With the New Year, comes the inevitable New Year’s resolution. Estimates say that almost half of us make New Year’s resolutions. After all, the promise of the New Year and new beginnings is the logical time to change old habits and improve our situations. Regardless of our great intentions, only about 8% of us actually succeed in sticking to our resolutions and make a permanent change. How can we make this the year that we finally succeed in reaching our goals? Most of our New Year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight or improving our health. As a trainer and nutrition specialist, I counsel countless people on how to succeed in changing old habits into better ones. Here are some tips from my book Eat More To Lose More, that I teach my clients so they can stick to their resolutions and achieve their goals. This is also how I plan to reach my own resolutions in 2014.
• Write it down. Never underestimate the power of the written word. Studies show, that when you write something down, you are 10 times more likely to actually carry it through than if you never wrote it. Buy a small note book. On the first page you will write down your goal. Be specific. Instead of saying, I will lose ten pounds this year (which is an “outcome goal”), say: By this date, I will lose ten pounds BY doing the following. Then spell out exactly what you plan to do. This is called a “performance goal”. One performance goal can be, exercising for 45 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Then do it!
• Set realistic performance goals that you know are attainable. If you know that you only have 20 minutes to work out every day, then don’t set yourself up for failure by promising yourself you will work out for an hour. Write it down, and then stick to it! By following your performance goals, you will achieve your outcome goal! Studies show that people who set smaller, incremental goals for change succeed at a much higher rate than people who seek large, immediate change. We call them “baby steps”.
• Repeat your new habits. Change takes time and tremendous effort. Our brains are hardwired into resisting change and going back to what is familiar to us. You must repeat your new habits over and over until you become so comfortable with them that it no longer requires much effort or conscious thought. When you realize and accept this, you can overcome almost any obstacle. If you kid yourself into thinking that change is going to be easy you will most certainly get frustrated and not succeed. Recognize, accept and embrace the challenge.
• Stay positive and believe. Remember, if at any time you start to lose your enthusiasm or optimism that is completely normal. When you are changing old, ingrained habits, it takes a lot of work and focus. Research now shows that it only takes five days, (yes only five days) to create the neural pathways for a new habit! When you do something for five days straight, you have created a new habit!!! The problem is that your SUBCONSCIOUS will always chose OLD HABITS over new ones, so you must stay committed until your “new habit” becomes your “old habit”! By repeating your new habit and staying the course you will succeed into overcoming the influence of the subconscious mind.
• Enlist the support of others. Tell your family and friends what you plan to achieve. Studies show that people who verbalize their New Year’s resolutions have a greater chance in actually succeeding. However, when you are trying to change your old habits for new or better ones, sometimes your friends and even your family might undermine your efforts. This can be due to fear, jealousy or just plain ignorance. At those times, it is important to remember your “end goal” of better health, so you won’t give in to their pressure. When faced with a friend who keeps nagging you to try to eat something that you don’t want, tell them you’ll try it “later”. This usually satisfies them for the moment, and then they will forget. Also, you may just have to learn to stand your ground and develop your “mental muscle”. Women especially, are taught to be “nice” and often we think that means saying “yes” to everything that comes our way. Practice saying “no” and don’t feel bad about it. If you stick to your guns you will build support and gain respect and you may even motivate your friends and loved ones to join you in your quest for better health.
• Move forward. There may be times when you do not be able to follow the meal plan or workout program. Due to stress, illness, emotional issues, boredom, travel or maybe just plain hunger, you may have bad days where you can’t seem to achieve your performance goals. The key in this situation is to stay the path. Do not use one bad meal or bad day as an excuse to stop the progress and slide back into old habits. Recognize that no one is perfect all the time, and that you are only required to be persistent, not perfect! Pick right back up, and don’t berate yourself. That only creates more stress and anxiety. Remember that every day is the first day of the rest of your life and every moment is a chance for a new beginning.
I wish you the best for 2014! Make this the year that you actually succeed in changing your habits and creating a new, healthier, fitter you! Happy New YOU!