• Theresa Gentile


Have you ever set exciting goals where you started out motivated and driven, only to look back and wonder later on how you got derailed? Setting strategic goals and following through with these steps can be a surefire predictor of success if done right.


The most successful people and professionals understand how important goal-setting is before jumping into any important task. Goal-setting is used at work, in counseling, smoking cessation, athletics, weight loss, and other health goals. Goals give meaning to our actions and an anticipated result; effective goals will guide us there with success.


Did you know that you can, essentially, trick yourself into becoming your ideal self?

Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal. Achieving it brings us pleasure. Failure just motivates us further to get to that endpoint.


Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal.

Goal setting is like a recipe for a meal. Each ingredient and direction is important and in the right order. Nor can you expect to run a 26 mile marathon when you’ve only been able to run 2 miles at a time. Just like you can’t expect to lose 30 pounds if you haven’t changed your eating habits or dealt with underlying factors, like emotional eating.


The recipe (or goal) guides you to the end-product with a clear path to get there. It sustains the momentum and enables you to spot interference more easily.


The process is important, as well.


We learn from our mistakes and our brain will remember these instances and try to set itself up for success next time. We are programmed to preserve our own self-esteem. Once you binge on so much chocolate that it makes you nauseous and gives you a headache, you experience the physical and emotional side effects of that. The next time you encounter this situation, you remember this. Your brain will remind you. But you might have to enact your willpower at times, as well.


Achieving goals can boost self-confidence, but don’t overlook the process of getting there. This is where you’ll learn new skills, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and grow the most. It’s in failure that we learn...and remember better for next time.


What are SMART goals?


George T. Doran coined the SMART goals acronym in 1981 in a management research paper. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Below is a brief explanation of each.


Specific. Your goal should be small and clear enough that there’s no question as to what you’re aiming for. Why small? Because we get bogged down and overwhelmed when the task is insurmountably large. Long-term, broad goals are rarely met. If you’d like to lose 50 pounds in one year, then break that down into months...aim for 3-4 pounds per month. That’s much more do-able.


Measurable. A good goal will be measurable. How much weight do you want to lose? How low are you aiming to lower your cholesterol? What blood sugar number are you aiming for? How many days per week will you work out and for how long?


Attainable. Your objective must be attainable but still challenging. If working out 3 days per week is something you already do most of the time, then stretch yourself to 4 times per week. (As opposed to 7 days per week which may not be attainable or reasonable at all.)


Relevant. Your goal should directly align with your overall goal. Try not to throw “repainting the bedrooms” in with a goal of “lowering my blood glucose to normal range within the next 3 months.” Stick with the plan and prioritize goals accordingly.


Timeliness. Create specific timelines for your goals that aren’t too far in the future that you forget about them. If it is a long-term goal, break it down into small pieces so you’re reassessing your progress every few weeks.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*


OK, so you’ve taken your large goal of, say, losing 30 pounds in 8 months. You’ve set SMART goals, you’ve broken down your aim of weight loss of 1 lb per week - now what??


Empirical evidence on how to achieve your goals


In an often-cited study, Dr. Gail Mathews, a professor in Dominican's Department of Psychology, found empirical evidence, “for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” said Dr. Mathews.


Dr. Mathews had 149 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas who completed a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions.


Participants were divided up into 1 of 5 groups. Group 1 was simply asked to think about their goals and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before.


Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same measurements as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.

Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.


So who actually completed their goals?


Matthews found that more than 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend completed their goals or were more than half-way there.

Those who kept their goals to themselves without writing them down were only 35% successful.


How can you be successful in achieving your goals?


1. Write it down. Cement it in your brain by either putting it on paper or creating a visual representation, like a map or vision board.


2. Have a well-planned process with actionable steps.

How are you going to get to a weight loss of 1 pound per week? Well, you may have to cut back on mindless eating, pay more attention to portions or increase the frequency of physical activity. Having a clear process mapped out increases the chances that you will stay on course.


