It’s the last week of the year, and it’s that time once again where many reflect on the previous 12 months, and set goals they hope to achieve in the 12 months ahead. It is believed that in the US, about two in three people make resolutions that focus on fitness, health or weight. By the end of January estimates are that 30% of resolutions are not started or have already failed. By the end of February, that number has spiked to around 80%, and at the end of the year, that number is upwards of 92%.
Reaching for new fitness goals in a new year is a great idea, but the road is fraught with pitfalls if you set goals that are too big, or not realistically achievable. Let’s be honest, sticking to anything for an entire year takes a lot of commitment, and many pick goals that involve a commitment to something you have little to no experience with.
Let’s look at some common New Year’s Resolutions. Do any of these sound familiar?
- I’m going to lose X lbs.
- I’m going to try the X diet.
- I’m going to cut out X category of food.
- I’m going to do the X workout everyday.
Or how about these more generic resolutions?
- I’m going to lose weight.
- I’m going to exercise more.
- I’m going to eat more healthy.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
The problem with many resolution makers is that in this instant gratification society we’ve carved out for ourselves, we frequently treat resolutions like a sprint, not a marathon. We want it, and we want it NOW! We want to bang it out, check it off, and move on.
Healthy habits, whether diet or exercise, are most successfully made incrementally, one small change at a time. Like a marathon, it takes weeks and even months just to create the habits and routine of a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t always come quickly or easy, or go as smoothly as you plan, no matter how ambitious and committed you are.
Don’t think so? Go back and read through the archives of this site about Kerrie’s commitment to train and complete a real marathon. She was fully committed to achieving this goal, and along the way she got injured.
You don’t love what you are doing.
When I was working through my weight loss journey, I decided somewhere along the way that I was going to train for and compete in a 5k. The problem, though, is that I don’t like running. I loath it, actually, and it may date back to my middle school days when we had to run a prescribed distance or time every week for P.E. and endurance athlete I was not. I was into sports, but they were the kind that required strength and short-burst exercise. Not steady state cardio.
Stay away from specifically prescribing yourself an activity that you’ve never tried, or think is the answer to your fitness biases. You don’t know that you will love it, and if you don’t love it, you won’t do it. The fastest way to New Year’s resolution failure is to say, “I’m going to do Crossfit this year,” only to find out after you try it that you hate Crossfit.
The same holds true for changing your diet. Which brings me to the next fallacy.
The “One Size Fits All” Fallacy
This term is borrowed from Dr. Jade Teta of Metabolic Effect, and the concept is forehead slappingly simple. There is no perfect diet, nor is there a perfect exercise program. The keto diet, the paleo diet, the primal diet, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, vegetarianism, gluten-free, Mediterranean… The list goes on and on, and they’ve all seen their day in the spotlight. Yes, many of these diets work for many people, but the best diet or exercise program is the one that you can sustain long term. The best diet, the best exercise, the best lifestyle is the one that works for you. However, expect what works for you to change, and be prepared to change with it if you are going to sustain success long term.
Adapting to change means thinking beyond your goal. Being too specific in health related goal setting leaves many to not look beyond their “finish line”. If you decide to try a high-fat, low carb diet (sorry Keto zealots), or train for a fitness competition, and you don’t ask yourself “and then what” on the front end you will very likely end up back where you started.
Find a support group.
Don’t work toward your resolution alone. This one is bigger than you might think. Any of you in a relationship who have ever tried to take on a health goal without your partner will know exactly what I’m talking about. It is incredibly difficult to stick to a resolution if those within your social group do not also have a similar goal or plan. They aren’t going to skip desert with you, or cook to your requirements, nor are they going to arrange their schedule for your exercise.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and dump all of your friendships, or file for divorce. What I’m telling you is developing a support group of people interested in similar goals as you. For Kerrie, when she took up marathon training, it was this blog that helped her develop a social group of similarly focused people that helped her stay on track. Many of those people are still her friends today, even though she doesn’t run much currently. Yes, it can create some strain and stress on other relationships, but the strong ones will persevere and those who care about you will support you even if it causes a little inconvenience in their own lives.
For me, someone who is a bit of an introvert, Kerrie is my support group. She was already well down the road of her health journey, so we are fortunate that many of those goals align and there wasn’t much adjustment to be made. The point is, your support group can be a person or many people. Again, figure out what works for you.
Keeping it all in perspective.
When setting your resolution, focus less on the “what”, and more on the “why”. And completely forget about “when”. If you can take the “when” off the table, accept that it happens on it’s own timeline, and keep your focus on the “why”, everything else should just fall into place. Also, your “why” should be more idealistic than you want to look hot in a swimsuit when you go to Cabo this summer.
If you go back and read my transformation story, you can see this all in play. Yes, I want to look and feel healthy and fit, but those are fringe benefits. Mostly I just want to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes that is prevalent in my family, so I can enjoy a long meaningful life. As I told Kerrie many time, I don’t want to just live long enough to see our son grow up. I want to live long enough to see his children grow up. How is that for idealistic?
My journey has been, as I’ve described, a bit of an exploration. I’ve had to discover what works for me. Don’t get super hung up with the number on the scale. Weight, BMI, fat percentage, etc are all just mile markers on the marathon to living a healthy lifestyle.
Resolution success is having the proper mindset.
So how do you set a fitness resolution you can keep? It really all comes down to having the proper mindset. Here are some quick strategies:
- Be goal oriented, but maintain focus on why you made this resolution. Your why should mean you have a plan for after you have achieved your goal.
- Take incremental steps to get you there. Small achievements will reinforce overall success. And if you slip up, or get sidetracked by something you can’t control, it’s easier to get back on track.
- Find something that works for you, and that you enjoy doing. Because your friend lost 30 pounds doing Crossfit, or following a keto diet doesn’t mean you will enjoy those things. Try them if you find them interesting, but be prepared to adjust.
- Finally, develop a network of like minded people who share your goals. Whether that’s through blogging, social media or reading websites like this one. There are no shortage of people out there just like you, and your stage or beyond, who want to support you on your journey.
As we ring in the new year, we want to wish you much success in wherever your health journey takes you. If you ever have questions, or need some advice, click on the contact link to drop us a note.