As a personal trainer for many years, I’ve seen a lot of “health-related” new year’s resolutions come and go. Not surprisingly, the top five resolutions that people often make for themselves this time of the year are to lose weight, eat better, get to the gym more, improve their overall wellness (by lowering stress, decreasing cholesterol levels, etc.) and the mack daddy resolution—to get in “the best shape of my life.”
Most people start off with good intentions to fulfill these resolutions, but more often than not, they end up abandoning them within a few months. Why? Because they fail to do these three things:
Make your goals specific
Think about the resolution “to eat better.” It’s such a vague statement—and that’s the problem. When your goal is that generic, your brain automatically feels there is “wiggle room” around the idea of eating better, and you will slowly drift from making healthier choices (like choosing fruit to snack on rather than potato chips) and ease your way back into old eating habits (having fruit as a snack once in a while, as opposed to every day). Protect your resolutions by phrasing them very specifically. So, “I want to eat better” becomes, “I will change my diet tomorrow in the following ways…” Then outline a series of small steps to make your goal more manageable.
Be realistic with your timeline
This is an exciting time of the year, and we feel a rush with the idea of setting and meeting our resolutions. When the resolution is to lose weight, we want to believe that our new-found determination and plan of attack can expedite the experience of changing our bodies. Rather than overshooting expectations with an unrealistic goal, such as “I want to lose 40 pounds by March,” rephrase the goal to align with what can realistically happen between now and March. A healthy weight loss is four to five pounds per month. So the goal becomes, “I want to lose four pounds each month until I’m happy with my body.”
Rally the right troops
One of the best ways to make your resolutions “real” is to tell someone about them. Something about saying the words of your resolution out loud to another person makes you feel immediately accountable for working toward your goals. The trouble is, we don’t always tell the RIGHT person about our plan. Naturally, your doctor or personal trainer is a person you will trust with your proclamation to get healthier…but when you only see this person once every so often, it’s easy to lose that sense of accountability. If you truly want daily support to carry you through your resolutions, talk about them to someone you will see every day. Friends, family, co-workers or perhaps a peer group that is working toward the same goal as you. This is not only important for you to feel that powerful sense of accountability, it’s also helpful in creating the support system you will need to stay on track. Significant others should be aware that dinner time might not consist of the “comfort foods” from the past—but instead be replaced with leaner, healthier options. It’s this kind of support at the dinner table that will help you meet your goals, not the weekly or monthly conversation you have with a personal trainer.
With a couple days left before we officially ring in 2012, you have some time to sit down and rewrite your New Year’s Resolutions in a way that will increase your chances of fulfilling them. List your resolutions and then ask yourself how they could be rephrased to be more specific and more realistic. Then figure out who you want to share them with—choose someone from home and from work, to help you stay focused on your quest to be a better you.