Turn Resolutions Into A Positive
As an advice columnist, I receive letters on dozens of subjects. The most popular subject at this time of year is New Year’s resolutions surrounding weight loss. Whether someone wants to take off those pounds they gained over the holidays or has more to lose, January is the month for refocusing efforts towards getting in better shape.
Unfortunately, studies show that sticking to New Year’s resolutions is tough. When I started thinking about why that may be, I came up with two conclusions.
First, resolutions tend to be based in the negative. For example, we vow to quit smoking, spend less, drink less, and the ageless favorite, lose weight.
“Losing weight" is quite literally a negative resolution that is often based in unhappiness, embarrassment and driven by a desire to be smaller. Beginning any health journey is tough enough, but starting from a place of shame puts us miles behind the starting line before the race has even begun.
What if we approached these efforts from a more positive perspective? Rather than focusing on pounds, sizes or inches to shed, what if instead we turned this thing on its head and made it about gaining?
We should all try to be BIGGER.
By that I mean more exercise, more thoughtful eating, more consideration of how our health is affected by our lifestyle choices. If we focus on gaining health, flexibility, mobility, stability, endurance, strength, and happiness we may find more success than if we simply concentrate on loss.
Second, New Year’s Resolutions are set up by their very nature to fail because they are a promise we make to ourselves that we are supposed to faithfully keep for an entire year.
For example, I am currently writing my first book. If my New Year’s resolution is to finish my book by December 31, I’ve just given myself an entire year of slacking time.
Much more impact would come from daily, weekly and monthly resolutions, except I don’t like to call them “resolutions.” I prefer to focus on small attainable “goals” that I consistently measure and adjust as needed. For my book, that means the goal of writing at least one chapter every two weeks.
So how do we make this the year in which we finally get “there,” wherever “there” may be for you?
Here are my 5 Tips to Achieve Your Goals for 2015
1. Redefine the stated goal.
A goal to lose a specific number by a specific date should be shifted to becoming healthier for the rest of your life in reasonable increments, achieving a combination of weight loss and medical markers as determined by your doctor. Such markers can include things like lowered bad cholesterol, body fat percentage and better blood sugar numbers.
Included in anyone’s fitness goal should be finding a buddy with the same objectives to join the effort. Support, camaraderie and accountability are proven elements of achieving difficult tasks, so connecting and commiserating with a friend on the journey is always a good idea.
2. Redefine the motivation.
Motivation to lose weight for a specific event such as a high school reunion, wedding or vacation is lousy. It is based in shame, self-loathing, and fear of being judged by others. Such event-based targets hold no permanency.
Motivation should be based in the more solid foundation of achieving better health and enjoying a longer and happier life with loved ones. Motivation can certainly be increased by a desire to look better, but that aesthetic ideal may not hold our interest and keep us working hard in the long term. Looking at your kids and knowing you want to be there for them as long as possible? Now that’s something worth fighting for.
3. Redefine the timeline.
The healthiest way to lose weight is slowly, and for women that means around 1-2 pounds per week. When engaging in a fitness program, breaking efforts into daily and weekly goals of keeping promises to exercise more and eat more healthily can be a powerful tool. It’s much easier to keep a promise for a day than it is for a year. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so focus on each mile marker rather than the finish line.
4. Speak with your doctor and make a plan.
Anyone beginning a fitness program should meet with their physician to ensure they are healthy enough to embark on these changes and to get advice on which methods report the most long-term success rates.
For example, “juice cleansing?” Your doctor will tell you this is a ridiculous approach to weight loss or health.
Alternatively, “500 calories less of food and 500 calories more burned from exercise per day?” Your physician will probably say this is a good plan, as it will result in a net calorie deficit of 7,000 calories per week. Since 3,500 calories in or out equals a pound, that simple equation can help you shed 2 pounds per week.
Your doctor is your ally and wants you to succeed, so put your trust in him or her before you start investing in snake oil schemes, cool-sculpting ripoffs or a low-calorie meal-delivery service.
5. Be kind to yourself.
When things go wrong, and they will, we must pick ourselves up and keep going with as little negative self-talk as possible. Do not give up. If one tire on your car goes flat you don’t slash the other three, so don’t turn your disappointment at eating that slice of cake or missing that workout into abandoning your plan altogether.
Everyone needs a pat on the back now and then, so set up a schedule for rewarding yourself at certain milestones in your journey. For example, every time you achieve a 5-pound loss or a positive change in your medical markers, treat yourself to something nice.
How are you doing on your goals so far?
What motivation keeps you going?
I'd love to hear!