New year, new you
Are you planning a fresh start in 2015? Want to eat more healthily, exercise regularly or lose weight? While we all start the new year with the best intentions, most estimates put the success rate for New Year Resolutions at around 10% – that’s a depressing 9 in 10 chance of failure!
So how can you make sure you’re one of the successful 10% this year? Health and wellness coach Joanne Henson offers the following tips to help you stay on track…
- Set specific targets
If you don’t define exactly what you want, how will you know when you’ve got it?
Want to lose weight? How much? Write it down. Want to get fitter? How much fitter? Think about what you want to achieve in the three, six or 12 months’ time, whether it’s running a marathon or taking part in a 5k charity run, then write it down.
Once you have made a note of what you want to achieve, write down the date by which you want to reach your target. This is really important because if you don’t have a date you’ll drift: what’s another day of not working towards your goal if it doesn’t matter when you achieve it? If you’re aiming at a specific date you can plan accordingly – for instance, you can work out how much weight you’ll need to lose each month in order to hit the target, and then you can plan your diet strategy around that.
- Get organised
Once you’ve got a target and a deadline you can plan the steps you need to take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Without planning, things go awry. Here’s an example: you know you want to fit in three workouts in a week, but you’ve not planned when. Monday night comes along and you’ve got that Monday feeling, so you say to yourself you’ll go to the gym tomorrow. But you then realise you’re meeting friends on Tuesday, which means no workout, and you’re going away at the weekend, so opportunities to fit in your three workouts are disappearing fast. If you’d looked ahead and diarised those workouts, this wouldn’t have happened.
Treat your New Year Resolution as a project and put a plan in place. Buy a nice new notebook or wallchart and take pleasure in updating it.
- Make your plan achievable
Ask yourself is your goal actually possible with the time and resources you are able and willing to dedicate to it?
For instance, if you want to lose a stone and you’re giving yourself six weeks, that’s six weeks of pretty strict eating. But do you actually want to be so strict? Would you rather give yourself eight weeks and allow yourself a few nights out and treats along the way? It’s great to set ambitious goals, but not so great if you’re setting yourself up to fail. Take a good, honest look at your lifestyle and acknowledge those things you know you’ll struggle to give up. If life wouldn’t be the same without Friday night cocktails with your girlfriends, cut yourself some slack, give yourself permission to treat yourself on a Friday and adjust your deadline accordingly.
Give yourself a realistic target and you’re more likely to reach it. And it’s better to achieve a target with a longer timescale than not to achieve it at all.
- Track your progress
Think about creating a journal or spreadsheet or download an app that you can use to record progress – you may only be recording small improvements, but they’re improvements nonetheless, and they’ll add up to one great big improvement if you stick at it.
It’s also very easy for small improvements to go unnoticed. Say you do your usual run today in 15 seconds’ less time than you did three days ago. If you’d casually glanced at the kitchen clock as you left the house and then glanced again when you got back, you probably wouldn’t appreciate that there’d been any improvement. But if you bought yourself a stopwatch or wrist monitor, you’d know about those 15 seconds and be more likely to go out again in two days’ time to try to knock another 15 seconds off your time. Similarly, an inch lost off your waist might not be visible from a glance in the mirror, but a tape measure would record it for you. So get measuring, recording and timing and celebrate those achievements!
- Remember that one slip up does not equal total failure
Don’t let one slip up turn into the end of your plans. If you’ve had one unhealthy meal it’s not going to undo all the healthy eating you’ve done so far this year, and if you’ve missed a workout or two, there’s always next week to get yourself back to the gym and catch up.
Don’t get so angry at yourself for one lapse that you forget to congratulate yourself on the success you’ve had up to that moment. Remind yourself of your successes so far, and put that one bad day in proper perspective.
Being fit and healthy is mainly a matter of consistency – if you’re eating well most of the time and exercising a few days a week, one bad day is not going to undo that. So after a bad day, just make the next day a good one, and you’ll be back on track.
- Stay focused
Coaches often say, “Begin with the end in mind,” as successful goal setting is all about visualising the end goal. However, what is even more important is to progress with the end in mind.
Remind yourself daily what you are aiming at and why you want it. Focus on how great it’s going to feel when you get there – the smaller size jeans, the increased energy, the compliments on how great you’re looking, the satisfaction of completing a race. Find pictures to inspire you, make a vision board, and use social media to follow and link up with others who share your goals. It’s these reminders that will keep you on track.
- Avoid negative language
Many resolutions are about giving things up, so it’s very easy to talk about them in negative terms, “I am giving up alcohol for January,” “I am not eating chocolate,” or, “I am going to stop procrastinating.” But all of these things have a positive end – a healthier you, a leaner you, a more effective you.
If you talk only about what you are giving up, you are bound to feel deprived. Try to replace negative statements with more positive ones – for instance instead of, “I’m not drinking for the whole of January,” say, “I’m having a healthy January to improve my energy levels.” This shifts the focus from what you are missing to what you are looking forward to.
What statements do you make about your resolutions that highlight negatives and deprivation? How can you turn them into positives?
- Change your approach!
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.
If you make the same old resolution every year, this is particularly important. If something hasn’t worked for you before, it’s unlikely to work this time around. For instance, if you’ve started the last three years by joining a slimming club, lost some weight initially and then gained it all back again, why do you think things will be different this time around?
Try a new approach. What can you do differently this year? Get advice if necessary, or ask successful people how they achieved their goals. For weight loss, ditch the quick fix diets and consider other ways of eating. If you want to get fit but start off every year with a few runs only to lose interest the first time it rains, what other forms of exercise could you do instead? Shake things up and try new methods to make this the year you achieve your goals.
Joanne Henson is a health and wellness coach specialising in helping people with a history of failed diets and fitness regimes to change their relationship with food and exercise for good. From unhealthy beginnings she overcame her own obstacles and now motivates and inspires others to become the healthier, leaner, happier people they’ve always wanted to be.
Joanne is the author of What’s Your Excuse For Not Eating Healthily? and What’s Your Excuse For Not Getting Fit? Both are available on amazon.co.uk in paperback and Kindle format.