Healthstyle Milestones: What Are Your Health Goals?

by | Oct 11, 2010
By woodleywonderworks

By woodleywonderworks

Abandoning the idea of “going on a diet” is one of the most difficult and important adjustments to make when you are trying to lose weight and improve your health. To achieve and maintain your fitness goals, learning to think in the long-term instead of the short-term is a necessity.

We’ve been conditioned to think about our health as a temporary endeavor. When we find ourselves getting a bit out of shape we assume we need to start a new diet plan and maybe join a gym or cardio class.

“But, you know, things are busy right now and I’ll get to it in a couple weeks when I have more time.”

Even if we do start the plan and lose some weight, how long will it be before we slip back into our old routine and the pounds creep back on?

If you learn only one thing from Summer Tomato I hope it’s that diets don’t work. Calorie restriction in any form can induce temporary weight loss, but the vast majority of people emerge worse off than before they subjected themselves to the difficult and demoralizing task of losing weight and inevitably gaining it (plus a little extra) back.

The science is painfully clear that only long-term and consistent healthy lifestyle choices result in permanent weight loss and improved health.

To really win this war you need to shift your focus from short-term diets and weight loss goals to lifelong habits that promote good nutrition and a healthy metabolism–changes that, in my opinion, should be welcome and enjoyable.

It is never too late (or too early) to get started on your upgrade.

But once you’ve made the commitment to a better healthstyle, how do you know you are making progress without the specific goals and endpoints you get from a temporary diet plan?

This is an excellent question and something worth taking a minute to think about. The answer will be different for everyone and depend substantially on where you start and how you define success.

An example of a fantastic healthstyle goal would be getting off cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes medication, something attainable by the majority of people taking them. For others the goal may be avoiding meds in the first place by reaching a healthy body mass index (BMI). Health goals like these are obviously a first priority for anyone facing them.

But healthstyle is not just for people with serious health problems. After all, the “normal” BMI range is pretty lenient and you may still have the goal of fitting back into a certain pant size or reaching a specific body fat percentage. These are certainly reasonable goals, especially when you are not approaching them from an all-or-none, feast or famine mentality.

But in my experience, specific number-oriented goals have little stay power when health is your top priority.

When you focus on eating delicious, healthy foods and getting regular exercise (in any form), as the months and years pass goals like reaching a certain body weight or jeans size start to feel a bit contrived. This isn’t because physical appearance or achievements aren’t important, but as your metabolism changes and your body gets healthier it becomes clear that you can feel and look a lot better than you ever really imagined.

What exactly defines the perfect weight or size anyway?

I am not trying to trivialize specific fitness goals nor the effort required to attain them. If you’ve read my diet history you know that I am not immune to aspirations like these. But over time feeling good becomes a more meaningful and satisfying goal than fitting into your jeans. And in my experience, the more energy I put into being healthy and living well, the smaller my jeans get anyway.

For awhile now my healthstyle goals have had little to do with body weight. Instead I choose to focus on habits I can develop that will improve my life and health overall. These include cultivating my cooking skills, learning to eat mindfully and figuring out the best lunch for an awesome afternoon workout.

Here are some of my recent healthstyle goals, which are changing constantly.

This article was originally published Oct 26, 2009, and I have left the original goals intact. However I have added my new list of 2010 goals below so you can see how my healthstyle has evolved. I’m happy to see that I’ve made progress on many of my goals from last year, and most of my new goals reflect bigger life changes that have occurred in the past year.

Healthstyle Goals 2009

  • Experiment with new vegetables
  • Recreate favorite restaurant dishes at home
  • Get enough sleep
  • Try new spices
  • Eat slowly and mindfully
  • Find great foodie resources in my neighborhood
  • Get away from my computer at least twice per day
  • Make friends with farmers
  • Seek new challenges at the gym
  • Take the stairs even when I don’t feel like it
  • Learn new cooking techniques
  • Get new pans
  • Discover fabulous restaurants
  • Recognize and avoid overeating cues
  • Take advantage of seasonal produce
  • Eat more legumes
  • Prevent food cravings with good nutrition
  • Eat more fish
  • Take more walks
  • Use usual ingredients in unusual ways
  • Eat better when out of town
  • Cook more ethnic cuisines
  • Get more sun
  • Develop a taste for my least favorite foods
  • Make more soup
  • Cook more for friends
  • Eat out less than twice per week

Healthstyle Goals 2010

  • Adjust to more frequent dining out
  • Cook more at home (this is harder these days)
  • Improve at cooking for two
  • Buy more cookbooks
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Get better sleep
  • Explore tea
  • Cook more soup
  • Eat slowly, even when very hungry
  • Optimize food storage
  • Practice meditation
  • Cook more for friends
  • Eat well and exercise while traveling
  • Share great food discoveries
  • Make friends with more farmers

What are your healthstyle goals?

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28 Responses to “Healthstyle Milestones: What Are Your Health Goals?”

  1. thomas says:

    “get new pans” that’s required for a new healthstyle? you could add new knives as well. they make cooking (with a good technique) so much easier, quicker and effortless

  2. Nora Lisman says:

    Hi Darya,
    Loving your blog, and I really agree with this post.
    My health goal is to appreciate my body on a daily basis. For example, when I put lotion on in the morning, rather than see it as a I chore, I want to use that time to give gratitude to my my body and all that it does for me each day!

