Resolutions seem synonymous with a new year and a new beginning with your health goals! Setting a resolution stirs up hope that this year really can be different! It feels mentally refreshing after a season of obstacles and disappointments.
But, how do we stay committed to our goals when 80% of new year’s resolutions fail and don’t see the daylight of February?
A resolution or goal is often what you hope or wish for. A common example: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by my spring break trip in March.” According to goal-setting criteria, this goal seems to meet the SMART criteria:
S – specific
M – measurable
A – achievable
R – realistic
T – timely
So….we are good to go – right?
You could define a goal, “I’m going to make a million dollars by the end of 2018” but how will you make this happen, and is it realistic?
The SMART criteria may be an important place to start and definitely better than “I’m going to lose weight.” However, how are you going to achieve your goal? Is it realistic? When it comes to weight loss, there are many reasons it may not be, including the misunderstood calorie equation that “eat less and exercise more = weight loss.” (This topic coming soon – so stay tuned!)
So what else do you need to do to stay committed and successful with your resolutions this year?
After carefully setting your new goal, consider the following 3 steps to help you stay committed and successful.
1. What is motivating you…and what will potentially get in the way of success?
We all want to be healthier, but why? Even the most tenacious individual will cave in to old behaviors or temptations if they’re trying to change for someone else – diet because your friend is; get thinner for a spouse or because society says so; exercise because you’re supposed to.
To get motivated in a healthy way, it’s helpful to dig in and ask yourself a series of questions to understand what your true hopes, desires and intentions are. These questions may seem challenging and time consuming at first, but allow yourself some space to reflect or even meditate about your thoughts.
What are your long term goal(s) for your relationship with food, exercise and overall health?
If you have listed more than one goal, pick the one that you would most like to tackle first.
List the three things in your life that are most important to you.
How would making this change improve your ability to nurture these three things?
Take either yesterday or today as an example. How would your day have gone differently if you would have already made the change that you are currently contemplating?
What are you most afraid of as you embark on this new journey?
What could you do to prevent these fears from becoming a reality?
Which of these changes do you think you will find the easiest to achieve, and which will rank as the hardest?
List five ways that you could keep yourself motivated on especially hard days.
2. Start small. Define 2 to 4 specific behaviors you can change or do to help you achieve your goal. For example, if my well-defined “SMART” goal was to “increase revenue by 30% by the end of 2018”, I would need to change some behaviors or do some specific actions to make this happen.
There are many ways to get started with your health goals. Making behavior change with food and eating to achieve your goals takes practice, patience…and time. But, as the saying goes, “If you change nothing, nothing will change”, so even the smallest change will move you toward your goal.
Simple examples of where you might start include the following:
• Increase my daily water intake
• Decrease my intake of “energy dense” fluids, i.e. soda, sweetened coffee beverages, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages
• Eat 3 meals daily
• Work with a dietitian to establish a meal plan to eat more balanced meals and snacks
• Reduce in-between meal snacks when I’m not hungry
• Increase awareness of pace when eating and eat more slowly
• Journal food intake and/or food and feelings or food and symptoms, i.e. low energy Etc…
If you tend to skip breakfast, skimp on lunch and overeat the rest of the day, then the behavior of “Eat 3 meals daily” might be most helpful. To follow-through on this specific behavior, a few steps to consider to ensure success include:
1. Review a list of nutrient dense foods and highlight or make a list of enjoyable foods or foods you can tolerate or will eat. (this is something I provide my clients)
2. Make a list of 2 breakfast ideas, 3 lunch ideas and 4 evening meals that you commonly eat or typically enjoy.
3. Use the meal ideas and/or eating plan (provided by a dietitian) to balance out each of these meals, i.e. if Spaghetti and meat balls is a family favorite; add a tossed salad or favorite vegetable and glass of milk or water.
4. Now do some meal planning for the week. Based on your schedule, when will each of these meals fit into your week?
5. After you’ve made a plan, assemble a grocery list by checking to see what you have on hand and what you need to get from the supermarket. Then, go shopping!
6. Work with a dietitian to learn what an appropriate portion or serving of each of these meals would be and begin to notice your hunger and fullness cues at each eating event.
3. Get support. Who will you call for support when you are having a tough time sticking to your plan? Do you need any resources to make this time easier for you?
Examples might include: a daily check-in’s and emotional support from provider, motivational book, gym membership or even something like vegetable steamer, electronic health monitor (FitBit, Jawbone, etc.).
Finally, remember you can do this! If 20% of individuals who set goals and resolutions are successful, then you can too. The keys to success depend on your motivation to change; setting realistic and achievable steps/objectives that get you to your goal; and, getting support that makes sense for your lifestyle and goals.
Whatever your goal or how you decide to begin, there are many resources and tools to support you and keep you on track as you work on your goals. Don’t forget, your dietitian is here to guide you in making decisions about what will work best for you and help you be successful, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
To success and wellness in 2018!