- Reaching new diet and fitness goals can be daunting for many people.
- Experts say that setting smaller, achievable goals over a shorter period of time and then building from there can lead to more sustainable change.
- Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell says that this can also mean continually restarting on your journey when you get off track, instead of beating yourself up for failing.
Popular Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell knows a thing or two about setting goals.
On a daily basis, Peloton members around the world get a dose of her good-natured, optimistic encouragement to hit those fitness and personal health benchmarks as they cycle their way through her at-home spin classes.
She says the takeaway she gets from her class participants is to “dream big” and that she’s inspired by their determination to push forward, no matter what.
However, Lovewell herself admits she is not a “long-term goal person” and doesn’t like to spend too much time worrying about a goal that will take “10 years” to achieve.
Instead, she prefers to focus on more short-term goals in the near future that are more easily attainable, such as what she can achieve over “the next year” or “6 months” or even “the next 2 weeks.”
“I like being able to reach those goals,” Lovewell said. “I like saying them out loud and telling your friends [about them] and speaking them into existence.”
That mantra, in many ways, is part of a new campaign she’s joined: “Gateway to Good” from plant-based food maker Kite Hill.
Through the campaign, Lovewell said she’s hoping she can further inspire others to eat, live, and feel better — especially as some are working hard to meet new health goals they’ve set for themselves in 2022.
Lovewell said she’s a big believer in encouraging and supporting people in their health goals, both big and small, from making changes to your diet to achieving new fitness heights.
However, she stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for determining how best to embrace new behaviors or routines.
Diet and fitness goal-setting can be very personal, and some people may want to consider strategizing with their doctor or a specialist before making any lifestyle changes for the greatest, healthiest results.
Yet, even maintaining small changes can be challenging, especially when they’re new.
When asked how challenging it is to maintain new healthy behaviors, Gail Seche, MMSc, RD, clinical nutrition manager at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, told Healthline that “change can often be a challenge,” but it’s important to note that “choosing not to make a change is also a choice.”
“Believing that change is possible is the first step. Know that there is not just one right way to make change, it is different for everyone. The benefit of the New Year is that it helps us focus on starting something new. If something does not work, get creative in coming up with a new plan,” said Seche, who’s not affiliated with the campaign.
“Maintaining healthy behaviors is often the hardest part. It may help to see how some of our current behaviors may lead us away from, rather than toward, our goals.”
One big component of approaching a new nutrition goal, for instance, is “having a support system or someone or something to partner with can help keep us be accountable,” Seche explained.
“Everyone has setbacks, it is part of the process, the important thing is to get back on track at the very next opportunity. Focus on your successes, stay positive,” she said.
On the fitness side, Carly Baldwin, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, a physical therapist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, Sports Medicine, who is also unaffiliated with the campaign, said that consistency is key.
“Anytime you set a new goal it takes time to form a new behavior and habit,” Baldwin told Healthline.
“Physical change is not always a linear progression and can undulate with highs and lows. Without getting that immediate satisfaction of measurable results it is easy to lose that compliance.”
From Lovewell’s perspective, it’s about being open to “starting over and over and over again.”
She stressed that there’s nothing wrong with having to “start a million times” if it means fitting in a daily bike ride or workout, or opting for that salad at lunch instead of a processed meal.
Over time, lots of “starts” can make a big difference.
“Our goals are going to change, our surroundings and environments are going to change, we have to acclimate [to this change] and be malleable and accommodating of life circumstances,” Lovewell explained about trying to balance new behaviors with the shifts of day-to-day life.
“So, if you get thrown off track, don’t be afraid to start again, and if you beat yourself up for falling off, it can make it even harder. So, give yourself some grace and know that if you failed that’s fine, just get back up and keep going and keep moving forward.
“You can’t hate yourself into change,” Lovewell added. “Why not love yourself and be supportive and go forward?”
When it comes to setting new nutrition and fitness goals, Seche said that moderation is key.
As Lovewell advised, it may be best to try to set smaller, attainable goals first and then build off them.
Seche said that “trending diets” one might come across often “rely on restrictions,” which are very hard to maintain for many people. This might result in short-term results that aren’t very sustainable.
“If you’re looking to reset your diet, try focusing on whole foods, lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats,” Seche said.
She pointed out that this is typically a better approach than eliminating healthy foods like dairy, legumes, and grains. Instead, making an effort to avoid added sugars, eat less processed foods, and drink less alcohol may be easier for many people.
She said that following a Mediterranean Diet is a great way to do this.
“Remember, optimizing activity, sleep and a healthy diet is the best thing you can do to feel better and improve your health. Think about your mind, body, and diet together. Regular activity and adequate sleep will support changes in diet,” Seche said.
Baldwin echoed those thoughts, saying that fitness isn’t just “exercise,” it instead “incorporates multiple aspects of one’s health and is not solely one thing.”
That’s why Baldwin says it’s important people that realize that a new fitness or physical activity goal is more than just inserting a new cardio routine into your day.
“Prioritizing mobility, rest, sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness can be crucial in developing longevity in fitness goals. Taking the time to properly warm up and cool down can help the body better recover and prevent injuries. An additional 5-to-10 minutes foam rolling and stretching post-workout can help the body recover so it is ready for the next workout,” Baldwin said.
Lovewell said that she’s been focused on a plant-based diet for years. For her, that’s meant putting a decided effort into incorporating healthy, nutritious plant-based items into her diet one meal at a time.
Seche also agrees with Lovewell’s approach, saying that nutrition goals are often easiest to achieve when people “focus on one healthy eating goal at a time.”
She said that this could mean planning your meals at the beginning of each day, being mindful about falling into unhealthy habits or making an inventory of what types of healthy foods you have in the house so you feel informed about the choices you have available at any given time.
“Some may benefit from a support group, program or app to get started, especially if feeling overwhelmed,” she added. “In addition, focusing on a healthy activity goal and a sleep goal can strengthen one’s resolve.”
Baldwin said that for fitness, having someone else who can “keep you accountable” can be a big help throughout your fitness journey.
“Forming a team approach can give an individual motivation, encouragement, and feedback to meet fitness goals. By creating a positive association with exercise, that accountability can help facilitate a new habit,” she added.
It’s also necessary to schedule rest. You need this for the recovery and prevention of injuries, she stressed.
“Being consistent with a new activity or goals doesn’t necessarily mean you are going at the same intensity and effort every day or week. It also means scheduling regular rest days. Maintaining a schedule that works around one’s lifestyle makes those goals more attainable,” Baldwin said.
Even a successful instructor for a global fitness brand has to work hard on self-motivation.
Lovewell compared the activity that she and her fellow Peloton instructors have to maintain against what marathoners experience.
Her fitness regimen is one that is “year-round,” with no “off season or on season.”
“I have to create goals and strategy to stay motivated because otherwise, I can’t just do this all the time,” Lovewell said. “I’m constantly trying to create different types of motivation and goals, too.”
Regardless of what your health goals are, Lovewell noted that the most important part of the process is loving, respecting, and listening to your own body.
“Your health is your body. You get one body in this life,” she said. “Honor it and treat it well and treat it with kindness,” she said.