Source: Gretchen Rubin
We’ve all been there before. On December 31, you vowed to lose 20 pounds in the upcoming year, yet by the end of the January, you’ve gained 10 more pounds after scarfing down holiday leftovers. Perhaps you resolved to quit smoking five years ago, yet still seem to maintain a pack a day habit.
Only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Why are they so hard to stick to? In many cases, it’s because they’re not realistic. Losing a lot of weight and quitting drinking and smoking are things that take a lot of willpower. Smoking, drinking and eating a lot may be activities you do daily without even thinking, so cutting them out altogether is no easy feat.
Want to be in the minority and be one of the people who does reach their goal in 2017? Follow these tips to improve your chances of success in the coming year.
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Resist the urge to go big.
The bigger your resolution, the more likely you are to fail. That’s because huge goals seem so unattainable, so you’re likely to get overwhelmed and be more likely to give up. Instead, start small. Instead of resolving to lose 30 pounds, start with 10. If you lose more, that’s great. Ten pounds is a much less intimidating number, plus you’re more likely to reach that goal and stay motivated.
Pick just one.
Don’t start off the new year with a dozen resolutions. As humans, our willpower is limited. We can’t be expected to give up all our bad habits and suddenly turn into the perfect, flawless person. It’s just not realistic. Instead, pick just one resolution that’s the most important to you. It’ll be easier for you to accomplish just one goal.
Come up with a plan.
Losing weight is a vague goal. How much weight do you want to lose? How much do you plan to lose per week? You’re more likely to stay focused on your resolution if you come up with an action plan that outlines measurable goals. To lose 10 pounds next year, how much weight do you plan to lose per week or month? What will you do to accomplish this goal? Will you exercise more or reduce calorie intake? Will you change your eating habits? There is so much to think about when coming up with a resolution.
Think about your past accomplishments.
There will be times when willpower will be low. Maybe you’re stressed out and are really craving a cigarette. Maybe a co-worker brought in your favorite donuts for breakfast and you just can’t resist having just one. When times are tough, think about the self-control you demonstrated in the past. Chances are, you do things every day that you don’t particularly want to do, but you stick with them. Maybe a decade ago you worked full-time while going to college. Maybe last year you saved up the $20,000 you needed to buy that new car you desperately wanted. Perhaps today you got all your laundry done instead of binge-watching reality TV shows. Remember that you have more willpower than you think. You will get through this.
Track your progress.
Don’t just come up with a resolution and forget about it. You need to revisit it on a regular basis – at least weekly – to see how things are coming along and tweak your processes, if necessary. The actions you take are mostly responsible for your success, so be sure you’re checking in often to see how much progress you have made toward your goal.
Get a buddy.
It’s easier to keep yourself on track when a friend or family member is on board with you. If you and your friend both vow to go to the gym twice a week, you can go together and stay motivated. You’ll be accountable to not only yourself but another person as well, so it won’t be that easy to take a week off. In some cases, though, your friend can be a negative influence, so if that starts to happen, break it off and continue with your goal on your own. You need positivity to succeed.
Use visual cues.
Want to motivate yourself to lose weight? Post a picture of you in your younger – and skinnier – days where you can see it every day. Want to save money for a specific purpose – like a vacation? Post pictures of Hawaii, the beach or anywhere else you want to visit. These photos serve as visual cues that will remind every day of your goals and how nice it would be to accomplish them.
Don’t forget to eat and rest.
If your goal is one that requires a lot of energy – such as exercising more – you may be so focused that you forget to take care of yourself. As the Snickers commercial goes, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Stress, hunger and fatigue will wear down your resistance, so make sure you’re well-rested and eating enough when you tackle your goals. Avoid all temptations until you’re in the right state of mind.
Reward yourself – carefully.
Once you reached smaller goals, it’s OK to reward yourself along the way. Just make sure that the reward isn’t counterproductive to your goal. For example, if your goal is to quit smoking, rewarding yourself with a pack of cigarettes isn’t going to help. Neither is having a donut when your goal is to lose weight. If you reward yourself, make sure the reward is not related to the goal. For example, you can indulge in a new book or CD or a relaxing bath instead.
Get back on track after a failure.
It will happen. You’ll end up gaining a pound or drink too much at a party. Setbacks happen, but don’t let them bring you down. Instead, use them to your advantage. If you make the mistake once, don’t make a big deal over it. Just vow to not make it again. Keep on going – don’t let one setback become a total failure.
Wishing for something doesn’t make it come true. Resolutions require an immense amount of effort. It can be tough but so rewarding. Follow these tips to stay motivated and who knows – perhaps next year you’ll be in the 8%.