A new year and new resolutions. New Year’s is a natural milestone that prompts us to reflect, to plan and to aspire. If you’re like the majority of lifestyle resolution makers, you started 2013 with the best of intentions to “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” or “exercise more,” but now at the start of 2014 find the results fell short of your aspirations. Surveys indicate that over 50% of us make resolutions but only 10% keep them, in part because the resolutions themselves weren’t well thought out. So here are some tips for setting and keeping your resolutions for a healthier you!
The first step to keeping your 2014 New Year’s resolution is to set SMART goals.
The acronym SMART stands for:
Your resolution must be clear and unambiguous. Instead of resolving to “eat healthier” you might resolve to “eat a green leafy vegetable each day” or “switch to skim latte’s with no sugar or whipped cream.” “Exercising more” is non-specific whereas a goal of “walking/running for half an hour 3-4 times per week” is specific, and measurable.
While “I’m going to lose weight” or “lose 12 pounds” is measurable, it is more effective to set short term milestones such as “I’m going to lose 2 lbs/month for next 6 months.” Likewise, setting a goal of “going to spin class twice a week” is also both specific and measurable. Interim measurable goals give you feedback and encouragement are more immediate and less daunting.
Resolutions need to be realistic. Setting overly lofty goals like going to the gym every day is setting yourself up for failure, often for reasons beyond your control. Make sure your goals allow for a little flexibility to address unexpected obligations and time constraints, your physical health and even weather.
When setting weight loss goals, also take into consideration physiological realities. Losing 1 pound requires burning 3,500 more calories than you take in. Dietary Guidelines recommend those trying to lose weight aim for a 500 calorie per day deficit (burn 500 more than you consume) for a 1 pound loss per week. Generally, losing 1-2 pounds per week for an “average” person is considered achievable (with work). With that knowledge, setting a goal of losing 5 pounds per week or 15-20 per month would be extremely difficult and requires lots of exercise and substantial diet modification and thus would likely be unattainable. A good goal is challenging but realistic for you.
Take into consideration your schedule, resources, interests and abilities in setting your goal. For example, if it is difficult for you to walk a mile today then resolving to run a marathon in 6 months might not be relevant to your fitness level. And if you don’t like an activity, running for example, choose other activities such as biking, swimming or sports like soccer or tennis. Doing activities you enjoy will make it easier to stick to your plan.
Goals must include estimated timelines for completion with both short and long term milestones. For example, setting a goal of losing 2 lbs per month for 6 months is a SMARTer goal than just “lose 12 pounds.”
The second step to keeping those resolutions is to have and monitor against a plan. You’ve set SMART goals but need to define how to get there. A resolution plan should include “process goals” such as:
- do at least 20 min of cardio 3 times per week
- eat salads with some lean protein for lunch on work days
- cut out desserts except on weekends
“Product goals,” which are the results achieved like weight loss, running a faster time, or lifting a heavier resistance, must also be defined in your plan.
Whatever your plan (which of course needs to be relevant to the goals), you should monitor and record your progress regularly (weekly and monthly). Congratulate yourself on achieving your process goals, they are victories in and of themselves.
A few more tips that may help you adhere to resolutions and achieve your goals:
- Don’t go it alone: get a buddy to commit to the goals with you. According to success coach Amy Applebaum, including another person “creates accountability which is essential for success”
- Keep a log and celebrate the small successes along the way
- Be flexible: Work, family, weather, etc. can and will interfere with your plan. Be willing to modify your plan. You have a work project due so don’t have time for a full hour workout today? Don’s stress out. Maybe you can do 10 minutes today and make up for it another day.
- Don’t punish yourself. If you get off track, forgive yourself, revisit the plan and move forward. You’ll be more successful in keeping your resolutions if you perceive them as positive benefits for you not punishment.
You can do it! If you’re SMART.
Authored By: Jana Sanford, CoreFitnessByJana
Jana is a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor with specializations in orthopedic exercise for injury prevention and recovery, in-home fitness and sport conditioning. As a former corporate exec and business traveler, Jana focuses on providing cost and time effective fitness solutions for corporate and individual wellness.
In addition to her private and small group classes in New York City, Jana provides online Pilates, Body Sculpting, Conditioning, Boot Camp and 1 Minute In-Office workouts at CoreFitnessByJana.com. Jana’s short modular workouts were designed to address the fitness needs of time constrained individuals and can be done anywhere as they require no equipment.