What's Your Baseline?
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
My clients often come to me with their goals to "lose 15 pounds" "get stronger," and to "eat healthier." I love that they're feeling motivated to set goals and find ways (like working with me) to start realizing them, but one of my first questions I'll ask when I'm presented with a goal like one of the above is: "where are you now?" As you'll see below, this question is a BIG one, but if you have a really clear picture of where you're starting it's going to make creating steps to accomplish your goal a whole lot easier and WAY more effective! Also, in the case of the "goals" above, it may help you find something that is a lot more tangible and well-defined.
Because it is a common thing people bring up as a goal to me, let's dive a little deeper into the topic of weight loss. If you want to lose weight, some things I'd invite you to explore with me in order to establish your baseline are:
What is your current activity level?
This includes actual workouts or exercise you do in and out of the gym, but also your day to day non-exercise activity level which can vary a lot if you're sitting at a desk from 8-5 or chasing kids around all day long.
How much, how often, and WHAT are you eating everyday (yep, even weekends!)?
I have a variety of ways we can figure this out together and it doesn't have to mean counting every calorie and pulling out the food scale before every snack. It will mean that you're eating a little more mindfully though which may take a few extra minutes of your day.
How and how often do you track your weight?
If you've worked with me before, you may realize that unless weight loss is a serious issue or your number one focus, I may not ever even ask you what you weigh. But, that doesn't mean it can't be a helpful tool used in the right way. I love to explore other ways to track progress along the way though, such as how clothes feel, how different workouts or activities feel, etc.
Do you have any health conditions that could affect your metabolism, exercise level, blood pressure, or digestion?
Ignoring diagnosed conditions (or muscling through issues that haven't been diagnosed) can exacerbate symptoms and make it even harder to lose weight in the long run. During our free initial consultation together, we'll make sure that your health is at a baseline that indicates it's safe and effective to add the stress of exercise or food changes, and we'll explore bringing in the opinion of a doctor or other medical professional should that be appropriate.
How are you sleeping and how is your stress? How much extra time do you have to commit to changes?
Stress, sleep, and other methods of recovery are things I'll regularly check in with you about. These things can affect your hormones and how your body processes your food or responds to exercise. If you regularly sleep for 3 hours each night, we may throw some extra gentle stretching or breathing exercises into your program instead of intense finishers--at least until you can get a handle on a few extra hours each night. Finally, if you're working full time and have 4 kids at home and an extra weekend job, is it logical to tell yourself you're going to work out 4 days a week? What can you reasonably add (or take away)?
Finally (and maybe a post for another day): WHY?
What's your true motivation for losing the weight? Maybe we can discover a truer motivation for exercising and eating a new or different way that isn't based on your outward appearance. Maybe that IS your deepest motivation though, and we can work with that, too!
What does this look like for me, personally?
I'm in the same boat as you! I don't just wake up with unlimited stores of motivation to work out or eat vegetables. I have to set my own intentions to keep me focused. At the beginning of the year, I started to mull over what kinds of goals and habits I'd like to tackle before the summer. Hiking was such a big part of my life when we arrived on the island: we had a gorgeous summer and fall, a fun town-sponsored hiking challenge to attempt, and it was an exhausting and entertaining way to get outside with my 2 year old on the long days. This year, I thought it would be nice to feel a little more nimble, a little less sweaty, and be able to recover a little easier after a long hike. Maybe I'd be able to squeeze an extra hike in during the week, or even attempt a backpacking trip, if I felt a little more "in shape." I told myself I was eating well and working out plenty, but I decided I would take January and figure out exactly what that looked like...to figure out my own current baseline. I asked myself the questions above and found out I'm just as guilty of fooling myself into thinking everything is already dialed in:
Activity Level: Besides teaching 2 rigorous strength-based classes (come join me for Power Hour Mondays and Wednesdays at 9am!) and a TRX class (Wednesday 10am) at
, I wasn't sticking to anything else consistently as far as workouts and movement was concerned. I'd get a cross-country ski in, maybe throw in another strength workout, or jump on the elliptical or stair-climber, but I could definitely pinpoint some places where I could step it up a notch!
Food: As much as I don't enjoy doing it and try not to fixate on the calories, I jumped back on the food logging train that I occasionally hop on and off of, and found I was consistently eating more than 2,800 calories a day. With my activity level relatively low, this number wasn't really going to be a great way to find myself a little leaner by summer. It also revealed to me that it wasn't all apples and spinach making up that 2,800 calories: Just tuning into when and how I was eating showed me how much I was eating off my kid's plate, eating past the point of full, and choosing to add extra cheese and butter in places where the food already tasted really good (like on my husband's fresh bread or the salmon he caught last summer). I wasn't using food-logging as a way to cut out the delicious stuff and feel deprived, but rather to remind myself to enjoy the food in front of me and not mindlessly shove it in my mouth or cover it with unnecessary extras. I also decided to make sure I was actually drinking the huge amount of water I assumed I drank just because I tend to carry water with me everywhere I go. Spoiler: I was not.
Weight: Although this is almost never a (positively) motivating factor for me, we have a scale and I occasionally jump on it. I told myself recently that if I wanted to keep doing that, I would limit it to once a week and not get hung up on which way the scale goes. It's another way to measure things, but ultimately it doesn't take into consideration the muscle I'm building, where I am in my cycle, and if I've had enough water that day. And sometimes, for no good reason, if the number goes up, it's a good way to make me feel like I've failed even though I'm working out and eating more healthy food and enjoying my life. That's reason enough to limit it or cut it out (and, if you feel similarly, to not even use your weight number as your goal!).
Health and recovery: After babying a herniated disc through all of fall and early winter, I'm finally feeling better and the fear of injuring myself is being replaced by a stronger core and a readiness to get back to the things I love to do! I'll monitor it and gradually add weights back into my life! I'm SO lucky to be otherwise healthy, to be sleeping well, and to feel like other stressors are relatively under control. If they pop up, though, I'll be more aware and adjust my exercise and food to account for them.
The last three weeks haven't revealed my exact GOAL yet, but I've learned so much. Ultimately I feel like if I can take this info and focus less on my goal weight and more on being a strong, less-sweaty hiker this summer, I'm more able to find the small changes I can make consistently every day to feel confident in that role come May or June. I know now that making sure I add at least one hike or, if the weather stinks, a stairclimbing session each week will ultimately go farther than just assuming I'm doing enough just because I'm going to the gym sometimes.
So: Can you do this? Can you find your baseline and create a plan from there? Would it feel easier to talk it over with someone who can help you through this process and pinpoint those small changes that might make the biggest bang?
We'll figure out exactly what it means to YOU to feel stronger and how to get there, what being confident in the gym might look like for you and ways to make that a reality, or what it could feel like to not just guess at or white-knuckle through "healthier" choices, but to actually have solid lists, recipes, and guidelines to make it effortless. I'm here for you and in the thick of it with you. I know what it takes and how hard it can be, but I also know how much easier it is with a support team!