Your guide to New Years Resolutions is here!
I know what you’re thinking….
Bethany. You’re a few weeks late. Where was this two and a half weeks ago? My New Years Resolution has started and stopped a dozen times already. Maybe you should have made a resolution to stop procrastinating.
I realize I am coming into the game at half time here. But I assure you, it was intentionally so.
You see, I always like to wait a couple of weeks after the start of the New Year to come along side you and give a motivation boost.
The first few days of just about any behavior change are relatively easy to survive. Anyone can go to the gym 5 days a week for one week, skip out on the chocolate for a few days, and drop a pound or two.
The real work begins a few weeks in. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where things get hard. Why? Because lasting behavioral change is hard work. The key word there is lasting. I’m not talking about extreme lifestyle changes that are impossible to sustain — the kind that chew you up and spit you out only to leave you in worse shape than you were when you began. I’m talking about sustainable and healthy changes that give you the result you want and last for a lifetime.
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Yes, yes it does. The result doesn’t come about easily. And not to be depressing, but many people don’t succeed in their resolution quests. If you think about it, that’s a large part of the reason New Years Resolutions are a thing at all. We keep trying, inevitably give up, revert back to old patterns, wait 11 months for the obligatory New Years resolution phase to begin again and repeat. All the while our old habits continue to solidify making them even harder to change.
Insert heavy sigh here.
Though I am not the biggest fan of New Years Resolutions for stimulating the lasting behavioral changes we all want, I can certainly understand their appeal. After all, we all have to start somewhere, and we all need an impetus to spur us on towards healthier living. So if that’s you, and you truly want to make your resolution a new way of life, I want to be there to support you.
I present to you now a guide designed to assist you in persisting in your New Years Resolutions. These 26 handy tips are a mix of practical nutrition and physical activity advice as well as motivational tidbits to keep your mental game strong. Keep this post close by your side as a reminder for when change gets tough.
Add color to your plate. One of the simplest tips that you can apply to clean up your nutrition is to eat the rainbow – unfortunately not in skittle form. This ensures you get all of the phytonutrients your body needs to perform optimally and be at its best. My favorite way to do this is to have a big salad for lunch daily filled with leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell pepper, and beets.
Be kind to yourself. Often we engage in resolutions because there is something about ourselves that we don’t like and are seeking to change. While I am all for seeking continual improvement, I think we need to watch the words that we use to describe ourselves. Often times they are laced with negativity and self deprecation. The first step to loving your body is to accept it as it is. If you can do this, you will be that much more likely to engage in and stick with the behaviors to support it and lead to a healthier you.
Clean eating. I know, I know, we all want to focus on exercise and not nutrition, but the truth is, you can’t out exercise a bad diet. It’s a sad truth, but the sooner you can accept it, the sooner you will be on the right path to achieving your goals. As much as possible, stick to whole, minimally processed foods. I get this isn’t always practical….and you won’t be perfect. Start with your snacks or one meal at a time and you will soon find that it will become a way of life.
Declare your intentions. You are far more likely to succeed if you have made your goals public. That doesn’t mean saying them to any Joe Shmoe on the street. I’m referring more to your friends, family, significant others, possibly coworkers etc. Declaring your goals publicly has multiple benefits. First, just uttering the words out load brings a sense of reality to them that spurs on action. It transitions from an internalized theoretical idea to an externalized, tangible goal to be achieved through action. Secondly, it is an opportunity to invite accountability, which is a major key in keeping you on the path to success.
Expect to succeed. Go into your resolution with the mindset that you can and will succeed in your efforts. This might sound simple enough, but be weary of subconscious thoughts that undermine your success. These are the thoughts that say you aren’t good enough or that you don’t have what it takes, that you will inevitably fail. These thoughts might not be on the conscious level, but if you have found yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors in the past, chances are some of these thoughts are at play. Change your mentality to positive self talk that is filled with the expectation to succeed. You’ll be surprised at how your behaviors start to fall inline with a positive mental intent.
Fuel for your workouts. Yes, yes by now we all know that in order to lose weight you have to consume fewer calories than you burn. While this is true, there are additional complicating factors that can affect your ability to lose weight. Nutrient timing is one of those key factors. When you are heading into big workouts, you need to ensure you have fueled properly to support that work. Similarly, you need to fuel properly for recovery to reap the rewards of all your hard work and recover properly. In general, if you are consuming a well balanced diet of whole foods and eating regular meals and snacks without being too restrictive with your calories you will set yourself up well. For those of you training for endurance events or seeking to build more muscle, you may have some unique fueling needs. Get with a member of the GFFI staff to help determine what is optimal for you!
