By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM-CPT
We’ve all been on the wrong side of a New Year’s resolution. Faced with the guilt of too many holiday goodies or laziness induced by dark days, the turning of the calendar can be a powerful marker to turn over a new leaf. Taking the time to make your resolutions meaningful ensures that by the end of the year, they aren’t simply another reminder of what didn’t happen.
Be specific. Too often we phrase our resolutions in overly broad and non-meaningful language, such as “eat healthier,” “lose weight,” “work out,” or “get in shape.” When the calendar changes to January 1st, it’s hard to know exactly what the resolutions mean. Try setting a specific, attainable goal for yourself so you’ll know when you’ve met it. For example, if you want to eat healthier you could learn to cook (and eat!) two new healthy recipes each month. By the end of the year, you’ll find yourself with an entire repertoire of healthy cooking that will become second nature. If you want to get in shape, try training for a specific event, such as a spring run/walk or bike ride.
Schedule it. Specific, scheduled resolutions allow you to measure your success along the way. After defining your larger goal, break it down into weekly activities. For example, if you’re participating in an athletic event, set up a weekly training schedule (Hint: internet search engines are a great resource for setting up training plans!). If your goal is to eat healthier, makes sure to schedule the grocery shopping, meal planning, and preparation that this involves.
Keep it real. Resolutions are often grandiose visions rather than immediately practical. Having a better body or a healthier blood workup at your next physical isn’t going to magically happen because you’ve identified it as desirable. A common mistake is to view fitness and healthy choices as an all-or-nothing activity. You’re more likely to be successful if you identify the changes you’re ready to make and that will take you in the right direction. Maybe you’re not ready to give up ice cream or Friday night cocktails, but you can find a way to start eating breakfast and getting in a few servings of vegetables each day. Over time, these healthier choices can add up to a big difference by keeping your cravings in check and crowding out some of your bad habits.
Reward your successes. This doesn’t mean you should have a triple hot fudge sundae as a reward for eating a healthy lunch, but do find ways to positively reinforce the changes you’ve made. Calendars and schedules are effective ways to recognize your efforts. Scheduling your workouts brings you the reinforcement of crossing them off your list when they are accomplished. Putting gold stars on a kitchen calendar on the days that you prepare a healthy meal will allow you to see those stars adding up over time, keeping the focus on the changes you’ve made, instead of worrying about the day you slipped up.
Though resolutions are often belittled as meaningless and short-lived, they can be an inspiring opportunity for you to set specific goals and bring new life to your health and fitness routine. If you find the New Year brings you new resolve, put it into practice and create resolutions that count! Have a Happy and Healthy 2009!