10 Steps to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight
By JESS BARRON
Staying fit and healthy and losing weight were the top New Year's resolutions in 2015, according to a January 2015 Nielson survey of U.S. consumers. With the CDC reporting that 69 percent of Americans are overweight, it is highly likely that fitness, health and weight loss will be on top of many people's resolution lists again this year.
Forty-five percent of Americans usually make New year’s Resolutions. I’m one of them, are you?
The good news: Those of us who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain our goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions. Also, 75% of people who make their resolutions are able to keep them through the first week of the new year.
The bad news: Only 8% of people who make New Year's resolutions are able to succeed at them entirely to their satisfaction. Let's try to raise that statistic to a higher percentage, and at the very least, help to make sure you and I are among the 8% who succeed at our resolutions this year!
Steps to Take to Ensure Your Success
1. Make your goal(s) measurable. For example, instead of saying that your new year's resolution is to "lose weight," it is more effective to set a well-defined measurable goal such as "I’d like to lose one to two pounds per week until I reach my goal of fifteen pounds lost" or "my goal is to fit back into my favorite pair of jeans." Similarly, if you have a fitness resolution, rather than saying your goal is to "get strong" or "get fit," it's very likely to be more effective if you set concrete goals such as "my goal to be able to do 50 push-ups" or "I want to be able to do bicep curls with 30-pound dumbbells," or "I will go to the gym 5 days per week."
Instead of saying that your new year's resolution is to "eat healthy," you'll be more likely to achieve the success you're looking for if you set a goal such as "I will eat 4 servings of vegetables every day," or "I will track my food every day using the LIVESTRONG.COM free MyPlate calorie tracker app" or "I will eat less than 30 grams of sugar per day and track it on LIVESTRONG’s calorie tracker." If you're a runner, your resolution could be to prepare to run a 5k in March, or a half marathon this summer, or to improve your time on whichever race you run.
Make your goal challenging, but achievable. Write down your goal, sign it, date it, and put it somewhere prominent. This year, my new year's resolution is to complete The 8-Week STRONGER Challenge.
2. Commit yourself to your goal. It may sound stupid, but writing it down is a way to focus and commit yourself. Write in your notebook or a day planner or on a Facebook status or on Twitter. “This January and February, I will do 30-minute workouts 6 days a week to complete the STRONGER 8-Week Challenge,” is what I wrote. You might write: “I commit to tracking my food daily on LIVESTRONG’s calorie tracker for 30 days.” Or you might write: “I will walk for 40 minutes a day during my lunch break.”
3. Tell your friends and family. Share your resolution with your friends and family, and ask them what their resolutions are. This way, they understand your intention and what you are aiming to do, and some of them may even support you in it. You might also find that some of their goals are also to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, or get fit.
4. Reach out to your online social network for support and accountability. Letting your online network know your new year's resolution is also helpful. They can help you to stay accountable. If your goal is to work out every day, log your workouts as status updates on Facebook or Twitter and tell what you did and how you feel afterward. If your goal is to eat more vegetables, take photos of your meals and upload them to Facebook or to a food blog. Your friends will likely leave comments praising your good efforts. Additionally, if you are having trouble getting motivation to work out on a particular morning, you can post a status update that you need motivation, and people might provide some or post inspiring quotes for you.
5. Find a workout buddy or online group. Having a workout buddy can help increase your motivation on those days in mid-January where you may be feeling less than thrilled about doing your workout. Scheduling time to to go running or lift weights with your buddy can make exercise more fun, and it can also make you less likely to skip your workouts. My husband and I decided in 2011 that we both wanted to do all 90 days of P90X. Since those workouts are an hour long each day, we were concerned we wouldn't have time in our busy schedules. We agreed to set our iPhone alarms an hour earlier on work days at 6a.m. so that we would have time to do the hour-long P90X workouts together before getting ready for work. Because we both knew we needed to get up, we were less likely to push the "snooze" button. Also, there were definitely days where I did not feel like doing particular workouts such as Plyometrics or Ab Ripper X, but having a buddy helped make it seem more do-able. For example, some days we complained to each other how we were sore and we didn't want to work out. One of us would say, "We can do this. Let's get it done."
If you don't have any friends around who share your fitness goals, you can find likeminded people in the LIVESTRONG.COM Community Conversations. You can also join an official Facebook challenge group, such as the LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Abs Challenge. When I lost 20 pounds in 2012, I did it as part of a challenge group. The comraderie, healthy competition, and support from the challenge croups members in our online Facebook group helped to get me through times when I wanted to go out and get a glass of wine, or eat a snack that wasn't on my diet plan. For example, our challenge group members posted what it felt like to skip cake at friends' birthday parties or to skip a beer with co-workers, and we knew that we were all making sacrifices in order to achieve our goals.
6. Prepare. This step is incredibly important. To succeed at weight loss or dieting, before you even begin, it's important to remove temptations in your refrigerator, pantry, cupboards, or on your countertops. Find any junk food or high calorie food that you find too tempting (for me this means the bag of Kettle Corn, leftover holiday pumpkin pie, the English toffee, any cookies, even the healthy-sounding dark chocolate bars) and throw it away. If you're concerned about wasting, just make yourself think of this moment and agree with yourself that you won't buy any more of the offending food item for the first 6 months of the year.