  3. Jerry Kidd says:

    Great article and it tracks with own personal experience. In January of 2008 I weighed an incredible 260 pounds or so and as a 6’2″, 61 year old man, I was obese, fat and overweight!

    I needed to change something. I had tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach and almost every other diet you can think of, and while I had some small temporary successes, the weight always came back quickly.

    I set a goal to weigh 195 pounds by Christmas of 2008. I hit the goal in late October of 2008, almost two months early. It’s now late October of 2009 and I am still at 195 pounds!

    I detailed what I did and why I did it at No, I am NOT trying to sell you anything (Unless you count the adsense blocks). It’s just my way of showing everyone that it can be done.

    And, I didn’t need a heavy duty exercise plan either. My exercise plan is what it has always been: flying off the handle, jumping to conclusions and beating around the bush! I do make sure to walk at least 5 miles a day, though, but not all at once.

    Again, thanks for the great article, I am sure it will be helpful to others!

    Best regards,


  4. Connie (Ariel Manx) says:

    This post really got me thinking. I’ve been vaguely saying for a while that I just want to get healthier, but I need to put some definitions to that. So here are some of my goals:

    To find a healthy way of eating that my husband and I both enjoy and can maintain. The maintaining is the important part, and it’s what we’ve always failed at in the past.

    To finally get it through my thick skull that eating poorly one day does not mean all hope is lost and that I should just give up. I can go right back to eating healthy the next day and get right back on track.

    To not be afraid to try new ingredients or recipes. This is always a struggle because I hate wasting food, and I sometimes chicken out of making something new because I’m afraid either the hubby or I won’t like it, and then it’s a waste to throw away.

    To become more active. I work at home as a writer, so I sit A LOT. I’ve got to change that. I don’t want to make “more exercise” my goal, because I always fail when I say that. I just need to move more, and if that eventually leads to making conscious decisions to exercise, awesome. I’ve got to make gradual changes instead of pushing myself too hard.

    To get my cholesterol back to acceptable levels so I can avoid going back on statins (though due to my genetics I may need the drugs anyway – but I want to do all I can to help!).

    To lose some weight. I don’t know how much – I’m tired of being a slave to a number on a scale or a size label – but enough so that I like the way my body looks again. I’ve lost 6 pounds since late August, and if I can lose about 12 more I can get back into the right BMI range that my doctor suggested. If I don’t lose any more than that, I’ll be OK. (Honestly, when I get on the thin side, I lose more of my curves than I’d like! LOL)

    To eat better when traveling. This is always so hard!

    To cut way back on processed foods and refined sugar. Cutting back on the processed stuff has been pretty easy, especially now that the weather’s cooler and it doesn’t matter if my cooking heats up the house. I love to cook anyway, and it really doesn’t take that much more time to cook from scratch. The sugar has been harder, but I’ve made a deal with myself to (try to) save sugar for our game nights on Friday and Saturday. I love to bake, and it’s important to me not to give it up, so I make homemade treats for one of our game nights and take it to share with our gamers. And one of our gamers always brings chocolate-covered almonds, which I absolutely love. It makes it a little easier to ignore the cravings all week if I remind myself that come game night I can have some goodies.

    To make veggies, whole grains, and beans the bulk of our meals instead of side dishes to meat. Another challenge because my husband and I both grew up in meat-and-potato households. We’ll never go vegetarian (don’t want to and don’t see the need to) but meat’s expensive and we don’t need to eat it every day.

    • Darya Pino says:

      What a fantastic and thoughtful list! I think your goals are very healthy and attainable and I wish you luck. I especially like your point about getting back on the wagon the next day–that’s a great way to gauge your dedication to the long-term vs the short-term.

  5. Danielle says:


    I completely agree with you about dieting. It’s just useless and often doesn’t work and is hard to stick to. I recently came across Tim Ferriss’s blog post “How to lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days…Without Doing Any Exercise” Bare with me, the gimmicky title is not what drew me in but the basic simplicity of the diet. I, guiltily, admit that I have been doing it for the past 3-4 days and do feel great. The best thing about this “diet” is how easy it is to stick to. Not that I don’t miss carbs and fruit and milk.

    My point is, the biggest problem for me with adjusting to a healthstyle is that there are so many choices and I give in too easy to the wrong one. And I feel like if I can sort of rebuild my diet by starting with a few food groups and then adding in healthy fruit, and healthy carbs slowly, this may help with my temptation. I’m wondering what you think of this diet and if it a bad idea because both you and Tim Ferriss study neuroscience. I hope this doesn’t put you in any awkward situation! 🙂

    Cheers! I love this blog!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Danielle,

      My opinion on food choices is always the same: if it works for you, awesome! I completely understand that if you leave yourself a lot of choices it is tough to make good decisions. Generally my advice is to slowly cut things out, rather than cut out everything and slowly add back. But if that works for you then I salute you.

