As we take down the 2011 calendars and put up the shiny new 2012 calendars, many of us are thinking about the positive changes we would like to make in the new year. And after the onslaught of sugary, rich, holiday foods, more than a few folks are thinking about eating healthier. While we are all ripe enthusiasm now, that excitement seems to quickly fade as January gives way to February.
The fact is that losing weight is tough. So how do you make that New Year’s resolution last longer than a Kardashian marriage? Here are a few tips that can help you stick with your good intentions in 2012:
- Make your goals specific. A common New Year’s resolution is “eat healthier.” But what does that mean? Setting an ambiguous goal like this doesn’t allow you to accurately evaluate yourself or experience success. Think a little harder about what you would really like to change. What are your weaknesses? More appropriate goals might be: don’t drink sugary beverages, eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day, have dessert only 3 days a week, or exercise 5 days a week, etc.
- Set long-term and short-term goals. If you want to lose 30 pounds, or run a marathon this year, that is great! But you probably won’t accomplish that by Valentine’s Day. Include some short-term goals to help keep you motivated through the dreary months until you reach your ultimate goal. Maybe start out by losing 3 pounds this month, or running 15 minutes every day this week.
- Have realistic goals. Making unrealistic goals sets you up for disappointment and failure. Think about what you would like to accomplish, and what you can reasonably do. Make big goals long-term goals, and think of how you are going to reach those goals eventually. If you are trying to lose weight, 2-4 pounds a month is usually considered a safe, maintainable weight loss pattern. If you want to start exercising, start slow and gradually increase. If you are trying to cut out pop, do so one at a time. If you want to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, add one serving to your diet every week. If you try to totally overhaul your life all in the month of January, you probably won’t have a very fun start to 2012!
- Seek positive support. Change is hard, and having someone to talk to about it can make it easier--especially talking with someone is going through, or has been through, a similar change. Sticking to your resolution is also easier if you are accountable to someone. If you want to start exercising every day, find a friend who also wants to exercise more. You are less likely to skip a workout if you know you have someone waiting on you. If you have lunch with a coworker everyday, you are more likely to pick the salad if he or she does, too. But, you don’t have to tell the whole world what you are doing. Not everyone you know will necessarily support your positive lifestyle changes. Why not? Change in others around us can be hard to accept, even if it is positive. For example, if you have overweight friends who are not making positive changes in their lives, they might try to sabotage your efforts, whether consciously or unconsciously, to maintain the status quo.
- Think about why you want to achieve your goals. Having a goal is great, but when you are tempted by a cold morning or plate of brownies to break your pact with yourself, it is important to remember what is behind your goals. Do you want to lose weight to look better? Imagine yourself in a bikini before you go back for a second piece of cake. Do you want to lower your cholesterol to be around longer for you kids? Remember that when you have to choose between oatmeal or donut holes for breakfast. Are you exercising every morning so that you can run a 5K this spring? Think about that before you hit the snooze button at 5:30 am.
- Use technology. There are tons of great resources these days to track your food intake, calories burned exercising, and weight loss results. Some popular websites include sparkpeople.com, calorieking.com, and livestrong.com. You can also download apps for your phone such as LoseIt, My Net Diary, and (the one I use!) myfitnesspal. There are way more than this out there, so look around and find something that works for you.
So what’s your resolution this year? Whatever it is, I hope these tips will help you make 2012 a successful, happy year! Keep reading The Foodie RD, as one of my resolutions is to post more healthy recipes this year!