89% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions (Journal of Clinical Psychology, University of Scranton), but fail to accomplish their goals. Weight loss, exercising and eating healthier are in the top 10 most common resolutions. Why do we make resolutions year after year if they don’t work? To make changes that stick takes more than the magic date of 01/01/2013.
To be successful with our goals we need to develop (1) our big “why”, (2) rituals, (3) a new awareness and (4) monitoring systems that keep us moving slowly towards our goals each day.
Step One: Find Your WHY!
The Why is the core compelling reason that energizes your fitness goals. Clarifying why you want to get fit or lose weight is the key to sticking with your program when your willpower fades. Two key factors to be aware of are external motivation and internal motivation. Weight loss often begins with external motivation, to fit into a certain pair of jeans for instance. This type of motivation usually works in the short term, but for long-term success, internal (intrinsic) motivation is key. The internal motivation can be found by asking yourself two simple questions:
Why do I really want this?
What are the short and long term consequences of me not doing this?
The clearer you become on your true “WHY” the more committed you will be to achieve your goal.
Examples of Weak Whys: Fit into a size _____ or Look great for my trip to _______
Examples of Powerful Whys: Be able to play with my children ~ Feel confident in my body or to lower my blood pressure
Step Two: Create Fitness and Health Rituals
When we do not have “automatic” behaviors and rituals regarding our exercising and eating we are at the mercy of external forces. By creating specific fitness and health rituals we take control of our choices regardless of the environment. Rituals like daily morning exercise become a habit after approximately 30 days.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Once you have one healthy habit in place you can add more. Start small, something like “I commit to drink 8 glasses of water each day” and make an X on your calendar for every day you do drink 8 glasses of water. These small steps lead to an increase in self-esteem and make it easier to take on bigger fitness and health goals, like eliminating soda and refined sugar or doing a 10K.
Step Three: Awareness
Develop a practice of becoming at least 5% more aware of what you are eating, when you are eating and why you are eating each day. Many of us are on automatic pilot when it comes to our food choices. Eating on the go, eating when we’re bored, stressed, or tired can lead to unhealthy choices and weight gain. Commit to being just a little more aware, each time you eat and you may find yourself choosing a salad over French fries. Observe yourself and be aware to create positive change.
Step Four: Monitoring
Would you take a road trip without deciding on your destination or turning on your GPS? Probably not. A guidance and monitoring system is the only way you’ll know if you’re heading in the right direction to reach your goal. Below are 3 ways to monitor your progress and ensure your success:
1) Enlist the support of others. Tell your family, spouse, friends, co-workers and anyone else that you interact with on a regular basis your health and fitness goals. Let them know specifically how they can support your goals. For example ask your friend to call you once a week and check in on how many times that week you exercised.
2) Make sure you assess your goals every month. You may need to make modifications to your goals as situations arise, but that doesn’t mean you should just abandon your goals all together. For example, if your goal is to walk 20 minutes each morning and you start a new job and have to be at work an hour earlier, choose a more realistic time to get your walking workout, perhaps after work or during your lunch break.
3) Use technology to monitor your progress. Use tools like the BodyMedia armband that automatically tracks your daily caloric expenditure, intake and your sleep cycle. It’s exciting to see daily and weekly progress on the BodyMedia website’s activity manager. Other online support tools like FitOrbit, a website that matches you with an on-line personal trainer is an excellent resource because it provides customized meal plans and workouts, personalized feedback from your trainer and accountability. I’m a trainer on the site and am so impressed by my clients’ commitment to achieving their fitness/health goals.
Finding your why, creating and honoring rituals, becoming more aware, and monitoring your progress and success are four steps that can make the upcoming year your healthiest yet! Happy New Year!
Ashley Marriott has inspired thousands of people to live healthier and happier lives during her 14 years as a fitness professional. She has helped thousands of people reach their weight loss and fitness goals. Her classes and trainings reach a broad range of clients that include celebrities, busy moms, weekend warriors, seniors and professionals who all share the desire to get fit, have fun, and lead healthier lives. She has co-authored three books, Dump Your Trainer, Size 2 For Life and Your Best Body Now. She is the creator of Burn ‘N Firm fitness series and has been featured on Exercise TV. She is a frequent guest on radio and television (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and the CW networks) sharing her get fit strategies and has written dozens of fitness and nutrition articles for publications worldwide. She continues to teach packed classes throughout Los Angeles, bringing an infectious enthusiasm to all of her classes and training sessions. www.FitOrBit.com