Guard against complacency. Meeting your fitness and nutrition goals requires diligent attention and persistence. The act of changing old habits and replacing them with new ones does not come easily and will require your full attention. What starts as a simple slip up one day can spiral into a full on relapse if you allow yourself to become complacent. Guard against complacency by utilizing the tips in this guide – make use of your social support, declare your intentions, and set good goals.
Hydrate. Hydration is one of those keys that we simultaneously know is important but most often ignore. You’d be surprise at how simply increasing your water intake can improve your chances of success both in terms of physical activity and nutrition. Proper hydration helps to keep your body running optimally to support physical activity and nutrient delivery. Furthermore, drinking water regularly can help to minimize the urge to overeat. While we all have somewhat unique hydration needs, aiming for at least 8-10 cups a day will get you on the right path.
Identify your passions. There is a popular expression that states the best exercise is the one you’ll stick with. There is no need forcing yourself to become a runner or crossfitter just because it seems like that is what everyone else is doing. If you hate it, you ultimately won’t stick with it. Try out a variety of forms of physical activity and strength routines to find what you like and what works for you. That being said, be sure to give it at least a few weeks before drawing your conclusion. Many forms of physical activity are unpleasant in the beginning as you are getting into better overall cardiovascular and muscular condition. Once you start to adapt and make some of the initial improvements, you may find you really enjoy that activity.
Justify your reasons. Just as important as knowing what you are working towards, is knowing why you are working towards it. It is critical to your success that you find the inner reason that is spurring you on to make your resolution. Why do you want to lose the weight? Why do you want to be in shape? Reach beyond the surface level to really understand your motivations. This will give you something to hold on to and remind yourself with when you would rather just quit.
Kick old habits. Make a list of all the unhealthy habits that have led you to where you are today. What have been the biggest stumbling blocks, whether they are thoughts or behaviors, standing between you and achieving your goals? For each negative, unhealthy habit, write out a positive healthy habit to counter it. This will give you a good base for specific goal setting to get you on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
Listen to your body. Don’t let ambition overtake you in your physical efforts. When just getting started it is easy to become overly eager. Ambition is a good thing, but it can lead us to jump into things prematurely and go too hard too fast. Slow down. Let your body be your guide. When you experience pain or discomfort, take note of it and take the appropriate action. If you are new to physical activity or it has been some time since you have engaged in a regular workout routine, be sure to seek out the advice of your gym staff, a personal trainer, or the folks here at GFFI to help determine where to get started.
Maintain optimism. While it is important to avoid negative self talk, it is equally important to engage in positive self talk to maintain an optimistic outlook. Behaviors and thoughts do not occur in a vacuum so if you are removing an old habit (i.e. negative self talk) it must be replaced with a new one and applied consistently over time. Start off by expecting to succeed in your efforts and fill your head with all of the qualities that you have that will get you to where you want to be. Be encouraging and kind to yourself. Give yourself grace when you slip up and congratulate yourself when you succeed.
Negate comparisons. Comparisons are a surefire way to lead to your defeat. Rather than focusing on others success and gains as a source of your own motivation, compare against your own past performance. View progress in light of where you started. Be confident in your own abilities and let go of what others are doing.
Observe your triggers. Identify the factors that lead you to slip-up. Do you tend to stress eat? Does a hectic workday lead you to skip your regular workout? In a nutshell, you are looking to discover the factors that lead you to engage in your former habits. In order to do so, you will need to be diligent about practicing some of our other tips outlined below. When you understand what tends to slip you up, you can be prepared to counteract it in the future.
Push through setbacks. Know that you will have times that you mess up in pursuit of your goal. This is ok. In fact, it is more than ok, it is necessary. Rather than feeling defeated by a setback, look to what that setback can teach you. Maybe it can identify an important trigger that you can better anticipate next time and overcome. Maybe it indicates that you are pushing it too hard and are headed for burnout. Whatever it is, setbacks can teach us a lot about how to keep moving forward. Setbacks are an important part of the process of establishing and solidifying a new habit. Think about it this way. If you had a goal to become a better free throw shooter in basketball, would you realistically expect that when you practice the behavior you’d make every shot? No, if you did, you wouldn’t need to set the goal, you’d already have achieved it! But by missing the shot, you might learn what improvements you need to make to improve and you can build your sense of perseverance. The same applies to your new years resolutions. Don’t expect perfection, embrace the journey towards reaching your goals, setbacks and all.
