Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Goals and Good Friends -- Guest Post by Sara VanDenHeuvel

30 Day Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge

Sara is an adventurer and ASHA's Resource Manager for Multicultural Affairs. She recently completed an incredible climbing expedition in Ecuador and now she's planning to do a 200 mile team relay  in Zion National Park. She blogs about her adventures on Accidental Adventures. I asked Sara to share her experience rallying support from family and friends. 

Sara at a potluck with friends from her gym
Two years ago, I embarked on a series of slow and steady changes in my diet, my fitness, my lifestyle.  When I started, my goal was simple – lose weight, look better in my swimsuit come summer, find a pair of jeans that looked great.  And don’t get me wrong, I still want most of those things, but in the last two years, the focus on my immediate goal of shedding a few pounds and finding a cute bikini shifted to a focus on health, personal growth, and improvement.  It continues to be a work in progress, an evolution.

After two years, I still struggle sometimes, but what I hope to provide here is some knowledge and insight as to how, through the ups and downs, I stay on track in the big picture.  I lean heavily on my personal goals and good friends to maintain focus and direction, and the two go hand in hand.

I make an effort to set goals that are a little bit scary, a little bit beyond my comfort zone – if the idea gives me goosebumps, I’m usually sold.  If you’re about to make a change in your lifestyle, I think having a goal, a reason for that change, is wise and motivating.  It can be your source of inspiration.  It doesn’t have to be a goal of an insurmountable magnitude, it just has to be important to you.  To me, a goal should be specific, measurable, and motivated by something of personal importance.

So, with goals in mind, good friends are often the sustenance that keeps you going.  As I have made changes over the last two years, I’ve recruited the support of friends and family, because let’s be real – no matter how committed I am to my goals, that piece of apple pie/chocolate shake/donut looks realllllly good, and I’m not infallible.  Sometimes I need a little bit of extra help!  At first, I was hesitant to seek that support and shared my efforts only with my best friend.  She had her reservations initially – my dietary changes meant fewer pizza and ice cream nights for us.  You’re going to encounter this in friends and family – hesitation, even resistance at times.  Change is hard, but if you can coummunicate the significance and importance of your goals and the changes needed to reach them, you’re more likely to meet a positive response than resistance.  “It always helps me to know your goals and why they matter.  As your best friend, I want you to cheat sometimes because it would be fun to eat a bunch of ice cream, but as your best friend, I want you to meet your goals more,” was the summation provided recently.  My goals give direction and power to my commitment and progress, they do the same for the commitment and support of my friends and family.  Recruit the support of someone in your life who can support you, someone who’s on your side when you lose sight of the “why” you’re doing this, someone that can refocus your attention and efforts on your goals.  The responsibility is ultimately yours, but it’s nice to know you have someone in your corner.

As I have made these transitions in the last two years, I have also taken advantage of the friends and family in my life that embrace a similar commitment to health and follow similar dietary and fitness patterns to mine – dinners together, recipe swaps, words of wisdom and encouragement, inspiration and motivation from their commitment and progress, and occasionally the proverbial “kick in the butt” when I need a less-gentle reminder to stay focused.  These people probably exist in your life too, so don’t be afraid to tap that resource – people are generally enthused about sharing their experiences and providing support!

A few friend-related tips I have found helpful:

  1. Share your goals – recruit support from friends and family by communicating to them the significance in what you’re doing, why it’s important to you, and what they can do to help.  Be specific in identifying why this change is important and a few things that you might find helpful – “I’m really committed to eating healthy right now because I want to be able to start running two times a week by April 1,” and “Let’s get lunch at the Mediterranean CafĂ© next week instead of XXX.  It’s a lot easier for me to make healthy choices there, so it would be really helpful.”

  1. Don’t hide from your social circle while you take on these changes - invite friends for dinner at your place and make a delicious and healthy meal!  Recipes abound on the internet and friends are often enthused about positive changes – you’ll recruit more support and might even inspire someone else to make a healthful change!  Not interested in cooking?  Meet out for dinner!  Scope out the menu first so you’re well prepared and know what your options are.

  1. Swap recipes - find someone making the same lifestyle changes you are and swap recipes and tips.  New ideas ensure variety and keep the entire experience fun – which makes it a ton easier in my opinion to make this a true lifestyle shift, not just a challenge in the short-term!

  1. Encourage someone else - with such a great program launching, many people will be embracing healthy changes.  Providing support and encouragement to others and showing enthusiasm for the efforts of a friend reminds me of my commitment to my goals.  It keeps me inspired.

  1. Celebrate your progress – if your goal is to run three miles, celebrate with friends as you progress.  Identify milestones – running without stopping, running a mile, running two miles.  Celebrate your commitment, your efforts, and your progress with friends and family who are committed to your success!
Find a goal, find a friend, and get excited about the great changes you’re about to make in your life!

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