Go ahead and admit it. Whether you've uttered the words out loud or just mulled them over in your mind, nearly everybody starts thinking about New Year's resolutions once the calendar reads Jan. 1.
More than any other resolution, and maybe it's because I'm a fitness trainer, I hear about weight loss goals and diets.
You know the drill: Start the year off gung-ho, then slowly fizzle out - or maybe it's burn out - by March. It's a common pattern at the gym. If you've lived that story year after year, it's enough to give up and say, "why even bother?" If you're a goal-oriented person, fear of failure will eventually cause you to stop trying.
Even if you start your health and fitness goals off this year with a bang then fall off the wagon, I say that's way better than not starting at all! Now, I'm going to share with you my favorite techniques to keep you going this year. Print out this list, and stick it on your refrigerator, desk, favorite mirror, or just somewhere you'll see it everyday.
1) Write your goals down and make them specific. Don't just write, "I'm going to lose 20 lbs. by summer." or "I'm going to eat better," or, "I'm going to join a gym." You need to give yourself a plan of action! For example, "I'm going to lose 20 lbs in 6 months by following the South Beach Diet, doing 3 fitness classes a week at the gym and riding my bike or hiking on the weekends."
2) Be your own inspiration! Draw on your memories of past successes. Think of your greatest achievements. What did you do to accomplish those goals? Everybody has some great achievements. Maybe it was a promotion to higher position, an athletic feat or overcoming a tremendous obstacle in your life. Recall the frame of mind you had then and practice going there when you need to motivate. If mental visualization is difficult, try putting up a picture of yourself from that time and look at it regularly until you get your mojo back!
3) Build your confidence without breaking your stride! Make your first set of goals for 2010 easy to achieve. A pole-vaulter doesn't come right out onto the field doing their highest jump, do they? First they set the bar low and then raise it higher and higher after each successful jump. So set the bar low and gradually raise it. You may even feel like you're holding yourself back a little. Believe me, this is much better than doing too much too soon and burning out early - or worse, getting injured and losing all you've gained. Trust me, I teach Spinning classes and Boot Camps, and I see this all the time! I'll get a new comer (usually a macho dude) who doesn't heed my warnings of taking easy at first. By the halfway point they're turning red and gasping for air (this is why I'm CPR certified). Rarely will I see that person again.
4) Birds of a feather... If your co-workers, friends and spouse are couch potatoes or fast food junkies, it's highly likely you don't have the healthiest lifestyle either. I'm not sending you to a headhunter for a new job or a divorce lawyer for a spouse-ectomy, but I am saying you need to surround yourself with like-minded people. Join a walking club, a recreational hiking group, make some new besties at your favorite gym class or take a healthy food cooking class if you fancy yourself to be the happy-homemaker-Donna Reed type. Spoiler alert! There may be some saboteurs lurking in your current network. Those are people who take issue with you making a healthy lifestyle change. Be wary of those who try to hold you back from your goals. Sometimes you have to trim the fat a little and do what's best for you...which brings me to #5...
5) Be a vain, selfish egomaniac! Relax, it sounds worse than it is. Once you start taking the steps towards your health and fitness goals by going to the gym or exercising most days of the week and taking control of what you eat, some people might actually say you're being vain, selfish and all about you. Helloooo??? The problem with being healthier, losing weight and getting fitter is what, exactly?? Repeat after me, "Taking better care of myself will ultimately make me a better spouse, parent, friend and worker." Setting goals and working towards them makes you someone people will admire and respect. And, even if ultimately your motivation for getting fitter really is vanity or ego, you know what? People will still admire you for looking great.
6) Mind your mindlessness. Keep a simple log or a journal of everything you eat. People tend to eat more than they think and slowly but surely weight, well, fat actually, creeps on gradually. It's also a fact that most people tend to underestimate how many calories they're consuming. Don't just try to keep track in your mind. You'll spend more time trying to remember every morsel you swallowed than it would take to jot it down. If you tend to be an emotional eater (someone who eats even when they're not hungry or eats when they experience certain feelings), write down what you're feeling when you eat. You'll probably notice a pattern like going after sweet, sugary treats or fattening, comfort foods when certain feelings are triggered. Being able to identify this will help you get your bad eating habits under control.
7) Sign up for an event or lessons - something that will give you a goal to achieve. Taking dance or tennis lessons or signing up for a charity 5K race will give you incentive to stay on track. Ask a friend or spouse to do it with you. Having a partner to train or practice with will keep you accountable and motivate each other. See #4.
8) Expect the unexpected. Be a good scout and be prepared for mishaps. There are going to be days where you have to work later than you expected and miss your Spinning class at the gym. Of course your co-workers will inevitably order pizza when you have a chicken salad and lentil soup waiting at home. Be prepared by keeping healthy snacks in your desk, or know the healthiest options at the pizza place near your office, so you can order that instead of pepperoni. Keep some tennis shoes in your car so you can go for a brisk walk or do some impromptu exercises when your plans to get to the gym get scrubbed.
9) Don't be afraid to ask for help... or hire it! If you are fortunate enough in this economy to be able to hire a personal trainer and/or nutritionist, by all means do it! If everyone had the ability to design workout programs and diet plans, people like me would be out of work. There are other options too. Sign up for a meal delivery plan - Nutrisystem isn't the only option. You'll be surprised at how many are out there once you Google "meals delivered to your home." Not only will all your calories be counted for you, making it much easier to lose weight, you'll find yourself with a nice big chunk of extra time. If time is your issue, there is no shortage of great workout DVDs that you can do right at home and are very cost effective. Many are even on demand through your cable or satellite provider. Check out exercisetv.tv.
10) Finally, treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. When I was a kid, my Mom said that this was a teaching of Confucius. Whether it came from Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Charlie Brown or Big Bird, it's a lesson worth taking to heart. You wouldn't berate your best friend, or your child or your pet if they slipped up... would you? If you have a bad food or fitness day (or even a bad week), talk to yourself the way you'd want your friends or spouse to talk to you - with compassion. Tell yourself it's okay, and that even the best of us make mistakes. Put it behind you, let it go, just like you did with 2009, and look towards your next meal or next workout. Get back on track! See #1.
Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." I wonder how many times he went to the gym or started a diet... hmmmm.
Follow Jill S. Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jillbrownfitnes