If you are already lagging on your New Year's Resolution...we still have 11 months to go! Right now can be the start of a new, improved you ... if you're willing to double-down on determination. Most people simply don't know how to make lifestyle change happen.
Alex says he wants to eat healthier, but three weeks into it he's back at Burger King, chowing down a cheeseburger as big as his head. Lisa vowed on New Year's Day to "get more exercise," but without a plan, without a strategy, without some tweaks to her environment and support from family and friends, she's likely to fail.
Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Failure is feedback. It's not a reason to give up. One of the interesting things about positive change that you probably don't know is that it rarely happens in a straight line. (Why isn't this taught in schools? Instead of algebra, let's say.)
Change isn't linear. It's often a process of ups and downs, forward steps and backward slides-but each time, you revive, regroup and find the strength to continue moving forward.
Resiliency! That's the secret to your success in 2013. It's from that place of strength and determination that resolutions transform into new habits, so that one day you wake up, and instead of moaning and going back to sleep, you actually look forward to putting on some sweats and taking a brisk morning walk. It takes about three months for this to happen. Patience, dear reader.
Here's a good place to start: think of one change you would like to make in your life that moves you down the road to a healthier, happier lifestyle. It's your choice, not mine. You're in charge. Do you want to be stronger? Less stressed? Bike to work three times a week? One dream, one change, one goal. Got one? Good! Now hear this:
MAKE YOUR GOAL A SMART GOAL. Behavior-change experts know that the more detailed your fitness goal is, the more likely you'll hit a home run. Use this acronym to guide you: S for specific, M for measurable, A for action, R for realistic and T for time-related.
So let's say you're setting a weekly goal involving more activity. Don't just write down: I'll exercise more. Be specific! On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will take a brisk walk for 30 minutes around my neighborhood before I go to work in the morning. On Tuesday and Saturday at 6 p.m., I will do a one-hour yoga class.
Think it through. Who will watch the kids? Will you find a friend to join you? If it's a weight-loss goal, don't write down: I will lose 2 pounds next week. Instead, detail! I'll eat a healthy 350-400 calorie breakfast every day; salads with protein for lunch six days ... you get the picture.
EVALUATE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. Pick a specific day and time to review your weekly goal. On a percentage scale of 0 to 100, award yourself a number that reflects how well you did. If it's a low number, notice it, accept it and tweak your goal for next week. No blame, no guilt. Keep it positive. What can you do differently to go from 40 percent success to 75 percent?
A good coach, personal trainer or Weight Watcher meeting would be helpful here. Another option is to go online to a site like stickk.com (created by Yale economists), where you set a specific goal, create penalties, engage an "enforcer"-all proven ways to help you make change happen.
SELF-MONITORING IS KEY. Stay focused on your goal by daily weigh-ins, or keeping a journal, or My Fitness Pal, a free calorie-counting app that is smarter than I am when it comes to monitoring food and calories.
Nike's Fuel Band and the Fitbit One are two popular tracking devices on the market. They get mixed reviews, but if you're a techie, it might be groovy. My favorite self-monitoring tool is the waistband on my jeans.
REWARDS WORK. For every day you don't smoke, put $5 in the pot. For every week you get in your five workouts, toss in $10. At the end of the month, get yourself something you really want. At the end of the year, rejoice in the new you!