The Goal: A Healthy Lifestyle
Last fall, my husband and I embarked on a lifestyle change. We had both gained weight (once again) and were fed up with repeating the yo-yo cycle of losing and regaining weight. Knowing how difficult it is stay on track long term, especially during busy times, we needed a strategic plan. The plan required fail-proof strong systems in place to overcome our obstacles and achieve our goal, once and for all.
The process of what we did and how, can be applied to anything you want to achieve in life or business. We had a history of weight loss/gain to learn from; we knew when and how we would slip, so our plan had to mitigate risks; organization was key.
Our story provides a case study on subject matter that many people can relate to. It outlines how to create a strategic plan and illuminates why you need systems in place, if you're serious about success. Discover the 5 steps we took to create our strategic plan, and the systems we used to support our eventual success.
The Problem: Designing a New Healthy Diet for a Lifetime
After researching and trying out several restrictive diets over the years, I knew that the key to being healthy over the long-term was to adopt more of a whole-foods, plant-based eating plan. I was used to cooking meat-based protein meals and my husband enjoying eating such meals whole-heartedly. I had to learn how to make delicious whole-foods, plant based meals so that we would embrace it.
I bought a new cookbook and discovered that some meals were quite good. It was also more work due to all the washing, chopping of vegetables and spices.
The Solution: 80% Whole-Foods, Plant-based Eating
An important step in the transition to a new way of eating is understanding why a whole-foods, plant-based diet was much healthier to meat based meals. I had attended an information night on the topic of whole-foods, plant-based eating. That night, listened to testimonials from people who had beat heart disease, high blood pressure, stage four cancer and lost/kept off excess weight for years. I decided that 100% was too restrictive, but 80% would allow us to include wild fish, eggs and chicken.
We watched the documentary, "Forks Over Knives" which fortified our decision to move forward. I knew that long-term change of this magnitude would be challenging, so I created a strategic plan to make it happen. The process I used can help you create your own strategic plan in five steps.
How to Write a Strategic Plan in 5 Steps
Step 1 - Create a Compelling Vision
We wanted to be healthy, lean and fit more than anything. We started to see ourselves as slim and strong into our old age. To us, failure was not an option.
Step 2 - Set Goals using SMART objectives
The first thing we did, was determined our weight loss goals using SMART parameters. My goal was 7 lbs. at 0.5 lb. loss per week, my husband's was 14 lbs. at 1 lb. a week; which meant 14 weeks to achieve our goal.
Step 3 - Create a Fail-proof System
Define What Has to Happen
We needed to exercise more and eat food with value: unprocessed, provides energy, balanced diet, delicious and readily available.
We examined what we were consuming in our diet and where we fell short. In our case, not enough protein and cardiovascular exercise. Yoga and lifting weights was not enough. We each found exercise that we enjoyed and was convenient; if not, it wouldn't work. Luckily, we live near a park with over 64 kms of hiking/biking trails. I hiked most days and practiced yoga; while my husband lifted weights and went biking with a friend.
Set up Support Systems to keep you on track
Now came the tricky part: the food. We were creating a new lifestyle; a permanent change so specialized diets were not an option. We decided that any food brought home must have value or was needed to make delicious soups/meals. 90% of my shopping consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables, and included plant based proteins.
I prepared healthy snacks such as ready-washed fruit or smoothies in the fridge, all ready to eat or taking along on an outing. Bananas, jars of walnuts, almonds, and other healthy snacks were all positioned within site. Our meals and snacks were colorful and fresh, nutritious and delicious. We were starting to feel good inside and out.
Create Rewards for Quick Wins
We brought in a "treat day." One day a week we allowed ourselves to indulge, go beyond our calorie targets just for the day. By doing so, we could participate in family gatherings and celebrations without guilt, and still maintain our commitment.
Determine Key Performance Indicators to Monitor Progress
I found an app on my smart phone to track everything I ate, my workouts, my steps, my water intake, my sleep; this became invaluable towards balancing nutrition and monitoring our total health. We learned to budget our food intake and avoided wasting calories on high calorie, low food value choices.
Yes, it was work; but I found joy in the challenge of creating healthy, delicious meals. I made a lot of hearty soups that could be frozen in jars for emergency meals. I started sharing photos of some of my favorite dishes through Instagram, and it encouraged others to try. I scheduled my day so that the right meals were available and ready.
Seven months later, this new way of living has become our lifestyle. What's more, we love how we feel. Two months ago, we were surprised to discover that we lost double the weight we had aimed for. The primary reason? We were serious. How do I know? We had a plan and built systems to keep us on track; we committed to true change.
Step 4 - Notice, Calibrate, Direct Resources to actions with Greatest Impact
While working any plan, notice any significant shifts, such as activities that have great impact and do more of it. For example, making hearty soups was a winner for me because it was nutritious and delicious and provided several meals out of one batch of work.
Step 5 - Celebrate Your Achievement; Share with Others!
We celebrated our wins by cheering each other on, getting new clothes, and taking a trip. But the best celebration was through sharing our ideas with other people. When you share your knowledge, others are encouraged to go-for-something-big also. The joy you have, grows.
We doubled our goals; which was beyond what we thought possible! Our experience showcases the power of having a strategic plan supported by strong systems.
Regardless of whether your goals are personal or business, the road to success begins with a well-thought-out strategic plan, but robust systems ensure the big win!