Whenever you like to take on a challenge to get a result, you are setting a goal. Goals can be ambitious or simple – straying too far in one direction and you risk wasting time. Too simple, and you may not care enough about the result and feel uninspired. Too ambitious and you risk trying something too challenging and finding more frustration than inspiration.

Aim for balance. Set realistic goals that are not too easy but within your reach. If you are setting health goals, this is particularly important …

1. Set realistic weight loss goals. Let’s start with weight loss, as it is a subject of much debate and interest. Weight loss requires a more realistic approach than perhaps anything else. It’s one thing to say you’ll lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, it’s another to be able to move on. It is far better if you tell yourself that you will take it a week or a month at a time, and then you will rack up small but significant amounts of progress.

A pound a week adds up quickly, and even if it’s a little short, it’s progress in the right direction. Don’t be too optimistic about what you can achieve in the long run. For now, worry about what you can accomplish in the weeks and months to come, and don’t run before you can walk.

2. Realistic nutrition goals. Nutrition is in the same vein because without a good diet you are unlikely to progress in weight loss. However, it’s best not to aim to drastically reduce your caloric intake or make the same kinds of drastic changes to your diet. Start with small steps. Small changes in your diet will go a long way.

3. Feasible exercise strategies. Exercise is essential. If you’ve been sedentary and recently had a wake-up call, such as a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, you may have decided to change forever. This time it will be different, you tell yourself: that’s a good start.

However, be careful not to be overzealous. Don’t be too ambitious at first. If you are exercising to achieve …

  • weightloss,

  • lower blood sugar levels, or

  • improve your cardiovascular health,

moderation is key. Going from zero workouts to five or more a week is too much and is a difficult goal to maintain.

Instead, establish possible exercise strategies. Try to exercise three times a week. Do this until it becomes an established routine in your life and you don’t need to think twice. If your nutrition is adequate, you will progress. You’ll also be more likely to enjoy your workout at the gym, the walks you take, and the fitness classes you attend.

Setting realistic goals is ultimately part of establishing a realistic plan for your health. Set health goals that you will achieve and build on these successes.

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