The start of the new year encourages many people to come up with ambitious ideas of how they will change their lives for the better, with a large chunk of these goals pertaining to being healthier and more fit. Unfortunately all too often, these resolutions are broken early in the year, leading us to shrug and say, “Well, there’s always next year,” and resume whatever less than optimal habits and behaviors we had been living the prior year(s).
Usually this occurs due to two different factors:
- Too big of a goal
- Too vague of a goal
Going from zero days a week of exercise to planning to workout five times a week for 45 minutes a day is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure or burnout very quick. In the same essence, making a goal of “eat healthier” or “workout more” isn’t very easy to measure.
Instead of trying to make big changes right off the bat in early January with the “New year, new me” mantra, a better approach would be to decide where you want to be by the end of the new year. Using the example above about going from working out 0x/week to 5x/week, decide that by the time December rolls around you can hit that.
Aim for the “low hanging fruit” first. That could look something like “For the first six weeks of 2020, I will get at least one workout in per week”. This is relatively easy to achieve, and so long as you did just one, you’ve achieved your goal! You can obviously do more than one, but this way you’ll still be better than you were before, even by just doing the minimum.
Aim to add a second minimum weekly workout every 6-12 weeks after that, and by the end of the year you’ll have either reached your goal of 5x/week, or maybe you find that 3-4x/week is plenty for you to achieve the results you desired.
For the “eat healthier goal,” you’ll also need to be more specific. Determine what factors of your diet you want to change, and then order them in ease of achievement and break them up into smaller pieces. For example, eating healthier could mean adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, increasing your protein intake and reducing your total calories. The “low hanging fruit” here would probably be something like add one serving of fruits and/or veggies per day. Once you’ve done that consistently for a month, aim to base one meal around at least 30+ grams of protein, stick with it for a month, and move on. If you simply added a serving of veggies per day every month alternated with making another meal center around protein, your calories would most likely decrease without you even trying, as you would be filling up on more highly satiating foods for less calories.
As a personal trainer, I have the same conversations over and over with people about the same ideas that tie into these examples. Here are a handful of vague goals that I’ve streamlined into something more measurable and then broken up into multiple steps to achieve.
Vague Goal: Drink more water.
Question to Ask: How much water?
Specific Goal: Aim to drink at least 75% of your bodyweight in pounds in ounces of non caffeinated and non alcoholic fluids.
Steps to Achieve Goal:
- Have a glass of water when you wake up.
- Have a glass of water prior to a meal.
- Have a glass of water prior to two meals.
- Have a glass of water after any alcoholic or caffeinated drink.
- Carry a reusable water bottle around with you all day and set a goal of how many times you finish the bottle.
Vague Goal: Prepare your own meals and eat out less.
Questions to Ask: How many meals? How often?
Specific Goal: Always know what your next 24 hours of eating will entail, and limit eating out to 1-2x/week.
Steps to Achieve Goal:
- Based on how often you tend to eat out, begin by reducing that at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you eat out for lunch Monday-Friday and for dinner twice on the weekend, start by just reducing it to 3 times a week for lunch. After a month or two of that, remove another meal, and repeat.
- For each meal that you’ll be making yourself, pick a day of the week to do some meal prep work.
- Make a list of the next several days of eating and a note of what you plan for each meal, even if it is going out to eat or you already have that meal prepped and ready. Having stuff written down on paper or in a note on your phone is a great accountability tool.
- Begin tracking your meals in an app. This is really just taking step 3 a little further and holding yourself even more accountable.
Vague Goal: Be more active.
Questions to Ask: How many more workouts per week/how many extra minutes of total activity?
Specific Goal: Add in one extra structured workout and 90-120 extra minutes of activity per week.
Steps to Achieve Goal:
This is something I try and get all my clients to do. I have the luxury of a job that has me on my feet all day; most people sit at a desk all day. When the weather is warm, I suggest everyone aim to get in at least a 15-20 minute walk outside each day. Every person I train tells me how much more energy they have after a good workout, and while it's not realistic to suggest every person work out for 45-60 minutes every single day, I suggest incorporating mini workouts that might only take 3-10 minutes. A simple example would be to set a timer for 5 minutes and do 10-20 bodyweight squats and 5-10 pushups back and forth until the timer ends. Something as simple as running in place or doing mountain climbers for a few minutes could work as well, just anything to get your heart rate up and get you moving around a bit. These are great to do in the morning or after work when you’re watching TV. A 5 minute mini workout and a 15 minute walk each day would be 140 extra minutes of activity each week.
These are just a handful of ideas for making your resolutions less daunting. I’ve written about other ideas to prevent weight gain in the past (especially around the holidays) so If you’re looking for more ideas be sure to check those out as well. Happy New Year and good luck with those resolutions!
The Chopping Block's February class calendars are now live, so check out healthy cooking classes such as Wellness Boot Camp, The MIND Diet and Keto Kraze.