By Eli Follick
In preparation for 2023, many people have inevitably made resolutions to lose weight and incorporate healthier habits into their daily routines. The challenge is to stick with them. Setting resolutions for the right reasons can be key to a successful year. The way you go about implementing those changes is also critical.
Lack of Motivation
You might start with some self-examination before taking any action. For example, ask yourself, “Why do I want to lose weight?” “Why do I want to get more exercise?” In my case, weight gains had made it necessary for me to upsize my wardrobe more often than I wanted. I needed business-suitable clothes to function in the corporate world. Larger sizes cost more and took up more room in a three-suitor piece of hard-sided luggage. Far more significantly, I developed Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood pressure problems. I was seeing doctors often and making repeated trips to the pharmacy.
So, I had multiple motivators to change my lifestyle in a lot of different ways. New year’s resolutions became seriously needed goals that could help me on my journey to health. Now I just had to take steps to make a difference.
Clearly, I had been making poor food choices and eating too many of the unhealthiest foods. (I was also eating too much of the healthiest foods.) I decided I had to make better choices and carefully watch my portion sizes. The American Diabetes Association recommends the “Plate Method” (www.diabetesfoodhub.org) as an easy way to create healthful meals and manage blood sugar. Starting with a nine-inch plate, I fill half of it with non-starchy vegetables, such as green beans, cucumbers, or salad greens; one quarter with lean protein, such as low-fat meat or fish; and the remaining quarter with a grain such as brown rice.
Don’t think for a minute that there weren’t bumps in the road. Turning to food in response to stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, and more was an all-too common coping mechanism for me.
If you, too, experience these tendencies, you may find that mindfulness tactics help. For example, if you feel the need to eat, wait 10 minutes before doing so. Many times, this has helped me change my mind and skip the unnecessary extra food. You can also try getting away from the kitchen and taking a walk around the block. I have also been successful with simply drinking a glass of water instead of eating.
Losing weight and increasing exercise are usually impossible goals to attain if they exceed reasonable expectations, in an unrealistic amount of time. A solution I have used (and modified repeatedly) is to set specific “micro-goals”. An intention to lose five pounds by the end of January worked for me in past years; 10 pounds was far too much, too quickly.
By accepting slow progress through small changes, the path to health and the results achieved got better and better as the months wore on. My resolutions seemed more and more possible. It is important to remember that even if you implement and follow 100 percent of your lifestyle changes, results will not happen overnight.
Some other ideas are:
Be specific. The more detailed your goal, the more likely you will be to achieve it.
Commit to and prioritize. Setting a goal is only half of the journey. The other half is to commit to the work that goes into it and to make it a priority.
Take control. If your goal is related to something that is totally outside of your control, it’s almost impossible to say you will accomplish it. Be realistic about what you can and can’t be responsible for.
Document progress. It’s difficult to stay focused on goals if you don’t see yourself making progress. Noting your successes and challenges on a regular basis should help you stay focused on keeping your resolutions. Jotting down your thoughts in a journal or keeping a record of your milestones also helps you to assess where you are in your journey and adjust your efforts accordingly.
Practice forgiveness. Even with the best of intentions and motivations, it’s easy to lose sight of your resolutions when life gets hectic. Through the ups and downs, practice forgiveness with yourself. No one is perfect.
Schedule time to achieve goals. Time is elusive and often slips away when we have a busy schedule. Block off an hour a day to focus on self-care, or dedicate a weekend morning to work on your goals, for example.
Embrace the buddy system. Having a buddy (a spouse, a child, a neighbor) who is aware of your goals and can support you can make a huge difference in whether you achieve your resolutions.
Reward yourself for achievements. Resolutions shouldn’t be “all or nothing.” It’s important to reward yourself for your achievements, no matter how big or small. If you’ve stuck to your resolution, treat yourself, perhaps, by buying something small that you’ve wanted for a long time. Occasional rewards provide tangible proof that your resolution plan is working and you are improving yourself.
Lastly, see the bigger picture. Taking a step back to gain some perspective can help you realize what is truly important for you. This can lead to a life filled with purpose and meaning. In a quiet moment, picture yourself next January 1. That image could and should be a “better and healthier me” than a year earlier.