When I was in seventh grade, my mom signed me up for a subscription to Jump magazine.
"For girls who dare to be real," the magazine's slogan said.
The periodical, published from 1996 to 2001, was for tweens (before "tweens" was a buzzword) and teens. It featured most of the usual fare — fashion, quizzes, celebrity interviews — plus a few monthly bits of advice about abstinence, avoiding drugs, ways to excel in school, etc.
Each issue also featured a monthly workout routine, which I would dabble in. One month featured tae bo back when that was a thing (am I showing my age?), while another month highlighted a ballet stretching routine.
But my all-time favorite issue featured a lengthy list of goals for girls to tackle before the year 2000 rolled around. The list included challenges like reading "Jane Eyre" (I aced that one) and running a seven-minute mile (I missed that by 27 seconds).
At that time, I didn't pay any attention to the notion I was getting education and exercise by ticking goals off the list. I only saw a fun challenge.
Smaller challenges to meet the big goal
Back in December, I set a goal to lose 80 pounds.
At the time, I felt like that was a specific, measurable goal. And I had steps in mind to meet it: Start calorie counting. Take daily 20-minute walks to get exercise.
But I have to be honest: Nine months in, focusing only on the big goal of losing weight is getting tiresome. The progress is slow to measure, and the broad goals of counting calories and exercising can get boring after a while.
Much of the excitement has worn off at this point. So last week, I started thinking of ways to make weight loss more interesting by breaking it into bite-sized goals.
That's when I remembered Jump magazine's list of challenges for girls and how much I loved crossing off each item as I accomplished it.
I took another look at my weight loss goal. Sure, it's specific. But it's not an item that will get crossed of a list in a few weeks or even a few months. It's a long-term commitment.
The "long-term" part can get tedious. It's more satisfying to frequently cross items off a list.
So I decided it's time to break my goal down into some smaller challenges that feed into the end goal.
I've started a weight loss "bucket list" with these four items:
1. Run a 5K for the first time.
2. Hike at five state parks (but no duplicating parks).
3. Walk 175 miles. (Not all at once. Also, standard daily steps — such as trips to the grocery store or the frequent march from my desk to the printer — don't count.)
4. Cut soda out of my daily diet and go at least 60 consecutive days without it. (Not even as a treat for a holiday.)
As one exercise or diet goal is met, I plan to add a new one in its place.
These give me new challenges to focus on and have fun with while still feeding into the main challenge: Losing those 80 pounds. They also give shorter-term payoff, which provides a positive mental boost when scratching them off the list.
However, they're not "one and done" challenges, either. Conditioning myself to run a 5K will require a lot of jogging sessions between now and then to build up endurance to run the full distance. I can't hike five state parks or walk 175 miles in day (although I can overlap those two goals).
Hopefully, shifting the focus to new challenges will bring new energy and excitement to the weight loss effort.
JULIE BARICHELLO is an assistant editor at The Times documenting her weight management and health improvement journey. To share your own weight management story, contact her at 815-431-4072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.