Plotting your Weight-loss Journey with Values instead of Goals
Values are innately a part of every individual on the planet, Instilled in us at a young age by our parents, society, and cultures, they are important to us, and ultimately dictate our behaviours and beliefs without us even realizing it. Without them, life would be difficult, as values provide us with purpose and help us make decisions.
Some who don’t have a strong sense of their values can sometimes struggle with making decisions, such as whether they go back to school, move to a big city for a new job, etc. Those who have a greater sense of their values are better equipped to look at a choice and decide which option better aligns with their values.
Compared to goals, values are generally unwavering. I would argue they don’t change over time but rather they evolve.
For example, a goal is ‘I want to lose 10 pounds’, and a value is ‘I want to be happy and healthy’.
I like to think of values as the directions on a compass. Values set the course and point us in the direction we want to go. There are specific destinations along the way, and these are our goals. Despite reaching one destination… we never stop. Instead, we infinitely continue on the course our values have set reaching one destination after another.
Goals on the other hand are finite. They are a great motivational tool and give us markers of accomplishment to strive for in the short-term but, unless they are tied to our values once we achieve our goal the question becomes, ‘Now what?’
Classic example – Olympic athletes who train their entire lives to win a gold medal:
Day in and day out, that gold medal is their goal and nothing else matters. Then the day comes and they win the gold medal. Everything they have poured their heart and souls into for years comes to fruition.
Then what? Many athletes end up crashing, becoming depressed and even suicidal. Why? Because they had nothing else beyond that one goal, and they struggle to adjust to a life that does not involve constantly striving for a gold medal.
In living a healthier lifestyle and trying to lose weight, we see much of the same. My patients constantly tell me their goal weight: ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ ‘If I could just get down to 150 pounds I would be happy.’ The list goes on for numerous iterations just like this.
Goals can be motivating because while you are working towards that goal you put on the blinders. You ignore the cookies in the lunchroom; you don’t have that extra glass of wine; you bring a lunch with you to work; you hit the gym; you essentially do everything that is necessary to lose weight and work towards your goal. The problem with using goals – especially when it comes to weight-loss – is that you either reach that goal or you don’t.
If you don’t, you start beating yourself up, believing you are a failure because you could not reach your ‘goal weight’. In turn, you revert back to your old lifestyle and end up gaining the weight back and possibly then some, all the while, further loathing yourself for putting weight back on.
Now what if you DO reach your goal? Well, the blinders come down. You start to give yourself permission to have that cookie in the lunchroom or have that extra glass of wine, because ‘Hey, I lost 20 pounds. I deserve to treat myself.’ Again, over time you revert back to your old habits and end up putting all the weight you lost back on. At least until your next attempt, and the cycle continues…
What if you set a health or weight-loss goal based on your values? Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ How about, ‘I want to be healthier or lose weight, so I can keep up with my kids, so I can have less pain in my knees, so I can enjoy my retirement, so I can live the life I want to live…’
Notice the difference? When we set goals based on our values, we don’t just stop moving forward when we reach our goal. We maintain our progress or we set another goal and continue to strive towards our values. It is about the JOURNEY rather than a specific destination.
So the next time you are thinking about setting yourself a goal.
Our values dictate our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours often without us even realizing it. So, how then do we determine what our values are and actually put them into words?
This can be a challenging question for many people. Part of the reason is that our values are so deeply ingrained within us, that they are driven by emotions and instinct vs. intellect. What do I mean by this?
If you’re into watching video, check out the same exercise on our YouTube channel
When we look at the human brain, there are two important components we are dealing with:
The Limbic Brain, this is where emotions, motivation and learning occurs, and The Neocortex which is involved in higher order functions such as problem solving, perception and language.
Unfortunately, the limbic brain is disconnected from the language part of the Neocortex.
When the limbic brain transmits signals to our body, it is generally a feeling or an emotion that we can’t quite describe.
Think of that ‘gut feeling’ we have all experienced at one time or another. Without a connection to the language part of the brain, it becomes very difficult to put our emotions and feelings into words! The same applies when we attempt to articulate our values. This is a gross oversimplification of neurobiology but, I hope that helps to clarify what I am getting at.
The good news: with some practice and a few exercises, we can begin to articulate what it is we truly value and find important in our lives.
VALUES help to set the direction of our journey through life, and GOALS are the destinations along the way. Unlike goals, which are finite and eventually come to an end, our values are infinite. We never accomplish or finish our values. We simply continue along the path in the direction our values have set for us.
