Eighty-eight percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, mostly due to a lack of strategy. Whether you are aiming to quit smoking or shed 15 unwanted pounds, you need a detailed plan. Give yourself the advantage this January. Learn from the mistakes of the past, and avoid the six mistakes that most commonly doom our New Year’s resolutions.
If you don’t know exactly where you are going, how can you find your way? Too often, people set resolutions that have no specific target or timeframe. Resolving to lose weight is far too vague. Instead, determine exactly how many pounds you want to shed (this can target can be determined by your physician). Setting a timeframe for achieving that weight loss can boost your efforts. If you know you only have until May 1 to lose 20 pounds, you’ll waste less time now. When quitting smoking, always set a time frame. Once the going gets rough, focusing on making it to 30 days is easier than feeling lost with 11 months to go.
While seizing the day can be gratifying in some situations, this mentality is nightmarish for most New Year’s resolutions – especially for those trying to lose weight. You must pave your own path to success. Throw out fatty, sugar-laden junk foods. Plan each meal of the week. Pack your lunches before you go to sleep. Review a restaurant’s menu prior to leaving your house. If you don’t look ahead, you cannot anticipate potential setbacks. You eventually block your own progress. Take time every Sunday or Monday to plan your meals and shop for healthier snacks.
People often rely too heavily on archaic methods, even when these methods have been thoroughly debunked by research. When attempting to lose weight, skipping meals or drastically reducing your portions sizes is a recipe for binge-eating and eventual weight gain. Pay attention to new studies and findings. It turns out that fatty foods like almonds and salmon actually reduce cravings and inflammation, respectively. Skipping meals can send your body into fat-storing mode, making weight loss exceedingly difficult. Instead, eat nutrient dense foods like broccoli, carrots and blueberries to stay full without consuming thousands of unhealthy calories.
There are simply too many gadgets, apps and spiral notebooks around to fail in this manner. Something exists to help you hold yourself accountable, so use it. If you’re three weeks into your resolution and you have not yet documented the calories you’ve eaten, the distance you’ve run or how you overcame your last cigarette craving, then you need to start immediately. Long-term success requires short-term accomplishments, so set frequent smaller targets en route to your overarching goal. When you’ve reached a milestone, treat yourself to something small. You will value the treat as an earned success. When you’re finished, set your next minor goal and get to work.
For the days you feel exhausted or overstressed, an accountability partner becomes your greatest asset. According to the New York Times, sharing your resolution with another person makes you 30 percent more likely to achieve your goal. You don’t even need to know your partner. The website stickK.com – a self-proclaimed online “commitment store” – offers contracts, referees and even incentives to help fulfill your goals. The website recently reviewed 125,000 of their contracts and found that, when an accountability referee was chosen and the goal was incentivized, people accomplished their goals 80 percent of the time. Whether online or in your own home, find a partner to keep you focused.
If you are trying to overhaul the way you have eaten for your entire life, it is unreasonable to expect a perfect transition. Expect missteps. They are bound to happen at some point. Too often, a single slip-up results in what is known as “counterregulatory eating,” in which a stressful situation leads to less self-control at the dinner table. Recognize your mistake as a small setback – nothing more. If you’re giving up cigarettes, a single smoke won’t erase your work, but a whole pack could lead to your throwing in the towel. Assess how the mistake made you feel physically and emotionally, talk to your accountability partner if you have one and then get back to work.
No matter your New Year’s resolution, be sure to plan ahead. Determine a specific, long-term outcome you want to achieve, and then detail the small steps you will need to make to get there. Along the way, document your progress and reward your success. And always enlist a friend to keep you on track – they are often the best motivators. In no time, you will buck the negative trends and fulfill your resolution.