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3 Foolproof Ways to Screw Up Your Fitness Goals

Chances are high you’re familiar with — and guilty of — each of these blunders, but that’s okay. You can learn from them.

1. Unreal Expectations

So, you want to:

  • Lose 50 pounds?
  • Become a vegan?
  • Finish the Boston Marathon?

Go you! Those are some admirable goals!

They’re also pretty lofty, and will no doubt take some time.

The problem lies in the “take some time” part. Sometimes it’s difficult to practice patience when your goals are so big.

What if, after a month, you:

  • Weigh yourself and see you’ve only lost five pounds?
  • Couldn’t resist that hamburger at your company’s holiday cookout?
  • Haven’t ran farther than two miles without stopping to walk?

You’d probably feel pretty discouraged, yeah?

Well, what if you felt proud? What if you lost a whole five pounds, ate only one hamburger, built up enough endurance to go two miles without giving up?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Because your goal is so big, it’s easier to see each of these as a defeat rather than a victory. You can avoid this feeling of defeat by breaking your big goal into several small goals. For example:

  • You weigh 200 pounds and want to weigh 150 pounds. Set goal weights of 185, then 170, and so on.
  • You eat a lot of meat and want to become a vegan. Set a goal of eating only chicken and fish, then only fish, then no meat at all.
  • You aren’t a runner but want to enter and finish the Boston Marathon. Set a goal of training for and completing a local 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon.

Boost your chances of reaching that one big goal by setting — and reaching — several small goals.

2. Unsustainable Momentum

Ever wake up bright and early New Year’s Day ready to absolutely crush your fitness goal?

Sure you have. If not New Year’s Day, some other day — that detail doesn’t matter.

What matters is you wake up pumped and throw yourself into your workout or improved diet or training. You do it again the next day…and then again the next day…and then again…and again…

…until one day you’re not doing it anymore because you’ve burnt out.

You started off with an unsustainable momentum.

You went from not workout out ever to working out every single day in a matter of hours, from making less-than-stellar food choices to eating a strict vegan diet, from watching TV and scrolling Instagram to running five miles twice a day.

What if you started by working out three days a week? Replacing your mid-day candy bar snack with some baby carrots and hummus? Downloaded Couch to 5K?

Boost your chances of sustaining the momentum and reaching your goal by making smaller, slower changes. Give your body and your mind time to adjust to the new way of doing things!

3. Unproductive Self Talk

Christ — WHY are we so brutal with ourselves? Would you say these things to your mom, your sister, your best friend?

  • “How did you get this heavy? You’ve gained too much; you’ll never lose it. You’re such a pathetic fat ass.”
  • “How are you going to become vegan? You love ice cream too much. You have no will power; you might make it a month.”
  • “You can’t even make it a whole 5k without walking some of it. How are you going to run a full marathon? You’re going to embarrass yourself.”

No, you wouldn’t (if you’re any kind of offspring, sibling, or friend). Odds are, you’re more likely to say:

  • “You didn’t gain it overnight; you won’t lose it overnight. Focus on your small goals and in time you’ll reach your big goal!”
  • “OMG ice cream is delicious. I’m so glad there are so many non-dairy options!”
  • “Can you believe just a few months ago you didn’t even own running shoes, and now you’ve completed a 5k!?”

Which string of words is most likely to keep you going?

Listen, there are plenty of people in the world to judge you, make fun of you, belittle you, insult you, and doubt you. You can’t control what they say; you can, however, control what you say. Exercise that control.

Boost your chances of success by talking to yourself with the same kindness and grace you’d use to talk to a family member or friend — and if you don’t talk so kindly to them, then go ahead and work on that, too.

Photo by Jose Silva from Burst.

3 Foolproof Ways to Screw Up Your Fitness Goals

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2020). 3 Foolproof Ways to Screw Up Your Fitness Goals. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Mar 2020
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