Creating Diet Goals

The human brain operates in patterns. This is how skills are developed. Someone learning how to play the piano might do poorly in the beginning, but as the is repeated action over and over again, the brain starts to see the patterns. Muscle memory develops. Routine breeds results.

Food cravings operate on similar principals. If you find yourself indulging food that could be healthier, examine your routine. When do you eat that food? Track what you eat, and at the same time, track when you eat it. Maybe you’re in the habit of eating a certain food after certain television shows end. Maybe it’s a certain time of the day, like a “midnight snack.” Maybe you’re experiencing a certain emotion, sadness or elation, for instance, and responding to it with food.

There are three critical components to creating goals:

1. Specificity – One common mistake people make when setting goals being too vague. “I want to be healthy” is not a specific goal. How do you measure healthiness? How do you know if you’ve succeeded? That’s like getting into a car and saying, “I want to go somewhere.” If that’s your destination, why leave the driveway? You’re already somewhere!

A better goal might be “I want to be able to run a mile and a half in twenty minutes.” That is a specific goal. If you run a mile and a half and it takes you twenty-five minutes, you know you have more work to do. If you run a mile and a half in nineteen minutes, you know you’ve created good, solid habits that you’ll want to maintain.

In order to reach this goal, you’ll have to adjust your diet, work out more, and drink more water. One side effect of wanting to run a mile and a half in twenty minutes: you’ll be healthier!

2. Reasonability – Building on the above: your goals need to be reasonable. “I want to run a mile in one minute” is unrealistic. Nobody can run a mile in one minute. If your subconscious mind takes an unreasonable goal seriously, you’re going to end up doing more harm than good, namely because you’ll fail day after day.

3. Incrementalism – Break your goals into increments. If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last ten years eating potato chips, drinking beer, and smoking cigarettes, the odds of you running a mile and a half in twenty minutes are slim. You’ll either collapse from exhaustion or experience a stroke. It may take a few weeks.

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