Despite the annual chatter about New Year's resolutions, many of us give up by February and only a few stay the course for a whole year.
Why is that? Sometimes it’s because we’re not really committed to the goal. Other times, the resolution is the issue. It may be too broad or unrealistic, or there might not be a solid plan for achieving it. But with some strategizing, you may be able to have real, lasting success.
Here are some goal-setting ideas from the coaches at Real Appeal, an online weight-loss support program available at no additional cost to eligible UnitedHealthcare members and dependents as part of their plan benefits.
The coaches recommend you begin choosing a resolution by asking yourself a few questions:
● What healthy change do you want to focus on most?
● What do you feel confident achieving?
● What are you ready to start working on now?
● What is most important to you?
If you’re still struggling to decide, consider using a Wellness Wheel to help identify opportunities for improvement. The wheel may help you build awareness around eating, moving, sleeping and other key areas that influence your health and wellness.
Next, consider these five tips:
1. Focus on one goal at a time
Tackling too much at once may lead to inconsistency. Try sticking to one priority until you feel confident adding another.
If you’ve decided to log the food you eat and start a daily exercise routine, consider focusing on your food journal first. After you’ve developed a reliable system for tracking what you eat, begin upping your exercise regimen.
2. Set realistic and measurable resolutions
Make sure each resolution is attainable and decide exactly how you’ll measure its success. Avoid vagueness by using specific times and numbers.
Instead of a resolution to “have a less stressful morning routine,” make it your goal to get out of bed by 6:45 a.m. each day. Instead of pledging to “move more,” resolve to add a brisk, 30-minute walk to your daily routine. Start small, knowing you can always increase your measurable goals.
3. Make your goals enjoyable
Set resolutions you want to accomplish, not ones you think you should reach, and come up with ways to enjoy the time you’ve committed to them.
If your resolution is about movement, create a daily playlist to listen to while getting in your steps. If your measurable goal is to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, consider enrolling in a virtual cooking class that features interesting ways to add them to dishes.
4. Plan for challenges and how you’ll overcome them
Brainstorm a list of things that could get in the way of accomplishing your goals and come up with solutions ahead of time. Start by trying to remember obstacles with previous resolutions. Be honest about roadblocks and creative with solutions.
For example, what will you do if the weather is bad and you’re unable to walk outside? How can you incorporate purposeful movement around your home or apartment?
5. Stay accountable and get support from people around you
Strong social support may improve your motivation, mental health and behavior. Surround yourself with positive people and advocate for what you need to reach your goal.
Consider asking a family member or friend to work with you on a common goal or join a group that will help you stay accountable.
If you decide your resolution will be to lose weight, the Real Appeal coaches suggest these areas of focus:
1. Track your food and drinks
Research has shown people who track their food lose twice as much weight as those who don't. A food diary may help keep you accountable and reveal things you might not even notice about your eating and drinking habits. More tracking provides more insight, so aim for at least three to four days of monitoring per week.
2. Eat quality food
Fill your plates with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, such as turkey and fish. If that will mean big changes to how you currently eat, consider making a series of healthier food and drink swaps over time:
● Whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal, instead of white bread and pasta
● Grilled instead of fried foods
● Unsalted nuts, air-popped popcorn or whole-grain crackers instead of chips
● Water or black coffee instead of soda, juice or sugary coffee drinks
3. Get moving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have lost weight and kept it off typically engage in 60-90 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week.
The activity doesn’t necessarily have to happen all at once. Doing it in chunks may make it easier to fit into your schedule. Also consider starting small and adding minutes as you get stronger and can maintain consistency.
One final thought: Don’t limit yourself to setting resolutions once a year. Revisit your goals all year long and use these tips to set yourself up for success.