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It’s the time of year when gyms fill up and cake sales nosedive. The single most common New Years Resolution is to lose weight – with related resolutions around exercising more and eating healthier following on its heels.
Unfortunately, by February, the cake sales are back up, the gyms have emptied, and we all feel faintly guilty.
According to Forbes, just 8% of New Years Resolutions actually succeed.
The sad truth is, resolutions usually fail because they are too vague, too ambitious, or not meaningful to us.
Is losing weight a good New Years Resolution?
Now this is an interesting question. On the one hand, yo-yo diets do more harm than good. The social pressure to ‘be thin’ leads to a huge amount of mental anxiety and distress. Losing weight is often driven by a desire to fit in, to meet approval from other people and that’s never a good basis for a resolution.
On the other hand, obesity is on the rise everywhere in the world. In the UK alone 24% of our population is obese. We walk less, work more sedentary jobs, and are surrounded by a surplus of cheap, high-calorie foods. And the consequences of that are diabetes, heart disease and cancer. On top of that, obesity can lower your quality of life.
Many of us put on a small amount of weight every year, and then in middle age discover the cumulative effect is that we’re much fatter than we ever expected to be. Others struggle with our weight from childhood, dropping and gaining in a cycle of determination and shame.
Before you set this as a resolution, ask yourself: what do you really want?
Being thin is not intrinsically motivating.
Rather, the motivation comes from social approval, living without pain, or being able to play with your children without losing breath. It comes from the joy of being in a body that is strong and flexible, or from the rush of endorphins as you achieve a physical feat you never thought you could do.
Don’t just decide to lose weight. Instead, think about what that actually means for you.
What will you be able to do if you lose weight that you can’t do now? (And why can’t you do them now? Perhaps you can, and waiting is just an excuse to not live the life you want?)
Setting a goal to be more healthy
A goal should be SMART, that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Let’s take a look at three vague health-related New Years Resolutions and then come up with some SMART goals to help us achieve them.
I resolve to lose weight
This is easy to turn into a SMART goal. You simply decide on a sensible amount of weight you want to lose and set a timeframe.
Generally speaking you should aim for a weight loss of 1-2lbs per week.
SMART goal for losing weight:
- I resolve to lose 8 lbs by February 28th.
Then you come up with an attainable plan to achieve this. For example you might pick some of the following actions:
- I will go for a 10 minute walk before each meal.
- I will take the stairs to my office instead of the elevator.
- I will stop putting sugar in my tea/coffee.
- I will eat my dinner from a smaller plate.
- I will replace pasta with courgette and rice with cauliflower.
- I will eat a small bowl of porridge for breakfast every day.
- I will replace my afternoon muffin with an afternoon banana.
The key here is that the action should be relatively easy and habitual.
If you drink 2 litres of soda a day, don’t try and give up all sugar overnight. Instead, cut back to 1 litre of soda a day.
If you are trying to quit a habit, it’s good to replace it with a different habit rather than stopping the first habit altogether. Don’t just stop drinking soda, instead replace it with lemon water.
Don’t forget to measure!
You need to check and see how well your tactic are working in order to know if you’ll manage the weight loss. So make a plan to weigh yourself once a week, for example on a Saturday morning. Then you’ll know if you are on track, or if you need to adjust your strategy.
I resolve to exercise more
We all know that physical activity is good for us! Active movement is good for our bodies and our mental wellbeing. It even makes us more productive at work.
Here, we need to make sure we increase activity gradually, in order to avoid injury.
- I resolve to go swimming twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday)
- I resolve to run a 5k without stopping by June 2018.
Then come up with a sustainable plan.
Measuring your progress is good. You can use various fitness trackers ranging from the fitbit* to the Garmin*. Or you can take part in a Park Run every Saturday and watch your speed increase over time!
Set yourself up for success
There are various ways you can increase your chances of actually keeping your New Years Resolution.
Get an Accountability Partner
An accountability partner is someone who either has the same resolution as you, or someone you can trust to kick your butt about it.
A running partner is fantastic, but even someone who just cheers you on when you leave in the morning and congratulates you on a new best time will make a huge difference in whether you find yourself running that 5k in June or not.
Set a public goal
Having a public goal like signing up for a 5k or an open water swim, and asking people to support you, will provide a lot of motivation on those mornings when your bed is warm and snuggly and the outside is cold and wet.
Equally, if it comes to losing weight, joining a group like Slimming World provides that public weigh-in and accountability. Suddenly, it isn’t just you who knows if you’ve succeeded in your goal, it’s everyone at the group.
Don’t aim too high
Look, don’t commit to running a marathon if you’ve never tried running. Commit to a 5k. Maybe at the end of that 5k you’ll love running and want to do more. Or maybe you’ll be like ‘okay, this was fun but running is not for me’. The point is not to make yourself miserable – the point is to challenge yourself to move a little way beyond your comfort zone.
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