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Resolution Revamp: How to Tweak Your New Year’s Resolutions to Work

We always enter the New Year with the best of intentions. We’ll lose those five pounds, swear off sugar forever, and run that half marathon. But intentions are not actions, and many people fail to follow through on their New Year’s resolutions.

Does that mean all resolutions are bunk? Not quite, Christine Eley, a certified Wellcoach, exercise physiologist, and nutritionist at The Fare Maven, says. Resolutions are actually a great thing — when done right.

“I actually highly recommend that people get a vision for 2015,” says Eley. “Why is the resolution important to them? Why do they want to cut out junk food? What about losing weight do they value or find important? It’s key to realize WHY someone wants the goal in the first place.”

What to Ask Yourself About Your New Year’s Resolutions

When setting New Year’s resolutions, Eley suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • What results do I want to achieve?
  • What activities do I want to do consistently?
  • Why does this matter a lot to me, right now?
  • What strengths, talents, abilities, past successes can I use?
  • What challenges might get in my way and how can I overcome them?
  • What support team and structures will I put in place?

With these answers in place, staying on track becomes easier in the worst of times, because you’ll have a clear roadmap to guide you through the changes. In other word: when the alarm goes off for a 5 a.m. gym workout, you’re more likely to get out of bed when you visualize why you’re going to the gym in the first place.

But even the most motivated people need a clear goal. The most common resolutions, like losing a certain amount of weight or joining a gym, are the ones most likely to fail. Today, Eley explains why they don’t work — and how a few simple tweaks can set you up for success.

1. “I will completely cut out junk food!”

The problem: “This is too restrictive and represents all or nothing thinking, which is negative self-talk,” says Eley. 

Restrictive eating can also backfire into binges. It’s best to have a moderate, healthy relationship with food. In addition, goals should be positive and realistic. Start with small changes — maybe you really will eventually cut out most junk food, but for now, shoot for scaling back on your intake.

New resolution: “I will reduce my intake of soda to one can two days a week,” or “I will eat a small bag of potato chips once per week.”

2. “By the Fourth of July, I will fit in size __ jeans.”

The problem: This is an outcome goal, not a process or behavioral goal. Though nothing is wrong with outcome goals, they’re more successful when accompanied by a few process or behavioral goals to get you there.

“I always ask clients who come to me with a ‘size’ goal what is so magical about ‘x’ size?” Eley shares. “What if you feel great, look great and are doing all of the things in life that you’ve always wanted to do in the next size up? Is that size still what you want and need?”

New resolution: Choose a behavior and see where that takes you. You might be surprised how good you feel at another size. A better way to go about this is to set an outcome goal like, “I’m going to lose 10 percent of my total body weight in six months.” Then, set some process or behavioral goals to get there, like, “I’m going to walk each night for 30 minutes after dinner,” and “I’m going to eat on smaller plates for each meal.”

3. “I’m going to try the _____ diet.”

The problem: Diets don’t work. You know this, I know this, we all know this. We know this so much, FBG wrote a book about it.

Well, diets do work … while you are doing whatever restrictive thing they require. “Once you go off the diet and back to how you used to eat, you tend to gain the weight back because you go back to all your old habits. You know what does work? Healthy lifestyle changes.

New resolution: “A better goal would be, ‘I’m going to increase my fruit and veggie intake from my current amount of zero, to having at least one fruit or veggie at each meal.'” Eley advises. “You can then build from there to your ultimate goal — say, having half your plate made up of fruits and veggies at every meal.”

4. “I will join a gym!”

The problem: Great. You joined. Now what?

Resolving to join a gym is really a preparation goal that gets your foot in the door. Most people, however, join the gym, attend a few times, then lose their resolve. A more succinct action goal would be, “I’m going to use my gym five times a week for 30 minutes each time.” Or, better yet, if you like the outdoors, who needs a gym?

New resolution: “How about a more generic, incredibly forgiving goal that still gives direction like, ‘I’m going to work out five times a week for 30 minutes each time.’ Then, it doesn’t matter if it’s the gym, the trail, the pool, or a DVD.” We like the way she thinks. 

5. “I’m going to eat healthier in 2015.”

The problem: Eat healthier? What does that even mean?

“Whenever a client says something like this, the first thing I ask them is what ‘healthier’ means to them,” says Eley. “It helps to create a goal that you can actually measure, like, eating more veggies, decreasing soda intake, eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread, etc.”

New resolution: A goal you can actually measure by the end of 2015 would be something like, “I’m not going to go back for seconds at any of my meals,” or “I’m going to learn and use potion control through reading labels and measuring servings.”

6. “A 5K race? I can do that, easy.”

The problem: Goals should be something we actually have to work at to get to the end result.

If you can already do it, it’s not a goal. Raise the bar! If you can pull a 5K out without much training, then think about setting a goal to hit a specific 5K time instead of “just doing it”. Or, stretch yourself by setting a goal to do a 10K this year. It’s okay to have the 5K on your schedule as a means of staying on track for a larger goal, but challenge yourself to do something more.

New resolution:  “I’m going to do one speed work session each week leading up to this 5K so that I can set a PR.” Even better, aim for a 10K or a sprint triathlon!

7. “I’m going to start swimming six days a week.”

The problem: Only swimming?

Too much of a good thing can create overuse injuries and boredom, which can backfire into not wanting to or being able to do any working out. It’s a good idea to cross-train and do activities that are varied, like strength training or yoga.

New resolution: Again, a better goal might be, “I want to work out six days a week this year by swimming, doing resistance training, yoga and <insert other favorite activity here>.”

What are your resolutions for 2015? Let’s hear ’em! —Susan

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