3. Build in accountability

The most successful people in Dr. Mathews’ study not only wrote out SMART goals with a clear plan to get to their target, they also sent a weekly progress report to a friend to hold themselves accountable. A friend or peer is good, but an unbiased coach may be better. Often, a friend may not understand your exact issue, have issues of their own that influence their feedback, or are simply busy with their own life. A coach will have a trained eye for spotting distractions, help you stay on course, and hopefully have extensive knowledge about your issues.


When you fail


I say when, instead of if, because there will certainly be times when you don’t hit your target at your desired timeframe. (Especially with weight loss, which is influenced by so many factors - it’s not always as easy as calories in vs. calories out.)


But don’t get hung up in doubt, shame, and negative thinking. Practice adjusting your mindset to one of growth instead of one that’s fixed. Yes, this will be hard...yes, there will be blips and bumps in the road. But, as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is Figureoutable”.


The whole process of goal-setting and devising an action plan creates resilience and self-confidence you didn’t know you had. Respect the process and stay in the game. It’s a whole lot easier than getting out and trying to join back in later.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*

And if you’re looking for a weight loss or health coach, fill out the inquiry box below, and let’s chat!


Thanks,

Theresa


References:

Frequent goal setting that is focused specifically on diet or physical activity was more predictive of using dietary or physical activity strategies, respectively, than goal setting focused on weight loss overall.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17032703/


Study focuses on strategies for achieving goals, resolutions

https://scholar.dominican.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=news-releases


Gordon ML, Althoff T, Leskovec J. Goal-setting And Achievement In Activity Tracking Apps: A Case Study Of MyFitnessPal. Proc Int World Wide Web Conf. 2019;2019:571-582. doi:10.1145/3308558.3313432



Dennison L, Morrison L, Conway G, Yardley L. Opportunities and challenges for smartphone applications in supporting health behavior change: qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(4):e86. Published 2013 Apr 18. doi:10.2196/jmir.2583


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  • Theresa Gentile

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

After counseling hundreds of clients, I’ve come up with 6 pillars that are crucial for success in your weight loss and health goals.




A client recently asked me what I think are the keys to weight loss success. His goal is to lose weight for health and mobility reasons, he doesn’t want to relapse and he only wants to do this once. It made me think about what it is that my most successful clients do that can be replicated. Below are 6 attributes that can set you up for weight loss success.


1. Anything worth your time takes time


Weight loss is a slow and steady kinda game. If you’re looking to keep weight off and prevent relapse of weight re-gain, you have to make it a lifestyle. As one of my clients says, she has made a, “commitment to her sobriety”, in a sense.


Crash diets, crazy diets, let’s-eliminate-whole-food-group diets have been shown to have a greater increase in weight re-gain at 12 months than a slower, more stable weight loss. This is because slow loss gives our bodies time to develop and cement new habits. In this way, we’re also allowing our body’s natural physiology to keep the weight off and not rebound.


Plus, I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to put in all the work of making healthy changes, I only want to do it once! I don’t want to go through the trouble of falling off the wagon, just to get back on again. It’s a lot easier to keep going.


2. Small Steps


“Every journey begins with a single step” (Confucius, philosopher).


If you want to accomplish your weight loss goals, or any goal for that matter, it would be in your best interest to tackle one thing at a time. Stop the overwhelm by breaking up a long journey into small strides.


The most successful people pick one thing and do it well.


Every small step you take gives you the momentum and proven success mindset to propel you forward. I recommend that my clients use some sort of visual to accomplish this...maybe adding coffee beans to a jar with every step made, or keeping a list of accomplishments. This will help productivity because motivation alone is often not enough to get us through tough changes to ingrained habits.


It’s also a good idea to write your goals down. Break down your goals into monthly and weekly acts.


3. There is No Perfect


You may want to throw in the towel every time you take a step backward or fail at making another stride, but if you want weight loss success, you’ll have to go with the ebb and flow of life.


