It should come to the surprise of no one that the top new year’s resolution for Americans, according to polls, tends to be some variation of “get fit,” “get healthy,” or “lose weight.”
As a society, we seem to be obsessed with health and fitness—at least on January 1st. Most of us know how our resolutions for the new year typically go. We stick with it for a little while. Maybe we get a gym membership. But eventually, we get discouraged when we don’t see the results we’d like or we fall off of the wagon and it’s back to business as usual.
For those of us who want to make a real life change—who really want it to stick long-term—we have to approach these new year’s resolutions in a new way. We have to start thinking differently.
4 New Ways to Approach Your Health & Wellness New Year’s Resolutions
1) Start small and grow as you go.
In the workout world, there is this culture of “go big or go home,” and it rarely works for making resolutions stick. If you’re not already in the routine of working out, “going big” is going to send you packing pretty fast. You have to start small and you have to be okay with that. Is it going to feel slow? Probably.
It’s important, though, to build that foundation. We have to build the habit, establish what is manageable, and build upon it. If you take on too much and burn out, you’ll give up within a few weeks. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a diet or exercise. If you’re trying to work out for hours or depriving yourself of too many foods or calories, you’re going to wind up feeling overwhelmed and resentful.
Take baby steps. There’s no race. It’s more important to establish good habits and a solid foundation for wellness.
2) Don’t play the shame game.
When we slip up and fail, we tend to give up. Whether we feel discouraged, frustrated, or ashamed, those negative emotions are often used as excuses to stop. We turn them into evidence:
See? I knew I couldn’t do it.
We beat ourselves up. We mourn weak wills and our inability to stick with it. But here’s the thing: shame and self-flagellation never help anyone be better. It never helps you reach your goals. It’s not a good motivator. If you do feel negative emotions when you fall off the wagon, you can turn it into motivation to do better. Let it make you determined. But don’t allow yourself to feel ashamed.
No one, myself included, does this health and fitness thing perfectly all the time. It’s a journey, and journeys come with peaks and valleys. You’ll have good days and bad. What matters is trying in the first place.
3) Choose high-quality motivation.
Why are you trying to be well?
This is a big question. Plenty of us resolve to be healthier and more fit, but oftentimes, our reasoning is motivated by something that can easily be swayed. You want to be sexier. You want to fit into better clothes. You want that beach bod. These aren’t great motivations because they are easily trumped by short-term desires (like restaurant cake when you’re out with friends.)
They aren’t bad things to want, they’re just easily swayed. What’s a better motivation? I want to be fit because I want to be able to play with my kids without getting winded. I want to be fit so I can be around for my grandkids. I want to live longer. I want to beat diabetes.
There are better motivations than just losing weight. You need to decide what high-quality motivation is going to get you to stick with it through every temptation and setback that life is going to throw your way.
4) Keep a log.
One of the simplest ways to get a health and wellness resolution to stick is to simply log it. Keep a record of your progress. It’s simpler now than ever with apps like MyFitnessPal and Fitbit, but you can do it the old-fashioned way with a journal, too.
The act of logging your progress, whether it’s your weight, inches, miles you ran, or how many pounds you could lift allows you to see that you’re getting somewhere. It lets you see your journey. You can monitor yourself, give yourself feedback, and know where you really are. Studies show it really helps you not only stick with it but meet your goals!
Whatever health and fitness goal you have for the year, I hope you approach it with realistic expectations, goals, and support.
I'd love to know what you're planning, so let me know in the comments. Good luck and Happy New Year!