So it is three days into the New Year, which means it is the perfect time to re-evaluate those perennial New Year’s resolutions. Chances are, they look something like this: 1) go to the gym 6-7 days/week 2) cut out all junk food 3) lose weight. While it is certainly encouraged to have goals and make New Year’s resolutions, it is important that these goals are both attainable and sustainable. If you are new to working out and have previously worked out less than 1-2 times per week until 2014, chances are it is not going to be enjoyable or realistic to be hitting the gym 6-7 days per week. Also, cutting out all junk food is quite ambitious and, frankly, sets up unhealthy relationships with food. Food is meant to fuel your body and be enjoyed and it is important to understand that it is not the end of the world if you eat a cookie, as long as your diet is generally comprised of real, whole foods and offers your body the nutrition it needs to keep you moving, happy and healthy. So here are my guidelines to making New Year’s resolutions that will stick.
1. Start Small
Be proud of your small accomplishments – they add up. Small lifestyle modifications = large results. For instance, weight loss is a result (not a behavior). It is often best to set behavioral goals and ultimately, these behavioral goals can add up big time to give you the results you want. Possible behavioral goals include things like taking the stairs when possible, getting off at an earlier subway stop in order to walk further, walking instead of driving or taking public transportation, eat 3 more servings of vegetables each day, eat breakfast each morning, etc. These all seem small, but they are behaviors that are part of a healthy lifestyle and will ultimately help you to reach your overarching goal of weight loss, weight maintenance, being more active, or whatever your personal goal is.
2. Don’t Make Too Many
I bet all of those behaviors I listed above are enticing. However, if you do not currently do any of those things, attempting to start doing all of those is likely to be a set-up for failure. Making too many resolutions and goals at once can be overwhelming and ultimately, you will be less likely to do any of them. It is often better to pick just a couple of goals (I suggest starting with 1-3) and once these become routine, gradually add in more goals (who says you can only make goals on January 1st???) We are constantly evolving and should always be challenging ourselves and our goals should reflect this. So, allow yourself to start small, with just a few behaviors and allow yourself and your lifestyle to evolve gradually. Trust me, you will be much happier, healthier, and sane!
3. Keep Your Resolutions Realistic
Now is the perfect time for self reflection. You must meet yourself where you are in order to get where you would like to go. Currently going to the gym two times per week? Awesome! A perfect resolution would be to go to the gym 3-4 times per week, or to gradually add time doing cardio work, or gradually add more challenging workouts (such as planks and their many variations). Another great resolution would be to go to the gym at least two times a week (as you have been doing) and add in more activities of daily living, such as physical work (walking, taking the stairs, doing yardwork/housework, etc.) Or, my personal favorite, add in mini-workouts that do not include the gym or any equipment. Can’t stop watching your favorite show? Do mat exercises, such as crunches, squats, planks and push-ups during commercials. There, no sweat! (Well, a little sweat, but so easy to squeeze in!!!) While it would be awesome to tell yourself you are all of the sudden going to start going to the gym 4-5 times more per week than you already are, this is likely not realistic and not sustainable. Accept yourself, love yourself, and challenge yourself with realistic goals. That is how you will become stronger and reach your goals.
4. Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) focus on numbers
So many clients and friends talk to me about the scale. So many people base their success off of a number reported by the scale. Yes, the scale reports your weight, but this number can be affected by so many factors and neglects a lot of other valuable information. For instance, your weight could be influenced by water, muscle mass, and many other factors. Your weight is not simply a report of fat and when you lose weight, you are losing not just fat but also fat free mass (which is your lean body mass). Therefore, rapid weight loss can mean dehydration and rapid loss of muscle, which is likely not what you are aiming for! Additionally, the scale does NOT report the positive changes going on inside your body, such as the relative shift in fat free mass versus fat mass, neural adaptations that occur with exercise regimens, etc. I always tell clients and friends to focus on fitness goals – these are the only numbers you should be focusing on! For instance, shaving off time from your pace per mile, adding time to your plank, adding weight to your resistance training – these are the numbers that are okay to focus on. Your weight? It is likely to fluctuate, plateau at some point, and drive you absolutely crazy! Focus on your performance and how you feel – the resulting weight (loss, maintenance, gain) will come as a result of these behaviors.
Hopefully this year, these new New Year’s resolutions will stick and inspire you to continue to be active, healthy and respectful of your body. It does a lot for you and a great overall goal would be to treat it well, in any way that you can!
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year!
*sneaker photo courtesy of http://teambcspca.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/runningshoes.jpg
*weight photo courtesy of http://www.hitraveltales.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/weights.jpg
*scale photo courtesy of http://blog.withings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/7-Wireless_Scale_Lifestyle_1.jpg