Accepting and sitting with the uncomfortable gray areas will take practice. It will require you to be gentle and compassionate with yourself.


In addition, every time you fall off the proverbial wagon and are able to get right back on, it teaches an important lesson. Firstly, you learn from your mistakes. Secondly, every time you get back up, you train your brain to make this connection next time, instead of giving up.


4. Set up Your Environment for Success


According to Clear in “Transform Your Habits”, (Clear, 2015; Duhigg, 2012), “If your environment doesn’t change, you probably won’t either.”


Increase the ease to get and eat healthy food at home. Conversely, make it harder to get to the unhealthy food. If it’s possible, don’t keep unhealthy, or trigger, foods in the house at all. If snack foods or candy are around in your home, make it physically hard to get. Keep it in the basement, or up high in the back of a cupboard. By nature, we are programmed to do what is easiest.


Also, making a plan ahead of time is crucial. It will always be easier to make a choice based on a decision you’ve already planned out than attempting to come up with a new plan on the fly.


If cookies with that 3 pm coffee in the break room is a trigger for you, make a plan (and write it down) at the beginning of the week. Maybe this week you’ll bring a healthy snack to work instead. If that’s not enough for you to resist the cookies in the breakroom, maybe you can go out for a walk and get a cup of coffee where there aren’t cookies staring right at you.


This can work with exercise routines as well. Make a plan for the week for your physical activity. Then do everything to make it work. Tell your family that you’ll be running out right before breakfast for a walk, set out your clothes the night before, or invest in the right equipment and clothes that you might need.


5. Accountability


Once you take responsibility for your actions and your goals, you are putting yourself in the driver's seat. Your goals are within your control and every step you take will be in the direction of that goal.


To whom should you be accountable? Well, you could join a mastermind group or use an individualized coach. You could find either one of these in various Facebook groups, blogs, Reddit, or MyFitnessPal. You could start with a Registered Dietitian for your nutrition goals or a personal trainer for your physical activity goals.


Can you hold yourself accountable to family or friends? Of course! There are pros and cons to whether you should invite someone you know or invite an unbiased person to hold you accountable. You have to do what’s right for you.


But, no matter who you choose to hold you accountable, informing the people with whom you live is a good idea as well-meaning family can undermine your health goals if they’re not aware of them.


6. It Has to be a Lifestyle


Like I mentioned earlier, most quick fixes won’t amount to long-lasting change. To get to the root cause of your eating or health issues, you really need to identify the weaknesses and make a plan to change those habits.


With a plan, an accountability partner, and the right mindset, you can accomplish your health goals before you know it!

If you’ve been thinking about getting more serious about your weight loss or health goals, email me in the contact box below, so we can discuss if I can help meet your needs.


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Flaxseeds are a little powerhouse seed of nutrition. From decreasing cholesterol to decreasing cancer risk, most healthy adults can improve their health just by adding a little bit of flaxseeds to their diet each day.





There’s been a lot of growing and impressive research on flaxseed, it’s impact on health, its bioactive components and how to consume it so we can reap the most of flaxseeds’ benefits.


Flaxseeds are a plant-based food with healthful fat in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids

(specifically, omega 3 fatty acids), antioxidants and fiber. Flaxseeds also contain protein and are a rich source of lignans. Because flaxseeds have the potential to boost health, it is considered a functional food.


What are some health benefits of flaxseeds?


Flaxseeds can help decrease cholesterol and blood pressure


Flaxseeds can help lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Likely through the anti-inflammatory effects of the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in flaxseeds, dietary flaxseed has been shown to decrease the progression of atherosclerosis when it is caused by high dietary cholesterol or high dietary trans-fat content.  


Flaxseeds may also decrease cholesterol due to the phytosterol content. Phytosterols have a
similar structure to cholesterol, but they help prevent the absorption of cholesterol to the
intestines.

In terms of lowering blood pressure, there has been substantial effects from milled flaxseeds.

