8 Great Tips to Help You Stay on Track
We hope everyone had a great holiday season! If you’re like most of us, the festivities of the holiday season may have put our healthy habits on the back burner, and put a few extra pounds front and center. January is a great time to shift our focus back on our health and wellness. For many people, this New Year’s Resolution will focus on fitness and weight loss.
Here are 8 helpful tips to get you started:
- Decide why it’s important to you.
It’s difficult to make changes if we haven’t verbalized (at least to ourselves) the reason why we want to make the change. Maybe it’s to feel more confident in clothing, maybe it’s to set a good example for our kids, maybe it’s to be able to see our grandkids grow up, maybe it’s to improve our health and avoid the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The more meaningful the reason is to you, the more likely you will be to stick to your plan, even when faced with temptation.
- Set realistic goals.
If you are currently sedentary and eat a typical American diet, and you decide to set your immediate goal as “I’m going to the gym every day before work, and running on the treadmill for an hour”, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure. Strive for small changes, and be consistent. Lasting success takes time.
- Be specific.
If your goal is “I’m going to fit into my favorite jeans by the end of the month”, decide how you are going to accomplish this (assuming that it’s a realistic goal). Think of what actions you need to undertake to make this goal attainable. Examples might include “I’m going to skip that after-dinner bowl of ice cream and have a cup of herbal tea instead” or, “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes at least 4 days every week” or “I’m going to have healthy snacks on hand, both at work and at home, so that I’m not tempted to quickly grab something that I’ll regret later”.
- Write it down.
One of the best ways to track your actions, and your progress, is to keep a journal to record your food intake and physical activity. Commit this to paper (or tablet, smartphone, etc.). Most of us tend to significantly underestimate what we eat and drink, and overestimate how much exercise we do. Recording food and activity in a journal can help you accurately keep track of things, and get you to your goal more readily. In fact, it has been shown that people who kept a food journal, at least 6 days per week, lost twice as much as those who did not journal their food intake. Also, it’s best to record things in real time, as you go about your day. Don’t wait until the end of the day to write everything down. Not only will your journal be less accurate, but also you will miss out on the value of the “pause”. For example, if I see a box of donuts that a co-worker has brought in for the office, and I know that if I eat one, I will have to write it in my journal right away, I may think twice before mindlessly grabbing one.
- Enlist support.
Let others know about your health goals. If you have a trusted friend or family member with a similar goal (or any goal that is meaningful to him/her), you can encourage each other to stay on track, and it will help keep both of you motivated and accountable, which greatly increases the chances of achieving your goals.
- Plan ahead.
Even with the best of intentions, many of us find ourselves “falling off the wagon” about 4-6 weeks after starting a “resolution”. There are several potential reasons for this. The goal we set may have been an unrealistic goal, or perhaps the goal was too big to accomplish all at once. It may have required being broken down into smaller, more manageable parts. Or, it may be that we’ve become bored. We get tired of the same old exercise routine or eating the same foods – but we don’t necessarily search out new physical activities we might enjoy, or experiment with different foods/spices/cooking styles, etc. But, more often than not, we lose our focus because everyday life gets in the way, and we go back to our old habits. We go to the things that are familiar and convenient. Unfortunately, there usually isn’t a truly “convenient” time to make a lifestyle change, so it’s important to recognize this and have a plan of what to do when things don’t go quite as planned. Try to anticipate potential barriers that might keep you form succeeding at your goal, and then think of some creative solutions to work around them. For example, treat your workout time as an actual appointment with yourself – enter it into your daily planner. Don’t let it get “bumped” by other things that may seem more pressing at the time, even though those things are not truly vital. Always keep your gym bag and a change of clothes in your car. Set aside time on the weekends to prep some quick and healthy meals for the week. If you’re going out to a restaurant, browse their online menu ahead of time and figure out what dishes you can order that wont throw you off track.
- Be kind to yourself.
To falter is not to fail. You’re human, and you can expect that you will slip up from time to time. It’s how we handle those fumbles that determines our long-term success. For example, if you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet tonight, don’t try to make up for it by starving yourself tomorrow. Just pick up where you left off and keep moving forward. If you stick to your plan 85% of the time, and stray a bit the other 15%, you are probably still doing quite well, and continuing to work towards your goal. Remind yourself of why staying committed to your goal is important to you (see #1 above!).
- Ask for help.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you feel you are doing your best and not getting closer to your goals. Consult your physician or a licensed professional who specializes in nutrition/fitness/behavior modification.
If you need more structured support with your weight loss goals, we’d love to help. Just call us at 706.829.9906 and get started on the ‘New You’ this New Year.