Start 2018 Off with a Bang
Now that the holidays are over and a new year is beginning, we start to think about our health and about all the changes we resolve to make. We will do better this year!
However, as we creep deeper into the winter months, the motivation seems to fade and we fall back on our old routines without making the long--term changes we had planned and, of course, without seeing any of the ensuing results.
The New Year does not need to be about making drastic character changes, as most of us believe. Instead, think of this as a time to reflect on what has not been working and a time to commit to making positive lifestyle changes. By simplifying it as much as possible and taking it one step at a time, we can make changes that last.
The following steps are a proven way to make your journey to better health as easy as possible and to help you maintain these behaviors for more than just a few weeks.
Set SMART goals – Small, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals.
Start with something realistic and measurable, put a time frame on it, and mark your calendar! For example if you are trying to lose weight you can say: “Within 3 months I will lose 15 pounds.” Or, if you are looking to increase your activity: “I will exercise for one hour at least three times a week.” This is better than “I want to get back in shape” or “I’m going to lose weight”. Although both are great ideas, what do they mean exactly? More importantly, how will you know when you get there? Once you have established a realistic and measurable goal, figure out the “action steps” you need to take to get there. Start with just one thing.
This should be something relatively easy. If it seems like too much at first, then it probably is. Go back and make it something you absolutely know you can do. We want to create a habit, something that happens without extensive effort. This usually takes a few weeks of practice so be patient and stay positive as this new habit takes hold and becomes part of your everyday routine. When it does, you will be able to move on to the next small step. For example, you can start by ensuring that you are drinking enough water (ideally, at least half of your body weight in ounces). Or, you can start by setting a goal of taking 10,000 steps every day.
This may not seem like much at first. However, if you look at it as a long term process, establishing one habit every few weeks amounts to approximately 12-24 habits a year. This means that you will make meaningful, lasting changes without having to completely uproot your life in the process.
Track your progress.
Keep track of every success as well as every setback. Learn from them! This is where a journal, log, or even a photo diary will come in handy. Use measures like pounds, inches, or body fat percentages to keep it as objective as possible. “Feeling better” is relative and does not tell us much about progress. When you see exactly how far you have come, every accomplishment will help keep you motivated and on track. I always encourage clients to celebrate milestones and PLAN to reward yourself with your favorite indulgence. You should not have to deprive yourself entirely of something you love (even if it’s chocolate, pizza, wine, etc.) However, if you are not seeing the results that you want, or if you have reached a plateau and the anticipated results are no longer forthcoming, then you are definitely ready for the next step.
Make changes when necessary.
Eventually you will get used to whatever it is you are doing and you will have to take that next step to continue to see results. Don’t get discouraged though--this is actually a good thing. It means that you have built up your health and fitness and you are now ready to progress. If what you are doing is getting comfortable or downright easy, it is a sign that you need to make some changes.
Get out of your comfort zone and make some more small changes. Maybe it means adding in a little more time or intensity to your exercises or replacing “empty calories” with more nutrient dense foods (vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, etc.) in your diet. Really, the only wrong thing you can do is to not change anything and still expect different results.
Have an open mind.
Our understanding of health and wellness is constantly changing and expanding. We are now learning that much of what we thought was true about nutrition and exercise was misunderstood, or in some cases completely erroneous. As a result, there are many new recommendations that you may find unconventional. Try not to dismiss anything immediately no matter how crazy it may sound. Remember that everybody is unique and you will have to figure out what works specifically for you. You will not know this for sure until you try so be willing to experiment and even make a few mistakes along the way. In doing so, you will gain a much deeper understanding of what really makes you tick.
There are so many different aspects of health and fitness to explore both in and out of the gym. Get out there and try as much as you can!
You may discover something you absolutely love in the process. Above all else, enjoy the journey and learn what you are truly capable of.
Happy New Year!