Setting health goals, particularly around diet and exercise, can singlehandedly be the most important part of a treatment plan. It’s a practice that can help you to map out your road to success. And it will also enable you to clarify why you’re setting these goals and choosing this particular path, which will be the motivation you need to work toward and sustain your goals.
In my practice, patients often find it’s rather fun and somewhat easy to set their goals. But as they start working toward them, challenges do crop up—everything from common temptations to surprising or unforeseen roadblocks.
As you go through your own goal-setting process, think about what obstacles might pop up and potentially derail your good intentions. Then use that awareness to better plan for and stick to your health and wellness goals. Below, I’ve listed eight common challenges and provided ways to take action to either avoid or overcome them.
Challenge #1: It’s too hard.
Take Action: Just try it.
You can achieve anything for a small amount of time. When setting a new goal, give it a try for at least a little while. You may find that the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term pain of change. When you do experience that benefit, it’s then that you have a choice to continue experiencing that benefit, or not. But you will never know if you do not try. Should you choose to stick with it, you can feel empowered. With empowerment, you will be more likely to achieve your goals no matter how hard they may be.
Challenge #2: I don’t have time.
Take Action: Schedule “health” into your calendar.
I can’t count the times I have heard my patients say, “I don’t have time.” The truth is nobody feels they have time—and therein lies the problem. To “have time” means you have to “make time.” We all know there is not a time generator pumping out more hours in the day, so prioritize your precious minutes. After all, I’m guessing not all of the things you have filled your hours with are beneficial. So pull out your calendar and schedule in health. By scheduling in health, you start to create the time you need by saying “no” to the time sucks that you don’t need. Distractors that can be removed or limited are: social media, watching TV, surfing the Internet, etc. Another way to schedule in health is to combine activities. For example, you need to go for a walk, but a friend wants to get a glass of wine after work to catch up. The solution? Suggest going for a walk with your friend instead.
Challenge #3: I don’t know how.
Take Action: Keep it simple.
When it comes to health and wellness goals, particularly those tied to diet and nutrition changes, many people don’t know what to do. My first bit of advice is to keep it simple. Do too much, too fast, and without any solid planning, and you’ll find it hard to stick to your goals. Also, keep in mind we live in a digital age where information and great advice are at our fingertips. This means you can research and collect a lot of great ideas, particularly those that speak to YOU. That said, remember that you are not the first person you know who has set goals around making a health change. Embrace this. Talk with friends, search the web, ask your doctor, and find books to help. With so many resources, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel in terms of how to go about supporting your goal achievement. And finally, plan meals out a week in advance, doing prep work over the weekends, so it’s convenient to stick to your goals during the week.
Challenge #4: There are no healthy options.
Take Action: Keep healthy snacks around and don’t wait too long to eat.
Being hungry is a surefire way to fall victim to your cravings. Waiting too long to eat is stressful on your body. It then sets you up for making poor choices because you don’t have the energy to plan a meal or get the food into your body before it starts literally begging for sugar. Eat regular, healthy snacks to stabilize blood sugar. Then, you will experience fewer cravings and greater resistance to cravings.
Challenge #5: I can’t say no.
Take Action: Avoid temptation.
This sounds obvious, but it gets people every time. So remove the culprits from the house. Out of sight out of mind, right? (Sort of—or at least out of reach!) If you have the treats around, there will always be an opportunity to cheat, which can always be justified one way or another right? “One won’t hurt.” “I’ve had a hard day.” “I’ve been so good.” “I am starving.” Sound familiar? We all experience temptation. But we also have the ability to consistently make choices that support our health and wellness goals. Use your willpower to say no and set yourself up for success in whatever ways you can.
Challenge #6: I can’t do it alone.
Take action: Find a partner.
Having a buddy does a couple things. First it helps you to be accountable. Second, having another person to share woes and successes is very powerful. With a buddy, you don’t have to feel alone, and you have someone with whom you can brainstorm ideas—and celebrate success!
Challenge #7: I don’t want to make it hard on others.
Take Action: Tell people what you are doing and why.
People care about you. People are also afraid of making changes themselves. By telling someone what you are doing and why, you are creating a network of people who want to see you succeed AND you are being a role model so they can perhaps make important changes for themselves. Sharing this information might even lead to finding yourself a health-accountability partner. Again, the why part is so powerful when you share this information with others. If you tell a friend you are “making a health goal because you want to live a long and happy life with your family and feel good inside your body,” I am pretty sure you will be supported whole-heartedly. (If not, then make another goal to find healthier, more compassionate friends.)
Challenge #8: I’ve got too many other people to worry about.
Take Action: Put yourself first.
This is a hard one if you are used to being a caretaker, putting other people’s needs before your own. Know that what you are doing to make yourself healthy is also good for other people, too, whether it is eating healthy foods, getting exercise, or setting boundaries with your time. By taking care of yourself you are supporting that vision of your very best self—and that is a form of caring for other people.