Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Have You Ever Considered Personalizing Your Plan?

So there has been something on my mind lately as I read the many blogs that outline the personal weight loss/health journeys. I see those who seem to be struggling the most seem to be trying to follow some pre-fabricated plan that they found somewhere strictly to the way it was written. They may have had some initial success in moving towards their goals but then all of a sudden they stall out and feel like they are failing. Oh I have been there and boy did I struggle as I tried to follow a plan perfectly. It took me a long time to recognize that the big reason that most plans out there weren’t working for me was because they weren’t designed personally for me. 

When I began this journey to better health I approached trying to change my eating by following a fairly popular diet book’s eating plan. I even followed it for quiet a while and had some success on it, but as my health status changed, the food plan wasn’t meeting the needs of the person I was becoming. Did it give me the structure and some basic nutritional information I was in need of when I was 248lbs, non-active, and suffering from a plethora of health issues? Sure did, but as I changed my needs changed and the program wasn’t fitting anymore. I think this is where a lot of people get stuck, frustrated, and ultimately go back to the habits that got them to where they were before they started the plan. 

So what did I do to avoid this crash and burn that I had fallen pray to many times in the past? I started personalizing my eating plan to fit my new needs and as I kept making progress I kept making changes. Even though I’m in weight maintenance now, I still modify my nutrition from time to time because my body is still changing in terms of fitness and, even though I would love to stop it, I am getting older which means changes to my body as well. I recognize that as my body is changing my nutritional needs are constantly changing. I learned if you don’t change your nutrition to match the needs of your body you are going to stall out on moving towards better health. Psst....guess what? This works for workout plans and other plans you might be following to reach health goals too!

My Motto for the health plan I follow

Basic Steps for Personalizing Your Plan

Take Some Baseline Measurements
Before you go making a bunch of changes to your plan it is important to have a way to measure your progress. Examples of measurements you might want to take are: weight, body fat percentage, body part measurements, standard blood tests, blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc. If you are personalizing your workout plan, you probably want to include some fitness tests as well.
Take a Look at Your Current Plan
Sit down and list what parts of your current plan are working and which ones aren’t. Good rule of thumb I follow is that if there is a part that I struggle consistently with it likely needs to be modified in some way so I put it in the not working list. Also, if it something I hate doing, even though I don’t struggle with completing it I put it in the not working list.
Translate the Not Working List
So you have this list but does that mean you just eliminate those parts? It’s not that easy. You need to remember that those things were likely part of the original plan for a reason. They normally are tools to get your body to respond in a certain way. Now it is time for you to sit down and try to figure out what those responses are. If you get stuck with figuring out the reason you can do a little research to figure it out. If you are following a plan in a book re-read it, you can likely figure it out. You also can gather the information by consulting professionals such as a Registered Dietitian in the case of a nutrition based plan or a Personal Trainer if it is a fitness plan.  The internet is also another good source to try and research this, but make sure you are consulting credible sources.
Research Alternatives
So you figured out why those parts that were not working for you were part of the original plan. Now it is time to research alternative ways to get the body responses that those tasks were addressing. Yes, this can be time consuming but I’m telling you it’s important to the process. Find a couple of different alternatives because, if after you try one out and it doesn’t seem to work for you, then you have some new ones to fall back on without having to go through the research process again. When researching, consulting with a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, or other professional can be very helpful. 
Make Changes Slowly
As much as you might be tempted to want to jump in head first and change everything that isn’t working overnight DON’T! When you make too many changes at once you are more than likely going to overwhelm your body and it’s going to revolt. Also, you aren’t going to be able to really assess which changes are working effectively and which ones aren’t.  When I am at this stage I concentrate on one change at a time. Once the new change seems to be working and is becoming routine I move on to the next one. Be open to experimenting!
Track & Evaluate Progress
For me this means keeping track of changes in the baseline measurements. I check some of them every 6-8 weeks to see if their have been positive changes in them. For blood tests I have them checked when recommended by my doctor. If I’m not seeing any changes or I see things sliding in a direction I’m not comfortable with I go back and start the process again.  Some people find a daily food and exercise journal works for them for tracking. They then conduct an evaluation of the results every week. Personally, I can’t do that because it makes me get too obsessed with the whole process, so I stick to longer periods in between recording and the evaluation of information. Remember that the whole point of this process is to find a plan that is personally tailored to you so you need to find what works best for you.

Resources for Personalizing Your Plan
How to Design Your Own Diet
How to Personalize Your Fitness Program
The American Dietetic Association
Find an ACE-certified Personal Trainer

Oh and if you missed my  ‘Don't Drink ___, Drink WAT-AAH!’ Giveaway post on Saturday check it out. You have until this Friday @ 11:59pm to enter.

Quote of the Day: “A fool is a man who never tried an experiment in his life.” ~ Erasmus Darwin


  1. Hi! I just found your blog. I'm in Pa, too and am studying for my ACE certification. I'd love to chat with you about what you thought of it. Do you mind?

    I have so much catching up to do on your blog!!

  2. Great tips! It's good to have a reminder of what success looks like! Keep up the good work!

  3. AWESOME post!!!! Great tips :)