We’ve come to associate the dawning of the new year with setting “resolutions” for ourselves. I don’t know about you, but for me, that word alone can inspire fear and dread. Don’t get me wrong, setting health goals and developing a plan to get there is important to our growth and development in every area of life, especially our health. But the key to actually getting from here to there and achieving that fantastic goal is all in the framing — the way we think about our goals.
In order to maximize our chances of achieving weight loss or other health goals this year, let’s decide to create inspired visions for ourselves instead. By visions, I mean changes we can make that will lead us to improved health, happiness, peace and contentment; changes that make us feel more vital and alive; and changes we can maintain over the long term.
Achieving these visions will move us closer to our very best selves. Our envisioned changes can be big or small. The most important element is our own motivation. We should feel inspired by the positive energy of becoming our best selves, versus being driven by negativity and self criticism bordering on self-flagellation.
The decision to drop unwanted holiday pounds is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. The process of achieving this goal can be dreary indeed. But now that we’ve changed our framing, and are feeling inspired by visions for our best selves, let’s talk about successfully moving ahead.
Baby Steps: Set Small, Achievable Goals
Let’s say you’d like to drop unwanted holiday weight. Set yourself up for successful and maintainable weight loss by setting realistic goals. I know, “realistic” sounds soooo ho-hum, but the truth is that both your physical and mental health are damaged by yo-yo dieting, and it can wreak havoc on your life. Aren’t you tired of having three different-sized wardrobes? By setting a realistic goal weight from the start, you are so much closer to long-term success. You can always add additional goals when you’ve achieved the ones you first set. But why not start with something that seems (and is) do-able, versus something that is so overwhelming that you go off the rails when faced with your first post-holiday buffet?
Pat Yourself On The Back: Reward Yourself Frequently
This might seem obvious, but so few people actually reward themselves on a regular basis. Even toddlers appreciate the value of rewards! Develop a list of non-food rewards that you promise to give yourself when you follow through on your healthy eating goals. Make sure you’re giving yourself at least one small reward each day. Any change, even one you desperately want, can be very difficult at first. Something to look forward to each day will help keep you on track.
Buddy Up: Build A Support Network
Pick a friend (or two) to join you in your journey. It should be someone you can rely on, someone who can be your cheerleader when you’re feeling burned-out and inspire you in moments of discouragement. Ideally, this person has a commitment to healthy living as well and will truly support you as you make changes.
Out With Old, In With The New: Renovate Your Environment
This one sounds so simple, but few people actually do it. If eating chips and cookies are not part of your healthy-eating plan, get them out of the house. Why force yourself to struggle with unnecessary temptation? Clean out your refrigerator and pantry, donate what you don’t want to your local food bank, and you’ll notice that life becomes simpler.
Getting Up After Falling Down: Expect Slipups
Not every day is going to be the “perfect” eating day. Some days you may be presented with surprises that were not part of your plan. It could be impromptu drinks with friends, the unexpected offer of birthday cake, or overindulgence at your favorite restaurant. Know that success in achieving long-term weight loss is not about never veering off of your plan. What it is about is getting up after you fall down, dusting yourself off and getting right back on track. One slip up does not equal failure. Return to your original vision, lean on your support buddy, and get back on track ASAP.
Write It Out: Keep A Journal
As you relearn how to eat, you may notice that you had been using food to meet emotional needs. As your relationship to food changes, and as you start to use food as healthy fuel for your body, you may notice new emotions coming up. If this happens, consider keeping a journal and jotting things down. Once you’re aware of why you were overeating in the past, or why you feel tempted to overeat now (in spite of your health vision), you’ll be much further down the path of maintaining all your healthy changes.
The Turtle vs. The Hare: Changing Habits Takes Time
Your old habits didn’t start in one day, and they won’t end in one day. Research indicates that it can take at least 3 to 4 weeks to build new, healthier habits. During this time, it is important to lean on your support network, reward yourself and pace yourself. Hang in there! Just take one day at a time until your newer, healthier habits are literally a no-brainer.
Finally, remember these New Year’s visions are all about you. You are on a path to a life filled with more ease, peace and vitality than you’ve ever known. Envision this in your future and success is almost guaranteed. Cheers to your health!