Quantify your goals. It’s not enough to know what you want to achieve in general terms. In order to have goals that work for you, you have to be specific and you have to be measurable. How much weight do you want to lose and in what increments? Bringing this type of specificity and measurability will increase the chances of your success by giving you direction in your efforts.
Rest regularly. Contrary to popular opinion, more is not always better. When it comes to physical activity, more can sometimes be to our detriment and can lead to frustration, burnout, and even giving up. Proper rest gives your body the chance to recover so that it can benefit from all of the work you have already done. Remember that physiological adaptations, such building muscle, occur during the periods of rest, not during the periods of activity. One form that rest takes is our sleep. Aim for 7 to 9 hours a night to optimize your nutrition and physical goals. Beyond that, take a full rest day or week every so often to give your body the chance to relax.
Set goals. Goal setting is a form of planning. And while that may make some of you groan, there are plenty of benefits to having a planning approach to your new years resolutions. Know what exactly it is that you want to achieve and how you intend to achieve it. Doing this will give you something to work towards with specificity and help to outline your roadmap to success. If your efforts are not resulting in bringing you closer to the goal, it can indicate that you need to make some further adjustments to your eating habits or workout routine to keep you moving forward.
Tap into social support. Social support is a key aspect of goal success. If you have already taken the step of declaring your intentions publicly to friends and family, it will hopefully build in for you a supportive social network to get you through the tough moments and keep you moving forward. Find yourself a workout buddy who you can go to the gym with or sign up to run a 5k. Find an accountability partner that can talk you through your weak moments and that can emotionally support you. One of the reasons Weight Watchers has been so successful is because social support is a key element. Don’t ignore this as a resource in your weight loss arsenal!
Utilize your resources. Whatever things that you have at your disposal to increase your chances of success? It could be a strong social support network, a gym located in your building, or a mentally tough attitude. Take some time to make a list of your resources, both tangible and intangible, that increase the likelihood that you will progress towards your goals.
Validate your frustrations. On your journey to goal achievement, you will experience periods of frustration. Maybe your progress has slowed and you don’t feel like you are getting any closer to where you want to be. Or maybe you have been plagued by injuries that keep you from being as active as you would like. Wherever there are setbacks, frustration is sure to follow. Although it is important to be optimistic and push through these setbacks, it is also important to validate that frustration rather than pushing it aside like it doesn’t exist. Working through your frustration can provide you with a much needed release of negative emotion that frees up the space to be optimistic moving forward. What are your frustrations telling you? Take the time to figure it out and harness that feeling to keep you moving forward.
Write it down. Tracking your nutrition may be a pain at first, but it is a surefire way to set you up for success if you are seeking to change your eating habits or lose weight. Tracking your nutrition helps to bring awareness to your eating habits and can point out where you might want to make some changes. For example, you might find that you had no idea you were eating as much as you thought you were so you might want to make a goal to change your portion sizes. It can show you if there are any gaps in your nutrition and whether you are fueling adequately to lose fat and build lean mass. These days, there is no excuse not to track – mobile apps and websites like MyFitnessPal and Fooducate are great resources that make tracking as easy as possible.
X-factor. Seriously, why aren’t there more words that start with the letter ‘x’? Admittedly, this one was a little difficult, but it works. When I say X-factor, I’m talking about the things that make some people successful in reaching their goals while others continually have to start over each January. What sets those successful people apart? To name a few, successful people are consistent, optimistic, avoid comparisons, embrace the journey, are persistent, know when to ask for help, and are adaptable. In other words, they are all of the other things we talked about throughout this article! When you combine these things together, you create the x-factor, which I think can be summed up in the term mental toughness. Think about your past attempts to reach your goals, which of these factors are you missing? How can you become more mentally tough?
Yoga. Ok so this one doesn’t come in the form of a nifty little phrase, but I thought it was important to include. Not only will regular yoga help you to get into the practice of mindfulness, but it will help to improve your mobility, flexibility, and strength. It is an excellent activity to follow up on a tough workout or as a rest day activity. Pro tip: There’s no need to spend the money if you don’t want to on a fancy yoga studio, the website doyogawithme.com has TONS of free yoga videos you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Zealous. Again, I don’t have a catchy phrase for this one, but know that reaching your goals will require zealous pursuit. Be relentless. Refuse to quit. Although the odds of reaching sustained behavioral long term change may be stack against you, refuse to let that bring you down. Rather, allow that to fuel you to achieve great things. You have everything that it takes to be successful, but you’ve got to use it to your benefit.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Do yourself a favor and write out the catch phrases and words for each letter of the alphabet and keep it handy. When your motivation starts to wane, pull this list out as a reminder that you can and will succeed.
Get Fit For It, Beth