Make Your Health Goals Stick: 5 Steps to Sustainability, from Nutrition Coach Jayne Jones

Setting health and fitness goals is a conversation that’s been had again and again, a topic that’s been recycled and re-sold to us year after year in the form of trending diets and celebrity workouts. 

In a world where health is so often correlated with what is trending or selling well, how can we set goals for our physical well-being that are actually sustainable, feel good and have our best interests at the centre?

I sat down with Nutrition Coach Jayne Jones to discuss just that. 

Step 1: change your idea about what a ‘diet’ is. 

For many of us the word ‘diet’ instantly conjures up ideas of calorie tracking, portion control and food restriction. However, that’s just one type of dieting Jayne says; “A diet is a method of how you eat your food. All of us follow a diet. We all have our own diet. It doesn't necessarily mean dieting, like following fad diets or certain plans. I was lucky that by starting to go to the gym in the third year of my dietetics degree I just had this experience of learning, oh, food is fuel, and how I fuel my body impacts how I perform in the gym.”

So step one is to start looking at food, and your diet, as the fuel to help you reach your physical well-being goals. 

Step 2: forget quick fixes

“We get sold this idea that you can change your life in six weeks, and it's really drastic measures. The problem is that's what's sexy. That's what sells. No one wants to be told, okay, change things gradually over 15 weeks and you'll feel fine. They want to be told they can get a six-pack in six weeks. That's what sells. We want a quick fix”.

Jayne recommends that if you want to set fitness goals that are sustainable and that you actually want to show up to, it’s not about finding the quick fix or fastest route but rather about breaking down your bigger goal into smaller steps and focusing on progress over time rather than how fast you can get there.

“When you put yourself in an extreme calorie deficit and you're exercising, your input is lower than it was, and your output is higher than it was. So you're in this negative balance. And the longer you're in an extremely negative balance, the hungrier you're going to be. And that ties into that binge restrict cycle as well.”

Step 3: look at your habits

When it comes to taking action towards our big health, fitness or physical wellness goals, Jayne says it’s actually about looking at our own habits and behaviours and less about restricting or counting those calories. 

“When you're dealing with weight management, you don't actually focus on the weight, you focus on moving more, eating healthier, and making sustainable changes to your diet and what happens to your weight and your body comes as a side effect of that. And I think that's a really good way to view it is that what you're trying to do is you're trying to change your behaviour. Everything we do as humans is linked down to our behaviours, we are creatures of habit, and we're so habit linked. If you do something for six weeks that's really extreme, you're not actually changing your habits. So that's what you need to look at is making changes to your lifestyle that you're going to be able to maintain.” 

Step 4: start where you are

So where do we start? Often when we choose to improve our health or work towards a specific health and fitness goal, the gap we need to bridge can feel overwhelming and we give up before we start. 

“If you're going to change your behaviour, you need to know what you're changing. So you need to monitor your [current] behaviour first. So if that's your diet, that could be doing something like keeping a food diary and trying to see what patterns crop up over time. So you can identify the behaviours that you want to change.

Working with a professional is always a good idea, whether that's a registered dietitian or someone at your gym. If you're starting off into a training program, if you're feeling run down or unsure about something about your health, it's a good idea to maybe go to your GP or your doctor and, and get a check-up in that sense as well.”

Step 5: the rule of 3

Having an actionable plan is always important to support yourself in meeting big goals. Jayne recommends using what you know about your current habits and what you want to change to choose three behaviours you want to focus on and start from there.

“Instead of changing your life to fit the new habit, it's about seeing how the changes in the habits that you want to make already fit into what you're doing. But I think also something that I would add is don't try and change everything altogether because you're just not going to be able to do it. A rule when I was in college and when I was dealing with patients was I'd always try to give them three pieces of advice to start off with because anything over that you're not going to be able to take it in and you're probably not going to be able to apply it. So maybe you set three new habits and then you work on those and you don't start introducing new stuff until you feel like you've accomplished working with those.”

Listen to the full interview with Jayne on Fill Up Your Cup

If you want to learn more about setting healthy, sustainable habits for your physical wellbeing, then listen to my full interview with Jayne Jones on Fill Up Your Cup Podcast. 

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