :)

I will never forget a couple years ago, being approached at a party by a friend asking how he could increase the size and definition of his calves. Random place for a random question, but how delightful! Naturally, we talked about various calf building exercises for a solid 20 minutes and he walked away feeling good about his plan to conquer his calf conundrum. I’ve had many similar encounters over the years, both in my professional and my day-to-day life. Most of these questions stretch far beyond building a single muscle group and rather reflect people’s interest in getting healthier, stronger, leaner, etc. 

A common question I hear sounds more like, “I want to get healthier, but don’t know where to start.” This leads me to my #1 piece of advice. Start with ONE small goal. Implement it as soon as possible and don’t start on another goal until you have successfully implemented the first, for at least 10 consecutive days. I don’t mean make this week’s goal, “lose 10 pounds” and next week’s goal, “start training for a 5k.” I mean small, digestible goals that will create sustainable change. 

For example, let’s say you are struggling to be consistent with good nutrition. This week, pick one goal to begin focusing on. Maybe it’s drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Maybe it’s getting a palm size serving of protein at least 3 times a day. Maybe you struggle with veggies and it’s committing to sneaking veggies into your breakfast (protein shakes and omelettes work beautifully for this one ;) ). Pick something you struggle with and JUST PICK ONE. 

Drastically overhauling your nutrition is the fastest way to lose weight and also the fastest way to gain it all back and wonder why you put in all that effort. Let’s create sustainable change. One goal at a time. 

Here are your action steps:

  1. Determine where you struggle most with your nutrition. If your answer to this feels like “everything,” that’s ok, but write out all the individual struggles that add up to “everything.”
  2. On a piece of paper, rank these struggles from “easiest to overcome” to “hardest to overcome.”
  3. Identify ONE “easy/moderate to overcome” challenge to start with.
  4. Define your goal for just that one challenge – make your goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (it’s the SMARTest way to goal plan).
  5. Start on this one, single goal and work at it until you are consistent for 10 days in a row (that’s ok if it takes 30 days to accomplish 10 consecutive days).
  6. Checkmark for goal #1! Now that you’ve established that new healthy habit, it’s time to return to your list and identify the next challenge you want to tackle. Remember that you are maintaining your new healthy habit while adding on this new goal.

Understand that some goals will take 10 days and some will take 20. That’s perfectly normal. Allow yourself the time to create real change in your life, rather than temporary fixes. If it takes you 45 days to be consistent with cutting out late night snacking, there is nothing wrong with that. Believe me, 45 days of sustainable change is nothing compared to the thousands of days ahead in your life. 

Watch these small challenges stack on top of each other and create long-term change that becomes a shift in lifestyle rather than a “diet.” Just watch, you’ll soon be looking back at your first small goal and reflecting on how it’s become an integral part of your life that you can’t imagine NOT doing. It’s time for some goal stacking!