Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and become healthier? If so, how’s it going so far? As we all know, keeping the commitments we make to ourselves can be easier said than done, and it often becomes more challenging as our initial enthusiasm starts to wane. Here are five proven success strategies that can help you stay focused and motivated as you transform your resolution into reality.
1. Declare a specific, realistic goal.
Herman Frankel, M.D., a leader in the field of mental training, says a goal “needs to be big enough to be significant, small enough to be achievable, and safe enough to be tolerable.” I think of goals as dreams with deadlines. The more specific your goal, the more likely you’ll be to achieve it. “I’d like to lose weight and feel healthier” may be a desire, but it’s not a goal. “I will lose 35 pounds by my birthday, and I will accomplish this goal by taking the following steps” is specific and measurable. Then, list the steps you’re willing to take—and the changes you’re willing to make—to achieve your goal. This plan of action will be your roadmap to results.
2. Focus on what motivates you and write it down.
One reason we fall short of our goals is that we lose sight of why our goal was important to us in the first place. Focus on the benefits of achieving your goal by listing your top five reasons for wanting to lose weight, such as “I want to look great at my class reunion” or “I want to keep up with my grandkids.” Write these on notecards and put them wherever you’re likely to see them, such as on the dashboard of your car or your bathroom mirror.
3. Weigh yourself daily.
A daily weigh-in can motivate you by reinforcing the fact that you’re making progress. It can also serve as a warning sign when you’re gaining weight and need to make dietary changes. It’s easier to manage a slight weight gain than to discover you’ve gained 10 pounds since you last stepped on a scale.
4. Maintain a daily food diary.
Studies show that most of us underestimate how much we eat and overestimate our level of activity. That’s why it’s essential to write down every bite and every sip you take as you begin your diet. When a large meal in popular restaurants can weigh in at 3,000 calories, it’s all too easy to misjudge how many calories we’re actually consuming.
5. Monitor your level of activity.
An inexpensive pedometer that you clip on your belt can be one of your most powerful allies in achieving a healthy weight. It provides objective, valuable feedback regarding how active you are. Ten thousand steps a day is considered a minimum for good health. When I started wearing a pedometer more than ten years ago, I considered myself fairly active, yet I was only logging about 4,000 steps a day. These days, I pace around my office while I’m on the phone, park farther away rather than circling for that “good spot,” and take 10-minute walks once or twice a day.
I have a friend who has completed every marathon he’s ever entered. His strategy is simple. Focus on the steps, he says, and the miles will take care of themselves. If you think about it, that strategy applies in many areas of life. Rather than being overwhelmed by the number of pounds you want to lose, focus instead on those small but significant decisions that will move you closer to your goal.