Find out how to get back into your wellness routine—and stick with it
You’ve probably heard of "January joiners"—those eager gym-goers who sign up to get in shape at the beginning of the year, only to fall off the wagon by February. There’s a reason it’s such a common phenomenon: Sticking to health resolutions is difficult, especially when your ambitions are too high or not measurable. So we spoke to the experts to find out about common goal-setting mistakes and how to recommit to more obtainable aims. Read on to learn eight ways to revisit your wellness resolutions––and make them stick this time around.
1. Shrink your goals.
One of the most common reasons people fail at keeping their resolutions is because they bite off more than they can chew. "I find that my clients make New Year’s resolutions that aren’t really realistic," says Cristina Rivera, RD, president of Nutrition in Motion, PC. "They’re great for about a week, but people can’t keep them up forever." For example, one of her clients made a goal to give up soda, her favorite beverage. She went cold turkey and lasted about two weeks, then caved when the cravings hit. Rivera coached her to minimize her portions—a mini-can of Coke or a no-calorie Diet Coke––instead of cutting out the drink entirely. Photo: Thinkstock
2. Make your resolutions concrete.
Not only will setting a goal that’s too big derail you, so will making a resolution that’s too vague. "Saying ‘I will eat more healthfully’ isn’t a concrete goal," says Junelle Lupiani, RD, nutritionist at Miraval, a wellness spa outside Tucson, Arizona. "Instead, say something like, ‘I will replace my afternoon coffee and cookie snack with a piece of fruit, some nuts and green tea.’ Being sure that your resolutions are measurable can help you assess on a daily basis if you’re on track or not." Other specific—and doable––health promises that Lupiani recommends are vowing to eat a large salad every day or committing to starting each day with a whole grain and some fresh fruit. Photo: Shutterstock
3. Don’t wait to get motivated.
Many people assume they can’t tackle their goals without motivation. So they wait and wait for that push to get them to the gym, but it never comes. "We have the belief that motivation has to come before action—’I felt motivated so I went,’" says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of Psychology Training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, "when in fact motivation often follows action." Take the gym, for example. Most people can attest to feeling extremely motivated after a sweaty workout, instead of before. To get yourself to exercise, Dr. Rego recommends giving yourself permission to leave the gym after five minutes if you want. Chances are, once you get moving on the treadmill, your motivation will have kicked in and you won’t want to stop. Photo: Thinkstock
4. Get some sleep!
That’s right—the experts actually recommend hitting the hay in order to accomplish your goals. Why? Because a good night’s sleep can help you achieve virtually any goal on your New Year’s resolution list, says Pete Bils, vice president of Sleep Innovation and Clinical Research for Select Comfort. "Losing weight, exercising or learning a new skill are not human instincts; we have to work at them. You could call a sleepy brain a lazy brain—the human ability of resolve or willpower has been proven to be diminished without adequate sleep," he says. But it’s not just about willpower; the amount of sleep you get affects bodily functions, too. As Bils explains, without enough sleep, ghrelin (the hormone responsible for regulating appetite) is elevated, while leptin (the hormone connected with satiety) is diminished. So, even if you consume enough calories, when you haven’t gotten enough zzz’s, your body will still send signals that it’s hungry, which will likely lead you to overeat. Photo: Thinkstock
5. Set yourself up for success.
Sure, it’s easy enough to resolve to eat more healthfully, but if you don’t implement the necessary lifestyle changes you won’t be able to succeed. "If you’re going to have oatmeal for breakfast instead of your usual doughnut, you have to give yourself five extra minutes to boil those oats on the stovetop each morning, plus more time to eat at home since it’s not a portable food," says Cherylanne Skolnicki, wellness coach and owner of Nourish wellness consultants. "Resolutions are really about finding out how you’re going to integrate new behaviors into your life." So don’t join a gym that you have to drive out of your way to get to—choose one that’s on your route to and from the office. Or if you’re trying to drink more water, invest in a reusable bottle so that you always have it on hand. Photo: Thinkstock
6. Be patient.
"When you’re integrating a new exercise routine, your fitness levels will always change more quickly than your body composition. Fixate on how you feel and how you perform before you freak out about your weight and waistline," says Andrew Wolf, exercise physiologist at Miraval. As Rivera notes, healthy weight loss is only between one and two pounds per week, so give yourself reasonable time to make progress instead of giving up. Finally, Wolf advises implementing ways to monitor your progress that don’t involve a scale or your skinny jeans. Keep track of how many crunches you can do or measure your heart rate while you’re on the elliptical machine to prove to yourself that you’re getting stronger and more fit. Photo: Thinkstock
7. Think outside the box.
Don’t throw in the towel on getting in shape just because you hate the gym. Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to join a fitness club. There are plenty of ways to exercise outdoors—find a hiking trail or take your bike out for a ride, for example. Rivera is a fan of alternative forms of exercise, like Zumba classes. "If you have an active job, wear a pedometer and see how many steps per day you can log; if you hit 10,000 steps in a day, that’s like walking four miles," she says. "Knowing how much you’re walking could motivate you to push yourself even harder the next day." Photo: Thinkstock
8. Find a buddy.
The easiest way to make yourself accountable? Enlist a friend to help keep you on track with your goals. "I’d rather see you walk every day with a partner than run every six days by yourself," says Skolnicki. "If you can, find someone to meet you, whether it’s at the gym or outside your front door. People’s success rates go up dramatically [with a workout buddy]." Plus, she adds, working out in tandem is a great way for busy women to multitask: Not only will you get in a sweat session, but you’ll also have the time to catch up with a friend. Photo: Thinkstock
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