Again, it’s thought that ALA was the factor involved in lowering blood pressure.


In the double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized FlaxPAD Trial, PAD patients fed 30 g of milled flaxseed every day for 6 months exhibited significant decreases in both systolic and

diastolic blood pressure. This hypotensive effect was shown as early as 1 month after starting the flaxseed in the diet and was maintained for up to one year.


Flaxseeds may decrease cancer risk


A majority of the research in flaxseed’s role in decreasing cancer risk is with breast cancer.

Flaxseed lignans are nonsteroidal phytoestrogens whose chemical structure is very similar to

mammalian estrogens; these lignans produce estrogen-like effects in mammals. Flax lignans are metabolized by intestinal bacteria to become bioavailable in the plasma. The flax lignans may slow tumor growth.


Flaxseeds have been found to decrease tumor growth in women with breast cancer and mortality of women with breast cancer.

Flaxseeds may improve blood sugar control and diabetes


Flaxseed supplementation reduced blood glucose in subjects with type 2 diabetes in some studies and lowered blood glucose in subjects with prediabetes. More research needs to be done in this area.


Flaxseed and hot flashes and hormonal status


The estrogenic effects of flaxseed suggest a potentially positive effect on hot flashes in post-

menopausal women.


In a study of 140 postmenopausal women, menopausal symptoms decreased and the quality of life increased in women who ingested a flaxseed supplemented diet. Another large trial (199 women) of unusually long duration (1 year) on a high dose of flaxseed (40 g per day) reported a significant decrease in menopausal symptoms, but this effect did not differ from the control group that ingested a wheat germ placebo. (See article here)


More randomized, placebo-controlled trials are necessary to determine conclusive effects on

menopausal symptoms.


Flaxseeds and gastrointestinal health and the microbiome


It is now well understood that the gut microbiome plays an important role in human health.

(Read more on the microbiome in my article here) How much flaxseed’s components contribute to the microbiome is still being researched. It has been shown that flaxseed’s digestion in the intestines alters the bacterial composition favorably. And changes in specific bacteria in the microbiome may have implications in disease progression.


Flaxseeds are high in insoluble fiber, which remains in the digestive tract after eating. It then
absorbs water adds bulk to stool. This helps decrease constipation – just be sure to drink plenty of water during the day.

What is the best way to eat flaxseeds?


Flaxseed comes in whole flaxseed, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil and partially defatted flaxseed meal. A new form available is flax “milk”. It’s a milk alternative, like almond or oat milk. Flax milk is made from finely milled flaxseed mixed with filtered water and a few other negligible compounds. Flax milk is high in ALA and is an excellent alternative to dairy milk, as it has no cholesterol or lactose. It is suitable for people allergic to soy, nuts and gluten, and it contains more health benefits than almond milk.


Flaxseeds’ high content of ALA makes it very susceptible to oxidation. This is why flaxseed can have a bitter taste sometimes.


Baking products with flaxseed, even up to 352 degrees F for two hours, does not alter the

composition of ALA in baked goods.



My favorite ways to use flaxseeds:


-Top oatmeal

-Throw in an omelet

-Add to baked goods

-Add to smoothies

-Top yogurt

-Sprinkle on a sandwich

-Sprinkle on a salad

-Flaxseed crackers










What’s your favorite way to use flaxseeds?



References:

Pan A, Yu D, Demark-Wahnefried W, Franco OH, Lin X. Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(2):288-297. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27469


Edel AL, Rodriguez-Leyva D, Maddaford TG, Caligiuri SP, Austria JA, Weighell W,

Guzman R, Aliani M, Pierce GN. Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating

cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in

patients with peripheral artery disease. J Nutr. 2015 Apr;145(4):749-57. doi:

10.3945/jn.114.204594. Epub 2015 Feb 18. PMID: 25694068.


Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1171. Published 2019 May 25.

doi:10.3390/nu11051171

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