A new year is upon us and once again, millions of Americans will resolve on January 1st to make this year the year they lose weight and get healthy.
The sad truth is, by June, more than half will have abandoned their goals and gone back to their sedentary ways and poor eating habits.
But making New Year’s Resolutions does not have to be setting yourself up to fail. My journey from overweight and unhealthy to a fitness-obsessed Personal Trainer began with a New Year’s Resolution. That was seven years ago, so I know a thing or two about making goals stick.
1. First, be sure you are truly ready to take on change. If you’re resolving to lose weight because your spouse wants you to, or your doctor says you should, but you don’t really care all that much, you’re not going to do it. You have to choose something you really want and for the right reasons. Do you want to lose weight so you can play with your kids without getting out of breath? Or so you can rock a bikini on your Spring vacation? Whatever the reason, be sure it is enough to motivate you when things get tough.
2. Now that you know what your goal is and why, write it down. Putting words on paper gives them power. It is also something tangible you can get out and look at to remind yourself of why you started this journey in the first place.
3. After you’ve written down your goal, share it with as many people as possible. Telling people your plans gives you accountability. Everyone you share it with will be there to ask you how it’s going and remind you of what you set out to do when your motivation starts to lag.
4. You have to crawl before you walk, so start with baby steps. Take your Resolution and break it into smaller, measurable goals that can be achieved in a shorter amount of time. This makes it seem less overwhelming, and more realistic. Saying “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year” is a lot more daunting than “I’m going to go to the gym 3 days a week, stop drinking pop, and lose five pounds by Valentine’s Day.”
5. A goal is nothing without a plan. You know what you want, but how will you get it? You need a plan. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to decide how you are going to do it. What changes will you make to your diet? How much exercise will you do, where and what kind? If you need help, hire a Personal Trainer or use online resources to help you put a plan on paper. If you don’t have a well-focused idea of how you are going to get from Point A to Point B, you will never make it there.
6. Accountability is great, but you also need to be your own coach. When I first started on a path to healthy living, I kept myself accountable by tracking my workouts. I made a list and each day logged whether or not I worked out that day. When I didn’t, I had to write it down. I felt a lot better when I logged “yes” instead of “no.” It was something so simple, but it really helped me stay on track towards my goal.
7. If you’re going to stick to it, you have to track your progress. One of the best motivators is seeing results. That means you need to document your starting point. You’ll need to take photos and measurements. If you’re working with a trainer, ask them to do postural, strength and flexibility assessments as well. Every 30 days or so, retake the photos, measurements and assessments so you can see the proof your hard work is paying off. I guarantee you this more than anything will make you want to stick to it.
8. Look for activities that make exercise enjoyable. If you hate working out, you’re not going to do it regularly, period. There are infinite ways to be active, and they don’t all involve a treadmill or even a gym. Get online and explore different types of workouts, look for group classes in your area, sports leagues, etc. As long as you are moving and burning calories it doesn’t matter how. If you can find a way to sweat that you actually enjoy, you are ten times more likely to keep doing it.
9. A workout buddy can be a great motivator. Does your spouse, best friend, mother, co-worker, etc want to lose weight also? Why not team up and do it together? Having someone else to push you makes just about everyone work harder, and you can cheer each other on in your progress. For the married people, if you are trying to eat right and exercise and your spouse wants to sit on the couch and eat potato chips, it is going to be a lot tougher for you to reach your goals. Get your spouse involved in the process and you can enjoy the benefits together.
10. Remember, it’s not all or nothing. If you do fall off the wagon, and you will, get back on as quickly as possible. Don’t beat yourself up- you don’t have to be perfect. Too often we use little slip-ups as an excuse to give up. Don’t let this happen- go back to your “why,” refocus, adjust your goals if necessary and get back on track.
A New Year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and a new outlook. Resolutions may seem cliche, but if done right they can be the impetus to lasting, positive change.
Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and fit 2013!