Starting the New Year Off Right
By Nicole Flanagan
I love a new year. It almost seems like we can start all over, finally become that wonderful, productive, healthy, happy person we’ve always wanted to be. The trouble is, the enthusiasm to make changes, especially with exercise and diet, tends to fade once we realize we can’t change everything overnight. If you want to make lasting changes, there are three things you can do to make your resolutions work all year long: Adjust your attitude, change your lifestyle and come up with a plan for success.
If you have the wrong attitude about fitness, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Most people look at exercise as:
* Punishment for bad eating
* An obligation
* Time consuming
* Impossible to sustain over a long period of time
If any of these sound familiar, how long do you think you’ll stick with your program? Nobody wants to do something painful, boring or obligatory. Before you throw yourself into weight loss, get yourself a more positive attitude about exercise and figure out a new way to look at fitness. Try a different perspective and look at exercise as:
* A break from a stressful workday
* A way to boost energy and mood
* The only time you’ll have to yourself all day
* A chance to get totally physical and let your mind rest
* A chance to reward your body for working so hard
* A way to improve your quality of life immediately
One of the resolutions on every one’s list is weight loss. Remember that losing weight and maintaining that weight loss is a lifetime prospect. You will never stop working to maintain your fitness and weight. So, before you start that same old diet or exercise program, ask yourself this question: Can I sustain this diet for the long term? Is this exercise program something I can do every day? Once you recognize the gravity of permanently losing weight, you’ll need to change your lifestyle to accommodate this goal. Figure out your bad habits. Keep a food/activity journal for an entire week. Do it without judgment or shame–you’re simply trying to figure out what you’re doing every day that may be hurting your weight loss goals. Then work towards replacing those bad habits, one at a time, with different habits. Experts know that you can’t break bad habits without forming new ones. If you take away your daily Egg McMuffin and don’t replace it with something else you’ll drift right back into the old McDonald’s habit. This may sound simplistic, and it is. Giving up something yummy for something healthy isn’t easy. You have to change your environment to make it impossible to have or even want that Egg McMuffin. Get started with these ideas. Decide what you’ll eat instead of fast food. Stock up on breakfast foods you like, keep meal replacement bars in the car or try healthy fruit shakes or smoothies. Eat before you get in the car so you won’t be starving and, therefore, tempted to hit the drive thru. Change your driving route to work so you don’t even pass by McDonald’s. Don’t carry cash in the car (even if you DO have the urge to indulge, you won’t be able to), write down your weight loss goal and tape it to your steering wheel or your glove compartment so, when you’re reaching for your wallet, you’re immediately reminded your goals.
Your best chance at making your resolutions last is to make a plan for success. A few simple steps taken ahead of time can save you time and energy. Once you have figured out how to change your bad eating habits by replacing them with good ones, you’ve learned to create an environment that doesn’t allow those bad habits to exist. Now, you need to make a plan for what you really want. Write down specific goals you have (not just ‘I want to lose weight.’). List everything, for example: How much weight you want to lose. Make sure the amount of weight you want to lose is reasonable for your height and frame. Next, set a target date to reach your goals. Make sure you’ve given yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach that goal (a safe bet would be to lose a pound a week). Also write down the reasons why you want to lose weight (you are getting married or want to look good in a bathing suit for summer). Think about how you will feel once you reach your goals. Trying to set small goals throughout your program is a good way to keep yourself motivated. Plan ahead to figure out how you’ll maintain your weight loss once you reach your goal (remember, it’s a lifetime thing-even when you reach your goal-you can’t quit!).
Now that you have your goals set, it is time to set up a fitness program! To set up a good routine, you’ll need to know the basics of a complete program. Your program need to involve cardio, strength training and stretching. Easing your way into a new workout will ensure that you do not get overwhelmed and that you can stay committed. If you are already a member of a gym, try signing up for a single personal training session and have a trainer show you how to use some of the cardio and weight machines. If hiring a personal trainer is not in your budget, grab your best friend and get them to commit to two days a week with you. When you have someone else who is depending on you to be there it gives you a bit more motivation to get up and get to the gym. If you feel that working out on your own is not going to work, try signing up for a class. Group classes are a great way to stay motivated and, believe it or not, they can be fun!
The important thing to remember is that losing weight and staying fit requires that you change your lifestyle. You have to change the way you think about exercise and eating; change the way you schedule your day and how you prioritize your tasks. It’s easy to lose a few pounds, but it’s hard to keep them off for good. Being prepared for what’s ahead is your first step in the right direction. Good luck in the New Year!