Are you currently working on some freshly-minted, sweet-smelling, sparkly, shiny, still-unbroken New Years Resolutions? Or have you instead just dusted off some cruddy, tarnished, shabby Old Years Resolutions?
Whatever! You don't even need a resolution to play; just a desire to keep slogging away at some sort of health and fitness self-improvement goal.
So here are some tips for keeping your resolutions that have worked for me! And by "worked" I mean I'm totally lying. None of these have kept me from breaking every New Year's Resolution I've ever made. But these tips "work" in the sense that now, if I'm feeling optimistic enough to even make a resolution, it takes me way longer to break it and I don't fail quite as abysmally as I used to before!
Sound encouraging? Welcome to Cranky Fitness!
(Regular readers may notice that many of these tips have already appeared on the blog in one form or another. But since
So anyway, here are some tricks I find helpful when it comes to goals or resolutions:
1. Don't set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals. Ever hear people make resolutions like: "I'm gonna stop getting so irritated with my kids and I'll never yell at them again!" "I'm going to start running this year and finish my first marathon!" "I'm going to lose 50 pounds in six months!" And you're thinking, yeah sure, and I'm gonna sprout wings and fly to London and have tea and crumpets with the Queen.
For me, it works best to pick more realistic goals: I'm going to cut down on gratuitous desserts--After all, I don't really need them after breakfast.
2. Write Stuff Down. Not forever, but when you're in the early, serious phases of working towards a goal. As we've mentioned before: writing things down is a pain in the ass but it works. Whether you're charting calories eaten, miles run, charitable acts performed, pages written towards your novel, money saved towards your financial goals or whatever--keeping some sort of record will keep you honest and can even be weirdly addictive and rewarding. (Until you get so sick of it you want to flush your cute little journal down the toilet.)
3. Expect to slip up. You will! "Broken" resolutions can usually be glued back together. Looking back a year from now, your success will probably have much more to do with how you dealt with your inevitable failures--and very little to do with how long you lasted until you screwed up.
4. Build up your resistance muscle. So this was a new one for me, but I found it a very helpful concept. We had an interview with Dr. Judith Beck, and in in talking about resisting unplanned temptations she said:
"Tell yourself: 'If I resist, I’ll build up my resistance muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time I’ll resist and the time after that and the time after that. The truth is that every bite matters; it’s not just the calories, it’s the habit.'"
Now at the time, I actually thought this tip sounded kinda corny. (Sorry, Judith.) But then I found myself using it! It really is a good reminder of how the habit itself is more important than the actual food you ate or exercise you got. The best part? You can give yourself "credit" (and can therefore feel smug) every time you resist a temptation--even if you're resisting the same damn leftover slice of pie 14 times in one afternoon. You might still eat the pie later, when you've planned for it, but in the meantime you've really worked out that "resistance muscle" and made it stronger.
(And for more on Judith Beck and Cognitive Therapy, make sure to check out Charlotte's helpful post over at The Great Fitness Experiment.)
5. Get concrete and specific about consequences. Often I just go around with a vague notion that exercise is good, watching portion size is smart, and that healthy meals are better for me than junk. But sometimes, when willpower is lacking, it helps to get more specific. How many Extra Miles on the treadmill will that Extra Value Meal cost? Picture yourself having to walk or run those miles before you decide to indulge. And then, if you decide to skip the trip to Mickey D's or the Colonel's place, it's almost like getting credit for those miles without ever taking a step!
I also like to picture the healthy food I eat and the exercise I get making all kinds of great changes in my body: building muscle and fighting off scary diseases and helping me sleep better and keeping my heart and lungs and bones and brains in top working order. I imagine myself growing younger instead of older every time I do something healthy. While this may not be entirely accurate, it's quite motivational!
6. Keep in mind that your sticking to your resolution probably won't suck this much forever. I always see people citing studies about the exact number of weeks it take to turn a new healthy behavior into a "habit." Really? I can't help thinking it's gotta vary a lot depending on the person, and on how unpleasant the new behavior feels. How long would it take me to make a habit out of riding an exercise bike every morning? About a thousand years, because I hate exercise bikes! But if some new study comes out saying: We Were All Wrong; You Must Eat French Pastries for Breakfast--well, that habit is not going to take weeks to instill.
But however long it takes, if the change you're trying to make is realistic and only slightly obnoxious, it really might feel like no big deal at all in a couple months. Give it enough of a shot to see if it gets better before you decide to give up.
7. Find People Who Will Support and Encourage You in Your Goal: Depending on where you live and who you hang out with, it can be a much harder struggle to stick to your guns if no one around you "gets it." This is part of what makes Weight Watcher's helpful for many folks.
And if you are relatively new to the online health world, may we suggest you spend some time clicking on links to the many health and fitness and weight-loss blogs and online forums out there? Explore for a bit and you may find a whole community of like-minded folks. I know I've been spurred on to break out of workout slumps by visiting some of the many awesome bloggers who comment here. And you can find great recipes, exercise tips, and all kinds of practical help. (Just don't spend every spare minute sitting on your butt in front of the computer--this could be counter-productive!)
8. Don't make New Year's Resolutions! It's the easiest way I've ever found not to break them.
So do any of you make health and fitness resolutions? Any good advice on how to keep them?