I used to be a stickler about making New Year’s resolutions. I wrote them as soon as I woke up on New Year’s Day, dedicating a page in my journal to the list of three to five things I was definitely going to stick to this year – unlike last year. But as the years came and went and not a single resolution was kept, I realized how often I was setting myself up to fail. I stopped making resolutions willy-nilly and started thinking realistically about my goals. Being honest and specific with my resolutions has helped me immeasurably.
Not surprisingly, most of my goals have centered around improving my health – whether it’s about eating better, exercising more or becoming more mindful about my mental well-being. And it seems I’m not alone. According to iQuanti, a data-driven digital marketing company, the most popular Google search for New Year’s resolutions from January to October 2016 had to do with health and fitness.
If your 2017 New Year’s resolutions have to do with health and wellness, we want to help! Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve learned through the years that could help you stick to your healthy-living resolutions.
Be Realistic and Specific
After enjoying the free-for-all of holiday goodies, the first thing on many people’s minds is losing weight. So naturally, they’ll set a resolution to lose a lot of weight. The problem isn’t the goal. The problem is that broad goals like that are unrealistic and not specific enough. You need tangible goals to be successful. Set checkpoints as a way to keep yourself on track.
Unrealistic: Work out more and lose weight.
Realistic: Go to the gym twice a week and lose 2 pounds a month.
Make Small Changes over Time
I spoke with my physical therapist, Melissa, who is also a personal trainer, and she said the biggest problem she sees with goals is that people set their expectations too high. “They want to do too much, too soon and get results immediately. It’s impossible to stick to something like that,” she said. “You’re sabotaging your success. Start slowly, and make improvements over time. It’s the only way to succeed.”
Unrealistic: Abruptly change your diet to a strict regimen consisting entirely of salad and chicken breasts.
Realistic: Replace a “bad” food for a healthy food every meal. Switch fries for a salad, or choose a turkey burger instead of a bacon cheeseburger.
If your resolution has less to do with food and more to do with your activity level, you can still make small changes that work. If you have a goal of losing 50 pounds, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel defeated before you even begin. Instead, break that number into easily achievable parts, which can help you focus on a simple goal rather than becoming overwhelmed by a large one.
Unrealistic: Lose 50 pounds.
Realistic: Lose 1 pound per week.
Fifty pounds is approximately 1 pound a week for a year, and 1 pound is much less intimidating than the full 50.
Be Flexible with Your Goals
If you’re afraid you’re setting yourself up to fail or have a history of not sticking to your goals, then give yourself a break. You don’t have to be all-in with your resolutions every day of the week, and you should be prepared to be somewhat flexible. Melissa mentioned that a lot of people make a goal to get to the gym, but in their minds, that means they have to be there every day for an hour or two. “The first step is just getting to the gym. If you don’t have that kind of time to dedicate (and who does?) then doing something is better than nothing at all. Work out for 20 minutes, but make it a good workout when you’re there.”
Your commitment level doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It just has to be something.
Unrealistic: Work out at the gym every day for an hour a day.
Realistic: Go to the gym for at least 20 to 30 minutes twice a week, then increase your time as you get used to the routine.
Practice Forgiveness if You Fail
The best thing you can do for yourself is accept that you aren’t a machine. Everyone falls off the wagon from time to time. Sometimes you just want that extra slice (or two or three) of pizza. Sometimes you would rather skip the gym and watch four hours straight of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on Netflix because it’s Saturday and you had a hard week. You’re human, and you’re allowed to have an off day or week. But don’t abandon your goals, and don’t give up.
Unrealistic: Be perfect and achieve every milestone you set for yourself without a single setback or doubt.
Realistic: Keep moving forward. Reward yourself when you meet a goal, and make your routine a habit.
If you don’t meet a goal, brush it off and keep working!
Build a Support System
Before I had kids, I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But like a dummy, I wasted much of that glorious free time. The only thing that kept me going to the gym on a consistent basis was the fact that I went with a friend, and we shared a trainer. The fact that I knew she couldn’t afford the trainer fee by herself kept me going because I didn’t want to let her down. It started out as a guilty obligation, but pretty soon, I began to really look forward to spending every other morning with her and pushing each other to get stronger. Her support was invaluable and kept me going.
Whatever your wellness goal is, make sure you have a good support system – whether it’s a friend you work out with, a health and wellness coach you talk to one-on-one, or even an online forum. Having someone you can share your goals with can make it more likely you’ll achieve them.
Anyone can make a New Year’s resolution, but not everyone can keep one. Hopefully with some of these tips, you’ll look back at the end of the year and see just how far you’ve come. As cliché as it is, the hardest step is the first one. So while you’re getting started, write your goals down and keep them in a place where you’ll see every day as a reminder.
For more tips on health and wellness, check out our March Your Way to Fitness Challenge series on the Zing Blog.
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