Let’s get to it:
How do we determine what are our values around living healthier lifestyle?
The first question(s) I ask my patients are:
Why do you want to be healthier? Or Why do you want to lose weight? You’ll soon come to realize ‘WHY’ is the most important piece. The answers I often hear for these questions are: ‘To be healthy.’ ‘To not feel uncomfortable.’ ‘To be happier.’
Again, I pose the question ‘Well, WHY?’.
This is often met with bewildered looks, and the look of ‘What the hell do you mean WHY? Isn’t it obvious?’ Then I prompt a response back such as, ‘Do you want to be healthier so you can stay at home and “Netflix and Chill”?’ After, hopefully a chuckle and another bewildered look, this usually garners a bit more of a deeper dive – and – we start getting closer to an individual’s values.
‘I want to be healthier so I can have less pain in my knees.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can play with my grandkids.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can travel without worrying about my health.’
Now THOSE statements demonstrate something we can set our personal compass to. These are not destinations or goals. The most important thing to remember? If you can still ask ‘WHY’, you likely haven’t found your value or the deeper reason for wanting to make a change!
REAL-TIME VALUES EXERCISE:
1)Pull out a piece of paper and write down as many values you can think of, fill up the entire page!
2)Next, we need to create a value statement. Below are the simplest forms of a value statement, and you can feel free to use them or create any kind of variation that you feel works for you.
‘I want to be healthier so that ____________________’, or
‘I want to lose weight so that ____________________’, or ‘I want to live a life where my health is not preventing me from long into the future.’
Again, I recommend writing these statements out by hand as they generally become more deeply internalized. Write as many as you can. The more you put into this exercise, the more you will get out!
3) NOW – I want you to post that piece of paper somewhere in your home or an area that you will see it every single day. This will be a daily reminder for the journey you are embarking on!
So, why did we go through all this trouble? As I said above – our values dictate our behaviours.
When it comes to making changes and living a healthier lifestyle, you will constantly have to make decisions that will affect the direction you are travelling.
For example: To eat the cookie or not eat the cookie, to go for a walk or not, to pack a lunch or not, etc. Fundamentally you will have 2 choices. However, with your beautiful handwritten value statement(s), those choices will hopefully be easier to make and might look something like this:
‘If I eat that cookie I bet it will be delicious, BUT you know if I don’t eat that cookie then I will be living based on my value of being able to keep up with my grandkids.’
Now will this work every time? No. Also, by no means am I saying that one cookie is going to derail your entire journey, BUT the cumulative effects of eating a cookie daily, might.
What if it’s your grandkid’s birthday and there are cookies and cake around? Does living based on these values mean you can’t partake in any of the good stuff? HELL NO! The bottom line is that your VALUE in this case is your grandkids – hence, spending time with them on their birthday.
And guess what? Birthdays sometimes involve cake and cookies, and THAT IS OK! In fact, it is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle.
We will get into this more in future blog posts but, food is a large part of our culture and society. We not only use it for fuel, we use it for celebration, when we are feeling sad, or when we are spending time with the ones we love!
So, I hope this helps you in finding your values and setting the course for your journey, whatever that might be! If you ever feel like you are restricting yourself or avoid socializing with those you value because you might be too tempted by food…then we need to talk.
When I hear the word “goals” my brain thinks, “go big or go home”. If it’s not some mammoth goal it’s not worth doing.
It can’t be “Hey, it would be nice to do 5 unassisted pull-ups”… it has to be 100 of the crazy whole-body-swinging CrossFit ones.
It can’t be “jog at a moderate speed”… it has to be a Usain-Bolt-worthy sprint.
It can’t be “a 1 minute plank”… it has to be a 15-minute circuit of core-numbing acrobatics, that I watched an Instagram model doing with ease.
BIG goals get us fired up and excited. We can visualize ourselves doing the crazy pull ups, that sprint, those planks, and it seems so real we can basically check it off as “goal achieved”.
And then what happens? No plan, no preparation. We dive in! We learn very quickly we DO NOT have the stamina or core strength for that 15-minute ab-circuit – we are buckling after 20-seconds. Our body hurts physically and emotionally, we get overwhelmed, discouraged and then throw our hands up and quit altogether. We compare ourselves to the girl/guy we saw in the video and think “they made it look so effortless, it can’t be that hard, I must be a failure”, and instead of feeling empowered and motivated, we feel disappointed because we couldn’t replicate similar results.
