It is that time of year again – the ball has dropped, the clock says 12:01 AM, the holidays are over, and now everyone is thinking about how to face 2021 and make healthy changes. If you were to look back at the top resolutions year after year, eating healthy and exercising are generally towards the very top. After this past, difficult year, getting and staying healthy is definitely a priority for us all.
Yet, most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions by the end of February. Why is that?
Most people go ‘too hard too fast’ with their resolutions. They clean out all the junk in the house, start prepping kale smoothies, and go to the gym 5 days a week. That sounds great in theory, but it is often unsustainable. So how can you get things to stick around into March and beyond?
Here are a few tips to help you along your way:
- Dream Big but ultimately set Smaller Goals: It is great to aim high with your overall goal, such as wanting to reach a certain weight or lab result. Yet you need to remember it is not going to happen overnight. After setting that “Big Goal,” sit down and figure out the smaller steps you can take to get there. You want these small goals to be as detailed and realistic as possible. One big tip to remember for sustainable weight loss is that losing around 1-2 pounds/week is healthy weight loss for most individuals. Daily exercise might also be too ambitious, particularly if you have a hectic schedule.
- Do not put a Hard Deadline on the Big Goal: Any progress is good progress when it comes to improving your health. However, for many, if we set a deadline and then don’t hit it, we may lose our drive to ultimately complete it. There is going to be stumbles and plateaus along the way, which is normal and perfectly okay, as long as you push through them. As long as you keep getting back to your smaller goals, you will reach that big one eventually. However, if you are one that does better with a deadline, just make sure the Big Goal is reasonable by the date you have in mind. Don’t set yourself up for failure from the start!
- Commit to Yourself and Others: Writing down your resolution for you and others to see is big in making it really happen. If you keep it in your head, you will be quicker to brush it aside when the going gets tough. Write it down and post it somewhere you will see it regularly. Also, consider getting an accountability partner (or more!) that can be your cheerleader as well as someone to remind you of why you are making these changes in the first place.
- Don’t Repeat Past Mistakes. Have the same basic goal as you did in the past? Analyze why it didn’t work that time (or the time before). Until you can see why you failed in the past, you’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. Did you pick too large of a goal to start? Did you try to take it on without any support? Sit down and think through what did and didn’t work before so you can better tackle the changes now and keep them going.
- Reward Your Progress – correctly. Remember that it’s ultimately about Progress, not Perfection. Reach that first small milestone in that weight goal? Cut out sodas from your diet for the past month? Reward yourself for reaching the smaller steps along your journey. Just, don’t reward yourself with something that will sabotage you in the long run. Take the weight loss goal; you reached ten pounds lost so you can have some cake, right? Possibly. Can you have a small piece that you savor and enjoy and then not keep going back for more? Or, are you better off treating yourself to a nice bubble bath or to a new workout top? You need to decide what you view as a reward. Treating yourself along the way is a great motivator to keep the progress going.
How do those tips all come together? Here’s an example:
Big Goal: I want to lose 25 pounds
Small, realistic and specific goals:
1) I will cook 2-3 meals per week at home instead of getting take out. I will use recipes from the healthy cookbooks I enjoyed last year, but also pair it with some easy basic meals for busier days.*
2) I will exercise 3-5 days per week, starting with a goal of a 15-minute+ walk on weekdays. I will take a Saturday Zumba class since I have more time that day. The gym is unrealistic right now with the kids spring schedules and work, but we have well lit sidewalks in the neighborhood for walking!*
3) I will make my morning coffee at home instead of running through Starbucks drive thru. This will allow me to control my intake of sugar better and save some money!
Accountability Partner: My sister and I will check in with each other on our weekly progress during the Zumba class that we are taking together.
Reward: I will set aside the money saved from Starbucks runs and when I reach the halfway mark of my weight goal, I will treat myself to a massage.
*Correcting past mistake
See? Sounds reasonable AND achievable right? Just remember these steps when making your New Year’s Resolutions and you will be sure to hit them throughout the rest of the year.
Sometimes, people struggle just to come up with these goals, big or small. This is particularly true as a cancer survivor when one of the goals is to avoid a reoccurrence. That thought can often be overwhelming, making the next steps difficult. Luckily, there is a program that can help you from the American Institute for Cancer Research. Check out their iThrive Program, which will help you set small goals to improve your health – physical and mental – to get you on the right path during your survivorship.
Whatever your resolutions may be – Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021 for all!