Do You Know Your Starting Point?

Today I want to chat about an aspect of making change that’s often overlooked but is truly the first step – knowing your Starting Point.

In some arenas this is called getting a “baseline” but that’s just a fancy way of acknowledging where you are in the present moment. There are a thousand and one questions you can ask yourself to get a baseline. A couple of health and wellness examples can include:

  • How many calories do I eat a day?
  • How many times do I exercise a week?
  • How do I intentionally handle stress?
  • How much quality sleep do I get each night?

Let’s take a look at the first sample question above since losing weight is a biggie (no pun intended). ? We’ll use Carla for our example.

Carla is an Office Manager looking to lose 30 pounds and is super excited and motivated. She decides that she’s going to “eat better” and anticipates by summer the extra weight will be a distant memory. She’s 5’5″ and around 180 pounds.

Woman with arms crossed

Historically, she would change her eating habits to what she thought was healthy and would produce the results she wanted – such as:

  • Having a salad for lunch
  • Buying some “100 calories” snacks for when she gets the munchies at work
  • Drinking a fruit smoothie for breakfast
  • Switching to diet soda

Do any of these sound familiar? While Carla’s intentions are great she’s missed the oh-so-critical first step to coming up with a plan. You guessed it – getting a baseline.

Establish a Starting Point (Baseline)

So how many calories a day is Carla actually consuming right now…before making these shifts? She most likely has NO idea. She might only be eating 800 calories a day and her body is in “starvation mode”, thereby slowing her metabolism to a standstill. Or she could be on the opposite side of the spectrum and taking in 4,000 calories a day of highly processed junk and is malnourished (yup…you can be overfed and malnourished at the same time but that’s for another post).

If Carla takes the time to track her eating habits for a week, the Good, Bad and Ugly, then she can have an accurate representation of her current situation. Then…with that valuable information in-hand, come up with a game plan to lose those 30 pounds in smart and healthy fashion – like if she had engaged nutrition counseling.

After tracking her eating habits for a week here’s what Carla discovered:

  • She skips breakfast quite often but when she does eat something it tends to be a frozen waffle with syrup, some coffee, and a donut/pastry.
  • While at work she grabs some candy throughout the day when she passes by the jar, gets hungry before lunch, or when she’s feeling a bit stressed.
  • Dinner is usually carry-out or something out of a box. She’s exhausted when she gets home from work and simply doesn’t feel like cooking.
  • Usually has some type of dessert either right after dinner or a couple of hours later, right before bed.
  • The weekend is her “let loose” time so she’s even more lax’d with her food choices.

Carla used an app on her phone to track her eating throughout the week for the first time so she was astonished to learn:

  • She’s taking in around 3,000 calories a day
  • While at work she grabs some candy throughout the day when she passes by the jar, gets hungry before lunch, or when she’s feeling a bit stressed.
  • She’s consuming around 100 grams of sugar a day
  • She’s low on her protein intake

She had NO idea that these were her patterns!

Woman using hand weightsNow with just this basic information in hand, let’s re-examine her initial checklist and see if it still makes sense.

  • Having a salad for lunch – YES this is a great idea as long as she includes some form of protein (chicken, fish, beans, etc.) AND keeps the sugar low for the dressing. Remember she’s currently low on protein/high on sugar.
  • Buying some “100 calorie” snacks for when she gets the munchies at work – While in theory this is a good idea, the 100 calorie snacks sold in stores are 95% of the time processed junk. Keeping the overall concept in mind, she should make her own snacks. Something like some nuts, organic cheese, a little peanut butter, etc.
  • Drinking a fruit smoothie for breakfast – Again, in theory, this sounds like a great idea, but by getting a baseline, Carla has seen that she takes in way too much sugar so she’ll want to avoid sugar as much as possible. BUT…that doesn’t mean that she couldn’t make a smoothie with primary veggies and put a tiny bit of fruit in it if it needed.
  • Switching to diet soda – Artificial sweeteners are not the end-goal answer to sugar addition. Most can be toxic to our system and the way our body identifies and processes them causes us to crave consume even more. Carla needs to ask herself WHY she drinks soda. Is it for the taste, sweetness, caffeine, etc? Determine the reason why and then come up with an appropriate replacement.

As you can see, there’s is great power in taking some time to examine where you are currently in your journey. By arming yourself with this information you can come up with a smart and strategic plan that will actually support your goals. You won’t be shooting in the dark or throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

Carla now has a much better chance of success and hopefully won’t find herself back her next January – caught in the endless loop of missing her goals.

If this all seems overwhelming it’s also ok to reach out for help. I have both health coaching and personal training programs available to partner and go through the journey together. Shoot me an email to determine if we’re a good fit for one another.

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