With goals we tend to see the start and the finish, and neglect everything in between. We neglect the milestones and check-points along the way that are necessary to accomplish our goals!
So, how do we set up a goal properly to increase our chances of success?
Ask yourself WHY you want to accomplish this goal. The answer bringing you back to something you value, like strengthening your back to live with less pain, for example. Knowing what drives your goals will keep you focused and moving forward during the times the plan is falling apart, or after you accomplish your goal and wonder what is next.
Once you figure out WHY, the next step is HOW. How will I achieve this? The answer is SMART!
SMART is an acronym and stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
SPECIFIC – This is the details on what it is exactly you want to achieve. The more specific the better. Saying you want “a strong core” isn’t very specific, what does “a strong core” mean to you? Is it a particular look, or performance level for your body? Would you like to strengthen your core to hold a 1-minute plank or perform olympic gymnastics? All requiring a different level of core strength. Saying “I want to be able to complete a 10-minute ab circuit without stopping” is more specific.
MEASURABLE – How will you measure this goal? For the ab circuit, you can use time as your measure. Break down the circuit into smaller 1-minute intervals, and as you get stronger keep adding a minute on until you reach the full 10-minutes.
ATTAINABLE – Is it possible to attain this goal? What are my barriers? Do I have the time to fit 10-minutes circuit into my day? Can I schedule it in? Does something else need to be neglected in order for me to prioritize this? A goal that is too difficult to achieve could lead to failure. Failure can affect your mental health. Leading you to beat yourself up, and beat down your self-worth and self-esteem. Instead of feeling empowered you will feel inadequate. Definitely not something I would want to sign up for.
REALISTIC – What is your starting point and is this goal within a reasonable reach for you at this stage? Is a 10-minute ab circuit attainable? Absolutely! However, if you can barely hold a plank for 30 seconds, 10 minutes will be too much to start. Maybe working on just holding a plank for a minute is a better starting point. Then increasing to 2 minutes and so on until you reach 10 minutes. Then set a new goal of starting the circuit. Breaking the goal down into smaller achievable ones will provide the success needed to encourage one to keep reaching higher.
TIMELY – How much time do you need to achieve your goal? Giving yourself too much time will leave you unmotivated, but setting too tight of a deadline will be sure to overwhelm and lead to disappointment. A deadline will also keep you on track and create some urgency. Giving yourself 1-month to move from a 1-minute plank to two minutes may be too relaxed of a timeline, but moving up by 1-minute every 7 days could be urgent enough to help you push yourself, but not too urgent that you won’t be ready to move to the next round.
Now that we have considered all aspects of SMART, we can formulate our goal and THE PLAN.
“I intend to hold a 10-minute plank without stopping. I will achieve this by starting with a 1-minute plank and increasing the time by 1-minute every 7 days for a total of 10 weeks. This goal will get me closer to the larger goal of doing a 10-minute ab circuit without stopping, and will help me to strengthen my back!”
Once the goal has been designed you can’t just set it and forget it. The plan needs to be revisited at appropriate intervals, and adjusted. Some aspect of SMART needs to be tweaked in order to stay on track, as with most plans they don’t work out exactly as we had hoped.
Revisiting the plan also lets you see how far you have come and celebrate the little milestones as you reach them. Because where would be the fun in all work and no play?
Obesity is a complex progressive chronic disease that involves abnormal or excessive adipose tissue or fat which may negatively affect your health.
Adipose tissue however is not just “dead” weight we carry around, it is an organ which produces certain substances that can have a negative effect on the body.
According to Statistics Canada about 60% of adults are overweight or obese, rates which have been rising from previous years for both adults and children.
What causes obesity?
The most common misconception about obesity is that it is due to excessive eating and limited exercise – to cure it we just need to eat less and move more. Now nutrition and activity levels can certainly play a role, however, it is much more complicated than that. Unlike many other conditions, which can often be kept private, obesity is very public. It is a disease you wear, and your triumphs as well as your failures are on display for everyone to see. The topic of Weight Bias in our society is a blog for another day but because obesity is a disease you wear there are a number of misconceptions and beliefs that often contribute to obesity. One common perception is that obesity is completely self inflicted and it is just laziness or lack of willpower that is the reason an individual stays obese.
However, I can assure you that no one has tried more diets, weight-loss fixes, and programs than individuals who are overweight. Willpower, starvation, and suffering will only go so far.
So if it is not a matter of eat less and move more, what is it then?
