Making New Year’s resolutions to improve our health is a common annual event for many of us.
Do you make resolutions?
Do you keep them?
Unfortunately, keeping our commitment to those resolutions is something with which most of us struggle throughout the year – or at least until we forget them, often by February!
Health-Related Resolutions Common
Some of the common health resolutions I hear from people are:
- I want to lose 25 pounds.
- I want to exercise more regularly this year.
- I want to eat more healthy foods.
- I want to quit smoking.
- I want to reduce my stress and live in the moment.
Because we have good intentions and the health challenges we want to overcome will make a positive change in our well-being, having a winning strategy from the beginning is what we all seek.
The secret to making positive life changes is to have a realistic and achievable plan from the get-go. So let’s get started on the right foot by planning to succeed.
Your Personal Health Action Plan
The most successful plans are those that are realistic, measurable, and have a timeline. You need to be fully invested in your plan to be motivated, not to just begin it, but to stick with it. Therefore, it needs to include elements of fun, companionship and goal rewards. Setting an objective, creating your action plan and checking on your progress should take time. It is worth the investment in yourself!
1. Start with one goal
Oftentimes when you make one healthy change, some others come along for the ride. Pick the thing that is most important to you. Perhaps you are teetering on the edge of developing a chronic disease that would be prevented with weight loss.
The motivation for health will be powerful. If you are avoiding adding or increasing a particular medication because of the stress you carry, then that may be the place you need to start.
2. Set Interim Goals
One of the reasons for failure in achieving goals is that they can seem so far out of reach that it is too easy to give up in frustration. We can overcome that by setting interim goals.
Once you decide on the goal for your plan, set interim goals that will let you build to your overall goal.
For example, if my goal is to lose 25 pounds I will set my overall goal to be “I will lose 25 pounds by December 30, 2015”. Because achieving this long term goal will require an average of 2 pounds lost a month, then my first interim goal might be “by January 31, 2015, I will have lost 2 pounds”. And every month thereafter the interim goal is 2 pounds per month unless we need to adjust because we slipped a bit in an earlier month.
3. To Be Achieveable, Goals Should Be Specific
You now have your short term and long term goals set. It’s time to be specific! You need to set specific goals that will help you achieve your weight loss.
If we resolve to lose weight, we have no way of knowing when we have achieved what we wanted. If, however, we set a goal of losing 25 pounds by the end of the year and, further, 2 pounds each month, we always know just where we stand.
It also helps if we are specific in the steps we will take to achieve our goals. This is individual to you and your current lifestyle, but some suggestions could include such things as:
- I will eat smaller portions and take no second helpings at meals
- I will cook with less fat
- I will avoid eating fast food meals
- I will pack my lunch for work everyday
- I will participate in physical activity three times a week
Some of these are not as specific as they could be, of course, but sometimes it’s better to work on our mindset than to get caught up in defining too many details that may seem cumbersome and cause us to quit along the way.
Be as complete as you can so that you are attacking your resolution from many fronts. Don’t just think about physical activity for weight loss but also how much you eat, what you drink, the foods you choose, your cooking techniques and your state of mind when you eat (bored, angry, sad, lonely).
4. Make Your Activities, Like Goals, Measurable
Pick specific activities to be measurable, even if that measurement is “yes, I did it” or “no, I fell short this time.”
How can you do that? You might consider these samples.
- I will use a 9″ plate every meal
- I will use a measuring cup to be sure my portions are correct
- I will broil, bake or grill my protein foods and add no fats
- I will pack a lean protein, a fresh fruit and whole grain in my lunch everyday
- I will substitute sugar sweetened drinks with water
- I will exercise or do my favorite physical activity on Monday, Thursday and Saturday for a minimum of 30 minutes each day
Again, be reasonable in this, as it might be easy on start up to get carried away and make it too complicated to stick with your plan.
5. Include a Timeline & Evaluation Points
Every goal and even each action step should have a timeline, whether it is monthly, daily, each meal, every time I feel sad or bored, when I feel…whatever.
Using your timelines, it is key to check your progress. Are you actually participating in your plan? Are you weighing yourself at the end of the month or the middle of the month to evaluate your progress? Are you exercising as scheduled?
If you’re not staying on schedule, determine what obstacle or obstacles are getting in your way preventing your success? Attack those obstacles so you can overcome them before time slips by and your plan goes asunder.
6. Enlist a buddy!
Are you the kind of person who performs better with support and encouragement? Will you stick to your meal plan better if the family is involved, will you get to the gym with a friend more than by yourself or are you independent and self-motivated?
We are all different.
Maybe we need help with some things and want to do it ourselves for others. Will weighing yourself with a confidante keep you accountable? Will you need someone to call when you feel blue and need a pep talk?
Plan ahead, include a partner in your resolution plan so that you increase your success together.
7. Write it down!
Put your plan down on paper or into your smartphone. Use a calendar or my Action Plan for Change to spell out your plan.
Post it in a special place like the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror or your desk where you can see it often and help motivate your actions. If it’s on your smartphone you might want to set reminders. If it is visible you won’t forget your check-in timelines either.
Many find it helpful to make a contract with themselves to stay committed in moments of weakness. Attach a picture to your plan or contract that will motivate you either of you at your dream weight or when you were in a happier place depending on which goal you set for yourself.
8. Reward your success!
It is important to celebrate wins, whether big or small, short or long term. When making your plan, set your rewards too (hopefully they are not food rewards if your goal is to lose weight)!
Here are a few suggestions for rewards:
- taking a healthy cooking class when I cook healthy for a month
- buy a healthy cook book when I lose 2 pounds
- purchase a new outfit or workout gear after I lose 6 pounds, 12 pounds and then 25 pounds
- visit a spa and treat yourself to a massage or get a mani/pedi
- buy new dishware, cookware and measuring utensils that make cooking fun
- get a family photo when I reach my goal
- run a 5K when I meet my goal
- buy a piece of exercise equipment when I lose 12 pounds (at the halfway point)
Commit to Your Success
The most important part of an achievable New Year’s Action Plan is your personal commitment to your own wellness and health! How much do you really want to succeed? What are the benefits you can achieve for your family, prevention of poor health outcomes, and your longevity. We don’t want to just add years to our life, but be able to have the highest quality of life in our years.
You are worth the effort you put into your New Year’s Resolution Action Plan! Believe it and you can be it!