As the New Year nears, we become more reflective on our lives and see changes we want to make in the year to come. Most commonly we resolve to lose weight, to get back in shape, clean up our eating habits, and live a healthier lifestyle. A month or two goes by and we often find that we have lost focus and given up on our resolution.
I struggle just like everyone else to keep my goals on track, but here are a few things that have helped me achieve some success.
What’s your motivation?
What is the driving force behind your desire to lose weight or get in shape? Is it something you want for yourself, or is it something you think you should want for yourself because of social and societal influences?
Have a heart to heart talk with yourself. Make sure you are choosing this resolution for you and no one else. Don’t try to lose weight because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. Do what makes you happy.
If it is something you want, add visual cues to your space that remind you of why. I wanted to fit into an old pair of jeans, so I hung them on the door to my closet so I’d see them every day. Put up photos, sticky notes, anything to help you keep your focus on why you decided to do this in the first place.
Set SMART goals.
We need to break our resolution into smaller, easier, more measureable pieces.
SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely (though there are a few variations out there)
Specific: How are you going to improve your health? By exercising? When? Where? How often? What kind of exercise? Are you going to eat healthier? By eating less sugar? By eating more vegetables? When? For what meals? The more specifics you have, the clearer your goals will be and the easier they will be to reach.
Measureable: Create a method for tracking your progress. Keep in mind that weight is not always the best indicator of health and fitness goals. When I started a new fitness program last year, I gained weight but my clothes fit better because I was burning fat and gaining muscle. Measure your waist, legs, arms, and bust, and track those inches. Take note of your how your clothes fit as well as your energy levels. A great indicator of health is simply how you feel on a daily basis.
Achievable: Ask yourself if this is a goal that you can attain. Losing thirty pounds in two weeks is not likely to happen. Consider the time commitments, the deadlines, and all of things you will need to do to achieve this goal, and then decide if it is too ambitious.
Make it easy on yourself! Start small. The key to making lifestyle changes is to make them habitual, and you do that by incorporating them bit-by-bit into your current routine. If you want to cut out sugar from your diet, rather than deciding to never eat dessert again, start with eating it only three times a week instead of five. Consume smaller dessert portions or only eat your favorites.
I have a serious sweet tooth, and my office is a minefield of temptation, but I only indulge when there are donuts from my favorite place or if someone brings something homemade. I skip everything else. Don’t waste calories on foods that just aren’t that good!
Realistic: Be honest with yourself about what is truly going to work for you. What does your goal entail in regards to your adjusting current routine and daily flow? If you are planning to get up at 5am to workout, but you are not a morning person, are you being realistic? You work out zero days now but you plan to work out five days a week after the New Year. Are you being realistic?
We have a tendency to take on more than we can handle, especially when it comes to New Year resolutions. We have a whole year to accomplish all of these things, right? Ideally, it’s best to focus on just one or two small goals at a time. Otherwise we risk burning out or getting frustrated and losing our focus and motivation.
Timely: New Year resolutions tend to have finish lines that are too far away. Set goals with timelines that make sense. If I want to lose ten pounds by summertime, that gives me six months, which is a weight loss goal of two pounds a month. That is a reasonable expectation for me given my lifestyle and fitness plan. Goals with shorter timelines will help keep you on track and keep you focused, giving you opportunities for wins along the way to achieving your big-picture resolution.
Prepare for success.
Get ready to put your plan into action by gathering up all of the things that you need.
If you are starting a new exercise plan, set up your workout space at home. Secure that new gym membership. Map your jogging route. Buy some new workout gear. Make sure you have the proper shoes!
If you are starting a new healthier eating plan, find some cookbooks or recipes online that support the changes you plan to make. Plan a few meals in advance. Make grocery lists ahead of time. Remove all of the tempting snack food from your home so it’s easier to stay on track.
Create some contingency plans.
What if you have to work late on the evening you are supposed to go for a run? What if someone brings donuts to your team meeting? Think about how you are going to handle these situations. Just remember, if you decide to skip your workout or eat some donuts, embrace your decision. Do NOT feel guilty about it! Life is too short to make yourself feel bad about things that are perfectly okay.
Losing weight is hard. Getting in shape is hard. Eating healthy is hard. Find ways to reward yourself for all of your efforts. Consider refraining from using food as a reward, but do some good things for yourself that you enjoy. Also, make sure you spend a few moments congratulating yourself with positive and encouraging thoughts.
Give yourself a break.
This is the hardest part for me, but I can’t stress this enough. Let go of that all-or-nothing mindset. So you ate a lot of ice cream while watching a movie last night. Did you enjoy it? If so, great! If not, think about why and how to do better next time. Just don’t be mean to yourself. We are never going to be perfect. It’s okay to stray from your goals. Just don’t give up. Do the best you can and keep moving forward. Strive for progress, not perfection.
Good luck and happy New Year!