By: Jean Gutierrez, PhD, RD, CSCS
Every year, millions of people carefully construct New Year's resolutions designed to improve health, fitness or looks. Gyms are full, trainers are busy, and people are motivated to reach their goals. What are the keys to keeping January momentum going all year long?
Decide what is most important to you and make it a priority in your life. For example, if working out regularly will be a priority for you, think about what you may need to do to make it possible to exercise on a daily basis. For example, you may need to give up a prime time show in order to make morning workouts a viable option. For some people, the lunch hour may be the only possible time to be active. Find a consistent chunk of time that you can aside every day, and don't let ANYTHING trivial get in the way of your priority for that slot of time.
For instance, "I will loose 20 pounds in January" is not realistic. In this case, even if you manage to loose ten or 15 pounds, you may feel like you have failed. Do NOT set yourself up for failure. It is much better to make behavioral goals that will lead to weight loss. For example "I will exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week and increase this amount by 15 minutes each month until I reach 75 minutes per day" is a reasonable and likely attainable goal that may help you to loose weight over time. But in any case, you’ve definitely established a healthful habit!
Also, make goals specific, for example "I will eat more fruits and vegetables" is too vague. A goal such as "I will eat 3 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables each day" is an attainable and specific goal. You will know at the end of each day if you have succeeded!
3. Do not try to change everything overnight.
It takes a long time (years) to really change habits. Work on a little bit at a time to move in the direction of better health and a healthy weight. Remember, if you simply exercise for 30 minutes each day, you are still doing more than the majority of Americans and making an improved version of yourself! Remember, taking the stairs, parking farther away, etc. all count as activity! Start there!
Though "I will work out 7 days a week and eat no ice cream the whole year" may sound like a specific, attainable goal, it is mentally fatiguing to be overly-restrictive. Better goals may be "I will only eat out 1 time each week" and the exercise goal stated above.
If you have someone counting on you for support, you will be supported also. We all have down days, and having another person to help you get to the gym or eat right on those days will make a difference. If you have a significant other, try to change your habits together-- you'll both live a happier, longer life!
How do you know if you've reached your goals each day? You can keep a training journal or food journal-- these will both help. I use little monthly calendars that I hang on the fridge. I make my three specific, attainable goals and then check off each day if I made them.