It’s the beginning of a new year – a time for renewals and fresh starts. Time to take control of your health! Most people have big aspirations on January 1. They’ve carefully penned a list of things they want to accomplish like lose weight, eat healthy, quit smoking, get more sleep etc. etc. etc. Sound familiar?
Now look back on years past. How many of your New Year’s resolutions were you still doing on December 31? Sadly, only 8% of people follow through on what they wanted to accomplish. The rest of those good intentions fall by the wayside. Ingrained habits are hard to change, especially if you’re trying to tackle too many changes at once. There are disadvantages to trying to be too ambitious.
New Year Resolution Tips: Make It Achievable
Dr. A and I both remember a woman we’ll called Ms. T who belonged to our health club when we lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Every year she’d show up at the club with a brand new set of exercise clothes and a burning desire to “get fit.” We’d watch in awe as she worked up a blistering sweat every day for two weeks. She really tackled those exercise machines with gusto! There was a little pool of sweat around the base of those machines. Then around day 14, she’d go missing in action not to be heard from until after the next New Year.
What did she get out of those two weeks? Well, she probably ended up sore and frustrated. Not meeting your goals can make you feel worse than if you’d never committed to doing anything at all. What would have been better for Ms. T is to have taken “baby steps.” She could have committed to making one small change to improve her fitness level and added another one once she had succeeded with the first one.
No one starts out running a marathon. They begin by running to the corner – and then to the next block and ultimately complete their first mile. One mile turns into two – and you know the story – the miles add up. That’s true of anything you want to accomplish. You take baby steps and keep taking baby steps until you get there.
In addition, your goals or resolutions have to be specific and measurable. Resolving to “eat healthy” is too vague and open-ended. Are you really ready to completely overhaul your diet? It’s not easy to change a lifelong pattern of eating unhealthy in one day.
Instead, break your big goal down into smaller goals you CAN realistically achieve. For example, reach your goal of eating healthy by eating an extra serving of vegetables every day or going meatless on Monday and add on from there.
Here’s how to stick with your New Year’s resolutions this year:
Pick one objective for January that will move you closer to meeting your ultimate goal. Want to get fitter? Then strap on a pedometer and work towards taking 10,000 steps a day before the end of February. When February rolls around, reassess your goal. Did you accomplish it?
If so, reward yourself and add a new fitness goal while maintaining the first one. In February, add 10 minutes of resistance training using resistance bands. Increase that to 20 minutes in March. Rather than try to accomplish all of your New Year’s resolutions on January 1, choose one resolution for January and add a second one in February.
Break it down into steps and tackle one goal each month. Each month you’ll move closer towards reaching your bigger goal. You’ll feel better about yourself because you took action.
Need another New Year resolution tip and example? Let’s say you want to lose weight. Here are some smaller goals you could use to move you towards your bigger goal:
- Give up soft drinks. Replace them with green or herbal tea or water you’ve flavored with slices of fruit.
- Do ten minutes of exercise a day.
- Pack a healthy lunch instead of eating fast food.
- Replace your unhealthy snacks with fruit.
- Replace starches that you normally eat with a meal with vegetables.
- Give up fried food.
- Take a walk before or after dinner.
- Commit to ONLY eating at the kitchen or dining room table. No eating in front of the computer or television.
- Eat on smaller plates. Visually, it’ll look like you’re eating more and you’ll feel full with less.
- Get 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. Being deprived of sleep puts you at risk for weight gain.
- Wear a pedometer and track the number of steps each day.
Reach Your Goals One Specific Step at a Time
If you focus on one of these small goals every month, you’ll slowly move towards your bigger goal – one step at a time. New Year’s resolutions are just thoughts and words on paper. To make them real you have to put them into action. You’re more likely to take action if you commit to smaller, more achievable goals that add up to a bigger one. Focus on one thing at a time until it becomes ingrained in your psyche – until it’s habit and then take baby steps until you get there – and you will get there.
If you’d like some motivation and guidance, like Healthy Lifestyle Docs on Facebook. We’ll post tips, healthy recipes and inspirational quotes at least every other day to keep you motivated. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the only person you’re destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Let this be the year you become what you want to be, taking it one step at a time. We’re with you all the way.