01/03/2013 02:12 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

Stick Fearlessly to Your Resolutions


It's that time of the year again -- the time when I get a flurry of patients wanting my advice on losing weight, getting in shape, reaching career goals, and making significant changes in their lives. Like clockwork, I get countless calls from people in the first few weeks of the New Year. They've joined the gym, hired a trainer, pledged to cut out junk food, and to make other healthy changes, yet they fail, and they fail miserably. The reason: motivation. Their only motivation is Jan. 1, and that isn't strong enough.

The strategy that has helped hundreds of my patients over the years is one that replaces self-doubt, fear, and anxiety about making changes with a sense of certainty, control, and fearlessness. Here are my surefire steps to successfully sticking to your fitness goals for 2013.

Forget the same old resolutions and following the latest trendy tabloid-driven diets for major weight loss. The focus should be on lasting lifestyle changes rather than a number. People usually get lazy and frustrated a month or so into the New Year in the wake of lofty, rigid, and unrealistic approaches that are often established by ill-equipped and over-zealous trainers.

Set goals for yourself out of inspiration, not desperation or guilt after a night of indulgence on alcohol and bar food. Forget about being part of a trend just because it is the style du jour.

To make big changes, think small and keep it simple. You don't need expensive trainers and gyms. You do need support and something that won't break your bank, so join a class or gather some friends who also want to get in shape. Take stairs instead of elevators. Replace soda with water with lemon. Walk briskly for 15 minutes on your lunch break.

Be detailed and specific. Vague generalizations like "I want to lose weight" will lead you nowhere in a hurry, while "I'm going to take the 7 p.m. kick boxing class on Tuesdays and Thursdays" will get you closer to your goal.

Be realistic. Losing 60 pounds by April isn't healthy and certainly isn't realistic. Break the larger end goal into smaller, manageable ones. Set realistic weekly goals within a healthy time frame. Reaching these smaller ones will motivate you toward the larger goals.

Lose weight by losing the rigidity. Extreme behavior changes such as cutting out all carbohydrates or sugar don't work. Such thinking promotes perfectionism and leads to sabotaging one's efforts. Choose to make changes that you can actually stick to.

Make a distinction between feeding your body and feeding your emotions. Get to know the role your mind plays in your body. Depression, anxiety, stress, relationship problems, and loneliness can all lead to unhealthy behavior.

To learn how to make other healthy changes in your life and overcome the fear that has been holding you back from reaching your goals, check out my new book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.