There is no one formula for reaching your physical health goals. What works for me might not work for you. What works for a man, probably won’t work for a woman. Instead, consider these six things when setting goals for your physical health.
Setting goals for our physical health is just as important as setting goals for our emotional health. This month’s Self-Care Sunday series is filled with hacks to help you set physical health goals and meet them in creative ways.
Why Do Men Lose Weight so Easily?
“I lost five pounds this week,” Pedro said with a satisfied grin.
“Really?” I couldn’t believe his good fortune. “How did you do it?”
“I only had one serving of dessert a day. It’s time to shed my winter fat,” he joked.
“If I ate one serving of dessert a day, I’d GAIN five pounds,” I groused.
“And I got at least 10,000 steps a day over the past week.”
“So not fair! I averaged 20,000 steps a day last week and I didn’t drop a single pound.”
He shrugged sympathetically while I mumbled my way out of the room. Oh, the injustice of it all! With the exception of the year he had cancer, Pedro’s weight had remained within a ten-pound range for our entire marriage.
The numbers on my scales looked more like the stock market. During a bull market. Before I knew it, I started beating myself up mentally for my lack of will power, my unhealthy lifestyle, and the bad genes I inherited from my family.
I continued my inner tirade for the next twenty minutes. Finally, I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. As the miles passed under my well-worn running shoes, sanity regained control.
My journey to better physical health had only just begun. No magic pill (or 10,000 steps a day) would help me. I needed to come at the problem from a different angle.
The Sexes Aren’t Equal (Physiologically)
Before you take it wrong, let me explain that I’m a personist. If you’ve never heard of that term, you can read about it here. Men and women deserve equality, no doubt about it. But men’s bodies and women’s bodies do not operate and function the same way.
It took me awhile, but I finally did lose the extra weight from Pedro’s cancer. These important realizations helped me along the way.
1. 10,000 Steps a Day is a Goal, Not a Destination
How many steps a day should you take to help you lose weight? At the start of my journey, I read somewhere the I would lose 20 pounds in a year if I just took 10,000 steps a day.
Well, yes, and no. If you eat exactly the same, and the stars line up, taking 10,000 steps a day might help you lose 20 pounds. But if you already move around a lot, you may need more steps per day to get the ‘average’ results.
If you don’t know how many steps a day you take, see if your mobile phone records them or buy a fitness tracker. Set a goal to double your current week’s average. Pedometers, fitness trackers, and a goal of 10,000 steps a day don’t actually improve your physical health. They simply serve as tools to help you get to know your body better.
The number of steps you need per day to lose weight depends on your unique physical makeup. Get to know your body and how it works for you.
2. Get Your Mind in the Game
We all wear lenses, even if we don’t wear glasses. The stories we believe about ourselves layer together over the years and solidify into a lens that keeps us from seeing other perspectives. Those lenses, or frames, keep us focused on the wrong things.
According to blogger Blaz Kos,
“Negative frames or stories that you tell yourself about different life situations are always based on irrational core beliefs that lead to self-defeating thoughts, emotions and actions.”Bloz Kox
“I will never lose weight,” or “I always forget to exercise,” often lead to even more extreme (although often unspoken or unthought) lies. They easily morph into, “I am worthless” or “No one will ever love me.”
Take those thoughts captive by reframing them. “I haven’t lost weight yet, but I will enjoy my journey to better health.” ‘Yet’ provides a powerful pivot point in our thinking.
Just the mental exercise of tacking ‘yet’ at the end of one of those lies we feed ourselves helps snap us out of our pity party. Try saying, “I am worthless yet,” without mentally rearranging the entire sentence into something more positive. I came up with, “I feel worthless, yet I know God loves and values me.”
Replace ‘I am’ with ‘I feel’ and tack on ‘yet’ each time you find yourself viewing your journey to better physical health as an impossibility.
3. Recognize the Fundamental Differences
Back before the Internet, I read an article declaring “Men are the Weaker Sex.” I can’t remember where I read it, but the message stuck with me. Men die more easily—from fetuses to football players. When a woman gets pneumonia, they send her home with a bottle of antibiotics. But if a man gets pneumonia, they put him in the hospital.
According to Alice Shabecoff in Environmental Health News, “Contrary to cultural assumptions that boys are stronger and sturdier, basic biological weaknesses are built into the male of our species.”
Men require more calories to stay alive and they have a higher metabolism. Which means that any small drop in caloric intake and increase in activity will enable a man to lose weight more quickly. Part of that increased metabolism has to do with increased muscle mass—and muscle cells form the basis of our body’s calorie-burning system.
“Metabolic rate is in part driven by your muscle mass, and women have less muscle and more fat naturally than men.”
Therefore, it stands to reason that the guy with more muscle mass will lose weight more quickly. Instead of bemoaning my inability to lose weight, I needed to start lifting weights.
And if you don’t like lifting weights (I hate it), you can also try weight-bearing exercises that use your body as the weights (think holding a plank position, running, push-ups, lunges, etc.).
4. Your Physical Health Goals Should Include More Than Weight Loss
If you want to have physical health, you can’t focus on just a number on the scales. Physical health encompasses so much more. Do you sleep enough? How healthfully do you eat? Do you have high blood-sugar levels? Does your doctor tell you you have great blood pressure? How much water do you drink each day?
Most importantly, can you participate in activities that make your heart sing? Check out this post for discovering your why. Without a why we have no reason to explore our how.Physical health means more than the number on your scales. #physicalhealth #goals #selfcare #SelfCareSunday Click To Tweet
5. Visit Your Doctor
You know how all those exercise videos tell you not to start the exercise program unless you’ve consulted your doctor? They don’t just want to avoid lawsuits. If you’ve experienced weight gain but haven’t changed your lifestyle, you may have an underlying health issue.
This happened to me in my early 30s. I put on weight, I couldn’t stay warm, and I fell asleep all the time. One time I even fell asleep reading a book out loud to a group of students. I have no idea how long I slept, but the wide eyes of my students when I came to let me know they noticed. It turns out I had a thyroid problem. A simple blood test and prescription took care of the problem (although no matter what I do, I have the metabolism of a sloth).
The other silent disease, PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome), will mess with your reproductive hormones and make it virtually impossible to lose weight (or get pregnant) without intervention. Basically, your body starts mass-producing testosterone—without the side benefit of a high metabolism.
6. Stop Beating Yourself Up
Our inner dialogue guides us, and if we give it free rein, it won’t take us to pleasant places. As a Christian, I’ve come to understand the liar loves to take over our inner dialogue when we don’t direct it ourselves. Paul knows his stuff when he tells the Corinthians to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
God loves us and wants his best for us. He doesn’t sit around in heaven watching our scales and nagging us because we gained a pound. Instead, he wants happiness and good health for his beloved children.
The only one invested in your self-flagellation finds great joy in making you loath yourself (John 8:44).
Recognize that beating yourself up won’t help you lose weight, make changes, or meet your physical health goals.
If God has loving thoughts towards you, ‘taking every thought captive’ means to reframe the lies the devil wants to stuff in your brain. Anytime you hear yourself saying or thinking in extremes, you probably have an opportunity to reframe and take a thought captive.
Self-Care Means Setting Physical Health Goals
Self-Care means we set realistic goals for our physical health and recognize that we have to have our head and heart in the game in order to reach those goals.
If you want to take care of yourself, you have to love yourself enough to reframe your inner dialogue and realize that everyone (including you) will have a different journey to their goal.