Obesity is a chronic condition involving many contributing factors such as our environment, social aspects, genetics, medical conditions, medications, and mental health which all contribute to obesity and how it is managed.
From an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies were designed for a world that existed 30,000 years ago where food was scarce, and we might not have known when our next meal was coming. So when we did eat our bodies did everything they could to have us consume as much as possible and store as much energy in the form of fat as physiologically feasible. Now our world today is vastly different from 30,000 years ago and we have an overabundance of food in western society; however, our bodies are fundamentally the same fat storing machines as they were 30,000 years ago.
Complex mechanisms prevent our bodies from losing a lot of weight and as weight-loss progresses we often hit a plateau as our body adapts to slow down our metabolic processes and the same efforts we were using previously for weight-loss are no longer effective. We must carry out more dietary restriction and more activity in order to achieve further weight-loss – in essence you must endure more suffering!
Again, the body adapts and slows its metabolically processes down even further. Eventually, as the scale stops moving and ‘the stubborn fat’ will not budge most humans throw up their hands and quit, because the suffering is no longer worth it, and well, a life full of suffering is just something that no one will want to maintain for the long-term. As such most individuals revert back to their previous lifestyle and gain back the weight they lost. Unfortunately, our metabolic processes don’t rebound as our weight back to what it was previously and many individuals often gain even more weight then they had previously following a weight-loss excursion and the cycle then continues……
How is it measured?
There are two measures used to determine obesity, one is BMI (Body Mass Index) which uses height and weight to classify the size of an individual, and the second is the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) which looks at the impact of obesity on an individual’s overall health.
BMI (Body Mass Index) uses height and weight in the formula below to determine the size of a person placing them into categories:
BMI does not factor in sex, ethnicity, body shape, age or muscle mass and is not representative of the health of an individual.
BMI DOES NOT FACTOR IN SEX, ETHNICITY, BODY SHAPE, AGE OR MUSCLE MASS AND IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HEALTH OF AN INDIVIDUAL.
2) Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) looks at the clinical assessments of medical, mental and functional impact that obesity has on an individual to determine their obesity-related health risks and is a far better predictor of overall health than just BMI alone. EOSS has 5 categories encompassing the progression of organ damage with Stage 0 being no apparent risk factors all the way up to stage 4 with end stage organ failure.
Impact on health:
Impact on health can be described by the 4 M’s Mechanical – Obstructive sleep apnea, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn), Osteoarthritis (mostly of the knees), Plantar fasciitis, Urinary/fecal incontinence, Intertrigo (skin-fold infections) and other skin issues such as stretch marks, skin tags, acanthosis nigricans (roughened darker skin patches often found on the back of the neck, armpits and groin area)
Mental – depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem, negative self-talk, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating/eating disorders. Some of these leading to obesity for example due to medications that are taken to manage these conditions, and some of these are contributing factors as to why an individual is unable to manage their obesity.
Metabolic – Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart attacks, gout, gallstones, fatty liver disease, infertility and increased risk of complications during pregnancy, and increased risk for certain cancers.
Monetary – Education and Employment (higher education and income tends to have lower rates of obesity), Obesity can lead to an increased cost of living (e.g., clothing, mobility aids), and the potential cost of weight-management programs.
The first goal of therapy to stop further weight gain. For some individuals this is all that is possible. There is no specific amount of weight which needs to be lost, the aim of obesity treatment is to reach our Best Weight – which is the weight we reach when we are living the healthiest lifestyle possible, that we honestly enjoy! Weight loss doesn’t have to be drastic in order to see positive improvements in health. A loss of 3-5% of your original body weight can have marked improvements on your health status, and further losses can lead to further health benefits. Most clinicians aim for an initial weight-loss goal of 5-10% of your original body weight.
Current treatment options include:
Lifestyle modifications: Diet, physical activity and behavioral modifications fall into this category. The overall goal being to properly nourish the body and create a caloric deficit by decreasing the energy coming into the body (food) and increase the energy spent by the body (activity). This component should be the foundation of any weight loss treatment.
Health Canada approved treatment options include: Saxenda (liraglutide), Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion) and Xenical(Orlistat), affecting appetite, cravings and fat absorption. Medications are officially approved for individuals with a BMI over 30 kg/m2 or those with a BMI of 27 kg/m2 with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Surgery is an option for individuals who have a BMI of >40 kg/m2 or those with a BMI >35 kg/m2 with other compounding medical conditions. Surgery involves reducing the size of the stomach and/or rearranging parts of the intestines. This allows us to decrease the volume of food the body can take in, and/or the amount of food the body can absorb.
