Losing weight ranks number one on the list of New Year’s resolutions, yet so many people fail year after year. Check out our tips for shedding those extra pounds and keeping them off for good.
Okay, your top New Year’s resolution for 2008 is to lose weight. And this year you really mean it. But there’s that nagging voice inside that keeps saying, “Yeah, but last year I really meant it, too. And the year before that….”
Our suggestion is to ignore, for the most part, the discouraging messages that little voice is sending you. It’s also a good idea to pay attention a bit. After all, if you’ve had trouble sticking to your weight-loss goals in the past, then maybe you should spend some time thinking about how to be strategic in order to stay strong and consistent this time.
Willpower is fine, and it’s good to be committed to your goals. But you’ve probably learned by now that willpower can take you only so far. So instead of relying on yourself to consistently make good moment-by-moment decisions, it would be much better to come up with a clear and specific strategy for being healthier. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for setting and sticking to the goals that will help you lose weight and feel better about yourself.
One of the worst things you can do for yourself is to set your goals too high. There’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself, but it’s probably not realistic to aim for winning a bodybuilding championship by April or for cutting out all fat from your diet. Instead, set goals you know you can achieve simply by being consistent. For example, maybe you aim to work out three times a week for 20 minutes and to deny yourself the late-night Oreos before you go to bed. For lots of us, those would be not only achievable goals, but ones that would make an immediate difference about the way we feel about ourselves. Then, once you establish good patterns and begin to see real progress, you can offer yourself greater challenges. But for now, be realistic about what you want to accomplish over the coming weeks. Remember that you’re looking to change your lifestyle, and that’s not going to happen overnight.
Along with being realistic, it’s also important to be as clear and precise as possible when you think about your goals for yourself. What do you hope to accomplish during the first two weeks? In the first month? By the end of spring? But keep this in mind: Your ultimate goal might be to lose a certain number of pounds or inches, but your more immediate goal should be to achieve consistency in your workout schedule and your diet. If you are consistent, your more visible goals will take care of themselves and you’ll start seeing the evidence on the scale and in the way your clothes fit.
Go Step by Step
Establishing good eating and exercise habits is about baby steps. You might have friends who are running 10Ks every Saturday and mountain climbing during the week. And maybe they eat nothing but wheat grass and psyllium husks. But that doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing. After all, taking too big a leap can lead to failure and be really discouraging. Instead, take small steps that will lead you toward success. Begin by taking an honest assessment of where you stand physically right now. You know yourself and what you can and can’t do. Then establish good patterns and make sure that you’re making positive strides toward health and fitness.
Once again, for most of us, willpower can take us only so far. In other words, we’re going to have a hard time turning down the doughnuts if we go to Krispy Kreme “just for coffee.” And it can be pretty tough to pass up that ice cream in the freezer that’s there “just for guests.” It’s also true that if your only time to work out is early in the morning, you may need to decline certain invitations that will keep you out late the night before. Notice that willpower’s still involved here, since sticking to your goals means that sometimes you have to turn down things you want in favor of other things you want more. But the point is to make decisions that keep you from having to rely strictly on willpower. The fewer temptations you make yourself face, the easier it will be to follow through and continue to reach your goals.
Watch for ways to congratulate yourself when you are being consistent and making positive strides toward your goals. For example, once you’ve dropped a few pounds or inches, buy yourself that new outfit you’ve had your eye on. Or after you’ve maintained a workout schedule regularly for two weeks, treat yourself to an evening out. The idea is simply to reward yourself for making good decisions and for altering your lifestyle for the better. Let’s face it: It’s not easy to exercise regularly or to make sacrifices about what we eat. So compensate yourself for the times that you do make these sacrifices.
Don’t Go at it Alone
Having a buddy who’s committed to similar goals can be a big-time help as you try to lose weight and be more healthy. So find someone who will be willing to work out or go to yoga classes with you, someone you can call when you’re about to blow your diet—or when you’ve already blown it. This type of support and accountability can often make the difference between failure and consistent success.
In the end, it all comes down to being realistic, specific, and intentional. Sticking to your weight-loss goals is ultimately about making good, healthy decisions and then doing your best to live according to your strategy. And don’t beat yourself up for the times you “fall off the wagon.” It happens to all of us. Just get back on and get going again toward being as healthy and happy as possible.