      I really like Tim and consider him a friend. His diet definitely works for many people, but is a bit extreme for my taste. There are certainly worse choices out there though, so if you think it might provide a kickstart for a long-term healthier lifestyle then that’s fine. The trick is keeping the right mentality. If you consider a certain food restriction temporary, then your results will also be temporary. If you plan to adjust your life around that principle, however, you aren’t dieting but upgrading your healthstyle.

  6. Thomas says:

    any specific plans you want to share on how you plan on implementing this one:
    “Eat well and exercise while traveling”

    would be interested in this one 😉

    • Darya Pino says:

      Agreed. I haven’t done much traveling the past few years because of school, but I have several trips coming up and will be taking notes….

      • Thomas says:

        damn that was a fast reply. i guess it goes against “Adjust to more frequent dining out” anyways 😉

    • Darya Pino says:

      Yeah, I really like to eat out less but it is often out of my control these days. Best to learn how to cope with it by ordering smaller dishes, skipping dessert, etc.

    • Darya Pino says:

      No, I’m not an insistant type person. Depending on who I’m dining with I might just order an appetizer (at some places they are entree size) or two. Splitting an entree with a friend is often the perfect amount of food. Or I just leave what I don’t eat, or bring it home.

  7. aubrey says:

    thanks for the gentle reminder to revisit goals. ones i need to focus on right now are:
    *learning to balance social pressures (team lunches out at work vs eating the lunch i packed)
    * not obsessing/feeling guilty when life DOES get in the way of planned meals, etc
    * food storage- i HATE throwing anything away
    * make sleep more of a priority
    * schedule quiet time/meditation

  8. Carrie Stocks says:

    Hi Darya,

    I have been reading your blog now for sometime and I really enjoy it. I have learned a lot and I feel like I am making better choices.

    I went to my first Farmer’s Market on Saturday and I had a wonderful time. I totally plan on going back next week.

    I think the part that I have enjoyed learning from your blog is learning to try new flavors. I have always stood back from things I did not know because I was afraid they would taste bad or I would not know how to properly cook the veggies. I have learned two things. 1. Behold the power of Google! There are recipes everywhere. and 2. Try everything once. If you hate it you never have to eat it again. I made the best asparagus the other day and I thought I would hate it. It was surprisingly good. I will make it again and have added one more veggie to the list of good things for dinner.
    And finally, Your post about switching from coffee to tea cracked me up. I love tea and actually have learned tons about it from @KevinRose. I do know though how hard it is to switch from one type of caffeine to the other because I switched from soda to tea. That is a nasty habit to break and I am still working on it. But the part that made me laugh was when you were mentioning the need for sugar in it and trying to get it to taste good. I had to pretty much tell myself that I was going to like the flavor and it got better. It has been the same way with veggies. I just tell myself it sounds great and I usually end up enjoying it.
    One question though. Do you make him try a new veggie each time you try a new tea? Fair is fair. :o) Good luck with your tea adventures. I know from experience that there are some really great ones out there.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Awesome story, thanks for sharing. I’m actually loving tea and have never put sugar in it, so not sure where you got that part… the caffeine dosage was my only real issue. Happily plugging along now. And yes, I’m working hard on the vegetable integration for the boy. Next up: eggplant!

  9. Jean says:

    Two recent realizations. One, it’s whole life not “diet time” to make a meaningful change. Read about nutrition, find what works, make it your own. Two, to mimic Nike, “just do it”.

    I changed my/our diet because I wanted to live quite a bit longer and because I wanted to be a better model for my children. It’s working. But it’s not a diet. And it started with food choices but has expanded to other areas such as stress reduction, getting sufficient rest, etc. It’s absolutely a lifestyle choice – a healthstyle choice – more than anything else. Diets don’t work.


    A Year of Life Can Make a Difference

  10. Satu says:

    Ok, here is my short list:

    *Explore local foods (I live in Finland) like beetroot
    *Bake more (I have never been a baker)
    *Get more exercise
    *Restrict my time at computer (I love computers but I think they are mind numbing if you spend too much with them).

    I read a guest post written by you, about becoming a food geek or something like that. I immediately thought that that would be something that would work for me. 🙂 I love the idea of becoming a food geek, it motivates me much more than just “learning to eat healthier foods”.

  11. Ken Leebow says:

    I wanted to lose 30 pounds and get my total cholesterol down to 150 (a 25% reduction from where it started). The kicker … without any meds.

    After much research, your site included, I learned how to change my lifestyle to make my health goal a reality. In 10 weeks, I lost the weight. It took a little longer on the cholesterol front, but I got it down to 150 in 13 months.

    I would also like to note that my doctor told me that I should not expect great movement in the cholesterol … due to genetics. My research and actual results told me otherwise.

    My health success story is documented here:

    And the other great news: Eating better foods tastes much better than all the crap that is available in our toxic food environment.

  12. Daniel Cowan says:

    I see that making more soup is on your lists. I would like to take up that goal as well, but I’m wondering how to accomplish that – it might be difficult to be making stocks all the time, and I’m wondering if eating instant base frequently is healthy? Some of the ones I looked at had MSG in them and hydrogenated oil, I think. Maybe cartons of broth? What is the healthiest choice?

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