So there is no question about it, Obesity is complex, it is progressive, and it can certainly have negative impacts on our health. Will every individual that has excess weight develop health complications as a result? No. In the same sense, not every individual who has excess weight needs to lose weight either! Ultimately, your focus should be on living the healthiest and happiest life you possibly can. If that leads to weight-loss, wonderful! If it doesn’t there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either!
If you are considering making lifestyle changes it can certainly be challenging to do it on your own. I would encourage you to reach out to your family physician or other trusted healthcare professional for advice and support on the best way to go about it!
Of course, you can contact our team at Healthcare Evolution – we’re here to support you in every way that we can!
A Magician Never Reveals His (Diet) Tricks, but I am NOT a Magician
So, what is the key to weight-loss? Which diet is the best? Which supplement or magic pill will make it all happen?
The lifestyle and fitness industries are currently worth billions of dollars and it is predicated on selling you the lie that you are not worthy if you are overweight, obese, and unhealthy. That you don’t deserve to have the job you want, the car you want, or live the life you want to live until you lose 20 pounds or have the body of a magazine model.
If you look on social media, you can find tons of groups and individuals of varying varieties promoting the keto diet, intermittent fasting, diet/detox teas, body wraps and the list goes on and on. What develops in these groups is almost a cult-like mentality often started and organized by the loudest cheerleaders who claim how the ‘keto diet’ worked for them. It was the breakthrough that finally let them lose weight and gave them the life they wanted! So, since it worked for them – well it must mean that this is the ONLY method that works, and it is therefore going to work for you… as well as for the other 7 billion people on the planet!
I mean there has to be 1 golden ticket that can work for everyone? Right?
The truth is, there is NO BEST DIET…For every single diet or craze that has hit the market, I can find you at least one individual for whom this particular diet or method worked for, and allowed them to finally lose weight. However, it wasn’t their special diet or supplement that made it possible for them to lose weight.
Fundamentally, in each situation here is what happened:
Calories IN < Calories OUT
That is it. FULL STOP. It is the simple law of thermodynamics. When we take in less fuel than we burn, we create a calorie deficit which forces our body to start burning our excess fuel stores – our FAT. Weight-loss did NOT occur because of a reduced carb intake or that you went 18 hours without eating. You fundamentally reduced your calorie intake to < the calories you were burning…that is it! Our bodies – as complex and as fascinating as they can be don’t just ignore the laws of thermodynamics.
Now stay with me here. I know some of you are probably saying obesity is a complex disease and the process of weight-loss isn’t as simple as a physics law a scientist developed a couple hundred years ago. And you are RIGHT!
Obesity IS VERY complex and intentional weight-loss can be challenging. While weight-loss can be defined by the law above, it does not consider all of the other factors that have a role in the amount of weight that each of us carries. There is a multitude of factors, many of which we have ZERO control over, that make managing our weight so difficult. Everything from genetics, to the environment, to the way were raised all play a role in how much excess weight we carry.
YES most of these trends and crazes can certainly help you overcome the complexities of weight management, however, they involve suffering, restriction, and sometimes just ridiculous endeavours in order to achieve it.
Most importantly they are NOT SUSTAINABLE!!
So then what do we do? Is intentional and sustainable weight-loss something that can be done safely and effectively? Absolutely.
Focus on making small changes to your nutrition, that work for YOU and are SUSTAINABLE. Can you increase your protein intake? Maybe start eating breakfast consistently? Or maybe you need an afternoon snack in order to prevent you from overeating while making and eating dinner? Start small and go slow. The key is not to make a number of dramatic changes all at once and become overwhelmed.
Then in terms of your weight-loss journey, the numbers on the scale need to stop being your benchmark.
Focus on the healthy changes you are making in your life and the positive outcomes you are experiencing because of those changes – such as:
being able to walk farther,
keeping up with your children,
eating until you’re satisfied rather than stuffed,
feeling good in your clothes,
carrying laundry without getting winded,
lowering blood pressure,
the list goes on and on!
So, the next time you hear about a new trend or see a friend that has lost a significant amount of weight by doing X, and you’re considering the same.
Ask yourself, will this work for me? Are the changes that I would have to make something I could do for the rest of my life? If you said ‘NO’ to either of those questions then that diet, supplement, or what have you might not be the right choice for you! Instead make lifestyle changes that you ENJOY, can SUSTAIN, and that work for YOU, not your friends, not your co-worker, JUST YOU!