Most importantly, plan out what you will eat for the week ahead and prepare it in advance. I always do this on Sundays. I cook up some chicken breast and steam some broccoli, asparagus, and spinach. Then I portion the chicken into 6-oz servings and put it into five or six different lunch-size Tupperware containers and in each one I'd also add some of the broccoli, spinach, or asparagus. Sometimes I add lettuce or arugula and make a grilled chicken salad. Sometimes I use salmon or tofu instead of chicken. Then each day as I’m heading out the door, I just grab one of these lunches, and heat it up in the microwave at work.
Also, prepare some healthy snacks that you enjoy and portion them in grab-and-go containers. On Sundays, I almost always boil six-to-ten eggs to bring to work as snacks throughout the week. Having healthy snacks on-hand is essential. Celery sticks bore me, so instead I slice up carrots, red peppers, and jicama and portion them out in baggies or small Tupperware containers. I bring the veggies to work with either a hard-boiled egg or a tablespoon and a half of almond butter, peanut butter or sunflower butter.
Preparation is also important for exercise goals. If your new year's resolution is to go to the gym 5 days a week, look at the schedule of classes and plan which ones you will hit. Put them as appointments into your calendar so you will remember to get there. If you want to commit to a home fitness program such as P90X or INSANITY, look at the schedule, figure out how long you will need and which workouts you need to do each day.
7. Plan a reward for yourself. One of my former co-workers was trying to hit a goal weight and stay at it for a whole year. She loves clothes, and she promised herself a shopping spree when she reached her goal weight. She took this one step further and also made another rule that she could not buy herself any items of clothing when she was not at her target weight. This strategy of reward and “punishment” rule-making not only helped her to reach her goal weight — it also helped her maintain her goal weight over the whole year! She worked hard to keep herself eating and exercising properly so that she would be able to stay at her goal weight and so that she could allow herself to buy sweaters and blazers at J. Crew.
Of course, your reward doesn't need to be clothing or other material goods, it can also be an experience such as going on a vacation or weekend get-away or even out to a special restaurant when you reach your goal. Make it something that you really want, and that really motivates you. Write down "If I reach ___ pounds, I will allow myself to buy/go to/do/eat at __________" and sign the piece of paper. Carry it with you in your wallet, bag, briefcase, or purse. When a cookie or brownie tempts you or you're feeling like you don't have the motivation for your workout, take out the piece of paper and remind yourself how much you want your reward.
Since some end goals might take a long time to reach, it probably also makes sense to reward yourself with small treats along the way for each week of your successful compliance. For example, for each week of exercising every day along with calorie tracking on MyPlate, you might decide to allow yourself to go out for a movie (skip the snack bar and instead bring carrot or celery sticks if you need something to gnaw on), get a manicure/pedicure, buy some cool new workout gear or running shoes, get a massage. The clothing, movies, and massages all worked to help motivate me to lose twenty pounds this past summer.
8. Visualize what success at your resolution looks and feels like. Spend a few minutes thinking about what it will look like and feel like when you achieve your goal. If your resolution is to fit in your favorite jeans again, imagine yourself wearing them and how you will feel. Perhaps you'll be lighter in your step and it will increase your confidence in social situations. If your goal is to strengthen your abs, perhaps when you have reached your goal, you'll feel less fatigue sitting at your desk or decrease any lower back pain you might have. Try to visualize your success in as much detail as possible and spend a few minutes each day to set an intention for yourself.
9. Believe in your ability to do this, praise yourself, and take pride. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to commit to your resolution, and be proud of each accomplishment along the way toward your goal. Thank yourself for every workout you get done and really let yourself feel proud. It takes guts and determination to workout and eat healthy, and you're doing it. Great job!
10. If you mess-up, forgive yourself and recommit to your goal. Despite all your best efforts and attention to steps one through nine, you might occasionally mess up. We're all human, and it happens to all of us. My high school reunion happened in the second month of my challenge group this past summer. Even though I had sworn off of alcohol for two months as part of the challenge group, and I had gone a whole month without having a beer at birthday parties, BBQs, and baby showers, when an old friend passed me a cocktail during the midst of the reunion, I ended up toasting with her and taking a sip, and the next thing I knew, I had finished the drink. Rather than allowing this slip-up to make me feel bad and snowball into trying desserts and hors d'oeuvres, I forgave myself and recommitted myself to my goal. When friends I hadn't seen in years were taking shots at the bar and handing me drinks, I simply handed them to another friend and said I was all set. I ordered sparkling water with a lime, and continued talking and catching up with everyone. The best part, the next day, I didn't have a headache or a hangover and I recommitted to my goal of refraining from drinking until the end of the Challenge. If you slip up, forgive yourself, and reign yourself back in. Remember how important your goal is, and remember why you want to achieve it.
I hope you're now feeling like you have the information you need to set your intentions toward reaching all the goals that are important to you. Now's the best time to get started, so let's do this!
Also, add me on Twitter, and feel free to send me a tweet to let me know what your resolutions are this year. I'd love to hear about them.
READERS – Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? What is it? What steps are you taking to achieve it? Will you be joining us in the The 8-Week STRONGER Challenge? Leave a comment below, and let us know!
Jess Barron is VP of Editorial at LIVESTRONG.COM. A longtime foodie and fan of Farmer’s Market food, Jess particularly loves heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs with burrata cheese, and anything with pumpkin or peanut butter in it! Her love for food fuels her desire to exercise daily. Some of her favorite workout routines include running, yoga, P90X, INSANITY, and mixed martial arts. Jess’s writing can also be found at Poprocks.com. She has appeared on MSNBC’s “The Most,” ABC News Now, and XM satellite radio and her writing has appeared on Wired.com and Yahoo!