What were your health-related New Year’s resolutions? Did you resolve to lose weight, get in shape, maybe get your blood pressure and/or cholesterol down? Maybe you started with the best of intentions and did well for a few weeks, only to fall back into old patterns.
If this sounds like you, you aren’t alone. Studies show that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. To avoid being part of that statistic, here are some strategies to get you back on track and help you meet your goals.
Assess Your Readiness to Change
Using the "Stages of Change" approach is one of the best-researched methods to help you change your behavior. Use it to assess your readiness to make the changes necessary to reach your goals. Readiness to change is a good predictor of likelihood of change.
STAGE 1: Precontemplation
In precontemplation, you’re not even thinking about making any changes. Here you might say, “I have no desire to change” or “I don’t think changing this is important.” To move out of this stage, you need to self reflect and reorder your priorities.
STAGE 2: Contemplation
At this point, you’re at least thinking about making a change. You might say, “I want to know more about (weight loss, exercise, etc).” You might also have doubts about your ability to make these changes. You need to get more information, talk with others who have been successful and review barriers and obstacles, which we’ll talk about later.
STAGE 3: Preparation
When you’re mentally ready to make changes, it’s time to start planning, scheduling and setting SMARTT (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, targeted and timeframed) goals.
STAGE 4: Action
You’re now doing it. Your statements are now in the form of, “I am doing…” Your tasks are to do things that will keep you going. These include finding inspiration, preparing for obstacles, and establishing accountability and a reward system.
STAGE 5: Maintenance
You’ve been doing what you’re doing long enough to have made it a part of your life. It takes 30-90 days to establish a new habit. Even then, set-backs are possible. Your statement here is, “I am doing (fill in the blank) to keep going and maintain my progress.” Your tasks include following role models, keeping the accountability and reward system going, as well as finding creative ways to keep it interesting.
Anticipate and Overcome Obstacles
What obstacles did you encounter on the way to reaching your goals in the past? Write them down. What worked or didn’t work? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Stick with what you know works. What are some new potential obstacles? Brainstorm some ideas for overcoming old and new obstacles.
Research shows having one or more persons to whom you’re accountable is critical. Who will you choose? It needs to be someone you not only trust, but someone who fully supports your goals. A spouse who resents new food choices, or a coworker who tells you to skip your workout and go to happy hour, are not good choices. Make yourself accountable for meeting all your short, intermediate and long-term goals.
The value of rewarding yourself for meeting short, intermediate and long-term goals is supported by research. Punishing yourself is not. Rewards need to support your goal, not undermine them. Buying yourself a song on iTunes does. Stopping at the bakery on the way home doesn’t. Involve the person(s) to whom you’re accountable in your reward plan. An example is going halves on a $30 iTunes card with a gym partner. If you went to the gym X times in a month, you get the card. If you don't, your partner gets it.
Making permanent changes in health behavior isn’t easy, but it’s doable. There are no quick and easy fixes. It takes commitment, effort and strategy – as well as support. If you feel your New Year’s resolutions start to slow, be sure to check out Premier Health & Fitness Center’s group exercise classes or have a one-on-one with a personal trainer.
Find ways to make your daily routine and behavior more health-oriented with these easy lifestyle changes.
- Park further away at stores to get in extra steps. Likewise, try to opt for the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Swap sugary drinks with water. Not a fan of water? Liven it up by infusing it with fruits, vegetables and herbs such as lemon and cucumber, raspberry and mint, or strawberry and basil — the possibilities are endless!
- Take advantage of the spring weather and take up a hobby outdoors such as gardening, bicycling or even walking to a great spot to catch the sunset every night.
- Incorporate light exercises while you’re watching television. Sit-ups, chair dips, planks, lunges, squats and so much more can all be done during commercial breaks.