Sadly, most New Year’s resolutions and fitness goals begin to lose steam sometime in February. In fact, depending on where you get your numbers, 80 to 90 percent of them fail. This failure could make an awful lot of us feel badly about ourselves, but we really should cut ourselves some slack. Habits can take a long time to develop, so undoing bad ones and creating positive new ones can be very challenging.
Too many people attempt to change too much with fitness goals all at once, such as lose the holiday weight they gained, clean up their diet, find the time to work out – and just don’t know how to get started. This becomes overwhelming, and sometimes it’s just easier to stay the comfortable course and do absolutely nothing different.
The fact is, behavior change is hard. So if you’ve fallen off the wagon, don’t lose hope! Here are some ideas about how to make small significant changes that will lead you to better eating, more energy, and a stronger, healthier lifestyle.
Set easy goals so you can’t say “no”
Behavior science suggests that you should focus on changing no more than three things at one time. Furthermore, people often create resolutions that are too big, setting themselves up for failure.
Perhaps you currently visit the gym 2 days a week and resolved to visit 6 days a week. Like most people, work, family and other obligations may make that impossible sometimes. So, why not make your resolution something more reasonable, like 3 days per week? Or you might try to set aside a short amount of time each day – a half hour of weight training or cardio, for example. Finding the time to fit in a half hour a day, or to add one extra gym day a week, is challenging, but probably do-able.
Think about making your goal so easy that you can’t say “no.” And, then next year, plan on upping your own ante just a little bit more.
Make Small Dietary Changes
Let’s set you up for instant success. Instead of “dieting,” think about eliminating processed foods from your diet. This alone will help you to lose the first couple of pounds, which is truly inspiring! This includes implementing a reduction of the sugary foods you eat, or foods that turn to sugar in your body, such as pretzels, crackers, pasta and breads.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where you’ll find vegetables, fruit, fish, lean meats, eggs (yes the yokes too) and dairy. If it comes in a bag or box or is premade – skip it. If the earth gives it to you, eat it. If it’s man-made, skip it.
Take a weekend day to get your food prepared for the week instead of scrambling during the week and not having healthy choices at hand. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Most people know their schedules pretty well, and the times in their day when they become ravenous. Make sure you have a healthy snack ready for those times.
You may also want to keep a fuel journal – write down what you eat and drink daily to get a better picture of what you’re putting into your body. Think fueling not feeding. You can’t change what you’re not tracking and my motto is “you can’t out-train a bad diet!”
Examine Your Environment
If your goal is to eat less junk food, then remove it from your house. If your goal is to spend 10 minutes de-stressing at the end of the day, then perhaps trying to do it in your family room with the TV blasting and your kids running around isn’t the best spot. Assess your environment and make sure it isn’t sabotaging you.
Try parking farther away from buildings and taking the stairs. If you sit for a living, make it a point to get up and move around more often. Consider a standing desk.
Set your alarm earlier so you can work out before going to work or before the kids get up, take your lunch hour at the gym or go for a walk. Take your gym bag with you so you don’t need to return home before heading to the gym.
Enlist Some Help
Enlist the help of a Personal Trainer who can assist you and guide you along the way. They will plan each day’s physical activity and assist you with your diet.
Don’t wait or think you must get into shape before you try a new fitness class – or do any of this! There’s nothing more motivating then having the accountability of a scheduled personal training appointment or exercise class. Tell your family and friends what your trying to achieve, and enlist their help to hold you accountable and partner with you. You will be more apt to stay the course if everyone is rooting for you!
Again, keeping a journal for food and exercise may help. For every time you exercise, whether it’s at the gym or in your basement, have a game plan and write down what you did for your workout. Don’t follow every routine that shows up in magazines and on the Internet. Keep it simple – a vertical/horizontal push and pull exercise, a hinge and squat, and a core exercise.
Remember: One Thing at a Time
You do not have to be perfect in every aspect of this. Make one positive change to your diet at a time. Add a vegetable if you don’t eat them enough or take out the extra helpings. Drink more water and eliminate the sodas (even if it’s diet soda). Get to the gym. Forgive yourself if you blow a meal. Get back on track with the very next meal.
Most of all, don’t wait for tomorrow or next Monday to start. Make it happen right now. Make this year Your Year! Set those small attainable goals and crush them. Most importantly don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Remember, visits with Cornerstone’s wellness coaches are complimentary. These one-one-one consultations can help you set goals and stay on track.
Lisa Andersen is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Mike Boyle Certified Functional Strength Coach.