What health or weight loss goal would you attempt if you knew you wouldn't fail?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that “weight loss” is the most common New Year’s Resolution that’s set. What does come as a surprise though, is that by week two, over 45 % of individuals have already given up on their new goal. And even more surprising, by the end of the year, 92 % have given up on their goal and only about 8 %, have stuck with it and achieved their goal. So why is that? Real talk - staying motivated is hard. In a world where schedules are busier than ever and eating out or fast food is basically the quickest and most convenient way to eat, it’s no wonder it’s increasingly hard to stick to those New Year’s goals. However, as tedious and long-shot as they may seem, it’s not impossible. I want 2018 to be the year that you take back control of your health, regardless of how that looks for you. Maybe for you that means weight loss, maybe it’s lower blood pressure, maybe it’s getting control of your cholesterol or blood sugar levels, or maybe it’s taking back control of you and how you feel and increasing your confidence again. Health and happiness looks to different to all, but my hope, is that through this post and tips below, you will be enabled with the tools and encouragement to make 2018 your healthiest and happiest year yet: so just remember, this is your year and the acronym START NOW.
- Set a specific goal: Think about it like this - if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you ever going to get there? Setting a specific goal helps give you long-term vision and better helps you devise a game-plan to help achieve that goal. For instance, instead of the goal being to lose weight, set a specific amount you want to lose. If you know precisely what you want to achieve, you can more easily focus your attention, knowledge, and motivation towards achieving that specific goal. It also helps you spot distractions quicker, which can get you off-track. So be specific when setting that goal, it will pay off in the end.
- Time-specific: Placing a timeline on your goals substantially increases productivity, accountability, and motivation. Deadlines make you prioritize and think not only about what needs to be done, but also how, to make this goal a reality. It can also make larger goals more obtainable; for instance, setting a goal of losing 2 pounds per week seems much more obtainable than a goal of losing 80 pounds in one year. Give yourself deadlines, the procrastinator in you will thank you later.
- App: Having an app to track your nutrition is huge! Yes, tracking every meal and snack long-term can be super tedious, but for at least the initial 8-12 weeks, it’s vital. For one, it helps you become more aware of what you’re eating. For instance, did you know that a small banana contains about 72 calories, 19 grams of carbs, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein? If you’re trying to keep your carb intake low-to-moderate, you’re probably not going to want to spend 19 grams of them on a small banana. Tracking your daily macros also helps you be more accountable. It’s similar to a food journal; if you know you’re going to have to log that cheeseburger, chances are, you’ll think twice about having it and may choose something healthier instead. Lastly, the app tallies all your food together and helps you stay on track more. It allows you to physically visualize what all you’ve had and what you need to either eat more of, or keep more moderated.
- Realistic: there is nothing worse than setting an unrealistic goal that is physically unobtainable; this immediately and surely sets you up for failure and discouragement. A more efficient way to do it is by setting two goals: one short-term and one long-term, just don’t forget to set a deadline on it. For instance, setting a goal of 2 pounds of weight loss per week for the short-term and setting a long-term goal of 80 pounds of weight loss in one year. If you only look at the long-term goal or the “big picture,” losing 80 pounds may seem overwhelming and completely unobtainable. However by setting the smaller increment goals, it allows you to stay motivated and encouraged more by giving you a sense of accomplishment and success each time you hit your weekly goal.
- Take time to schedule your exercise and meal-planning: Have you ever heard of the “Five-P’s?” Prior planning prevents poor performance; this is something my dad taught me early on. The “Five-P’s” are applicable in various areas of life, but especially with goal-setting and weight loss. Think about it like this: more than likely none of us are just going to wake up one day and go run a marathon. Typically, we would set that goal, sign-up for it, and develop a training schedule. It is the same concept for weight loss. By planning your gym/exercise days, you are increasing your accountability to be active those days. If something is scheduled in your planner or phone, you are more likely to adhere to it versus just mentally planning to go workout. Likewise, by setting a day each week to meal-plan, you are keeping your accountability to stay on track with healthy nutrition, not to mention, making it easier on yourself in the middle of a hustle-bustle busy week.
- Never skip breakfast: If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times; “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Maybe what you haven’t heard though is WHY it’s so important. Trust me, I know that time is precious in the mornings and the thought of taking extra time, (that you really don’t have in the first place) to eat breakfast, doesn’t seem or sound too appealing. However, what if eating breakfast could actually help you lose weight quicker? Would it be worth it then? There have been numerous studies that have shown that eating breakfast in the mornings helps to boost metabolism more and quicker, than skipping breakfast. There’s also been a lot of research that shows that individuals who consume breakfast are less likely to overeat throughout the rest of the day. Do you skip breakfast and then find yourself snacky later or starving by the time lunch rolls around? This could be why. Regardless the amount or lack of time you have in the mornings, at least try to get a protein shake in. They are quick and hey, you can even drink it on your way to work! Fuel yourself in the morning, feel better the rest of the day.
- Organize: organization of your goals and your game-plan to achieve them is vital. By keeping clear and concise records of your goals, your goal deadlines, your exercise schedule, your meal-planning menu, your macro intake, etc... you are more apt to stay on track. Organization though can go even further. Take for instance, your kitchen. Are there foods in there right now that are old or spoiled? Or maybe just really unhealthy for you? Let’s get rid of them and replace them with protein, complex carbs, fruits, and veggies. And maybe we take it a step further and go ahead and wash those fruits and veggies and have them prepackaged in the fridge and ready to go. These are the types of organization that are going to not only enable you to succeed, but also make it a little easier along the way.
- Water, water, water: did you know that water comprises about 60% of the male body and about 55% of the female body? Crazy, huh? Well if that isn’t reason enough to stay hydrated, let me give you a few more. It’s been proven that water can actually help you stay more full in between meals/snacks and of course, it’s calorie-free! The recommendation for exactly how much water you should drink differs for each person, but on average, it’s about 64 oz daily. This number can vary depending on age, body composition, exercise, and other dietary factors. Given all those varying factors, I typically just recommend that you watch your urine color; usually that’s the best way to know if you’re properly hydrated or not. So what if you don’t like water? You can try adding some fruit to it, cucumber or strawberries/lemon are my personal favorites, but you can also add a water packet to it. Very important though, when using water packets, it is vital to choose one that doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners (Crystal Light are the ones I typically pick). And if you’re still struggling to get the water in, make it a competition to yourself. Buy a huge water bottle and mark it with a time-line; this will help you stay motivated to drink it and keep you on track with your intake.
So there you have it! These eight tips mixed with some motivation, hard work, and discipline are the perfect concoction to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals. So are you ready for a healthier and happier you in 2018? What are you waiting for?! —> START NOW!
-Holly Massengill MSN, FNP-BC