by Jim Gazzale
I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. Aside from the fact that they are a failed strategy, I never understood why we need the calendar to change before we start to change. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made resolutions (to “lose weight” for example) in the past. I’ve stuck to them for a while, but then my motivation faded, and I was back to leaving an imprint in the couch with a 6-pack of beer and a bag of Cheetos.
Statistics show that most New Year resolutions are nothing more than a distant memory by February… at the latest. I’m sure everyone reading this has anecdotal evidence of that. Simply setting a goal you’ll start working towards on January 1 is only a guarantee of one thing: you’ve most likely wasted a few weeks that you could have already spent working towards your goals.
You want this year to be different though, and that’s awesome. Here’s what you can do in 2020 to ensure you finally stick with your New Year resolution into February and beyond.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Social media can be a huge distraction, especially when we spend hours per day looking at the best someone else’s life has to offer. Follow the people and accounts that provide you value, not the ones creating stress. You’ll never know someone else’s circumstances and what they’ve sacrificed to achieve a physique, PR, or style you want. Focus on you and how you can become your best self.
2. Track your calories… at least for a few weeks. You don’t need to track calories to lose weight or achieve a desired fitness level or race result. But if you’re getting frustrated by a lack of progress, track your food (and drink) intake for a few weeks. I bet you will find it enlightening. Not everyone can eat in moderation. If you have trigger foods, do your best to avoid them, at least in the short term. Intuitive eating is a skill that comes in time and only after you learn more about portions and macronutrients. The best way to begin to learn is through tracking your meals.
3. Build habits. Motivation is fleeting. You won’t wake up every single day ready to kick life in the teeth, smash your workouts, eat healthy, drink water, and get to bed early. It just won’t happen, and that’s OK! But the more you can make those things a priority, schedule them into your day, and stick to your routine as close as possible, good things will happen. Not every day will be perfect. The best thing is that you don’t need to be perfect to make positive progress, either.
4. Avoid the scale. The scale can be a decent way to measure your progress over time. But on a day-to-day basis the scale is doing more harm than good. Your weight can fluctuate five pounds per day. One morning you’re 150 pounds and the next you’re 155. You didn’t gain five pounds overnight; I can assure you of that. Try your best to keep the scale in the closet and take it out every few months. In the meantime, take progress pictures every week or so. That will show you real progress, along with how your clothes are fitting, fitness gains, energy levels, and sleep quality. Those non-scale victories will help ensure you stay on track with your goals well beyond the beginning of the year.
5. Set realistic expectations. Notice how I didn’t say “goals” here. Your goals should be scary as hell. So scary in fact, that many people will question your sanity when you tell them what you plan to accomplish in 2020. Goals are different than expectations, therefore you must be realistic with your planning. Let’s say, for example, your goal is to lose 20 pounds next year, but you haven’t been to the gym in eight months. It’s not realistic to think you’ll be making it to the gym seven days per week once January 1 hits. Chances are three days per week would be a stretch too. Start with one day per week, or even two. If you say you’ll get to the gym every day and then you miss a workout, you’re more likely going to revert to old sedentary habits. The all-or-nothing mentality will creep in and you’ll feel like you’ve failed. “I’ve only gone to the gym twice this week, when I said I’d go five days.” What’s more realistic is starting slow and celebrating the small victories. So instead of “I only” it’s “hell yeah, I made it to the gym twice this week!” See the difference?
The most important thing to remember is that bad days are going to happen. You’re going to overindulge, you’re going to miss workouts, you’re not going to be motivated, you’re going to get frustrated, but don’t give up. We all struggle. But if you can eat well more times than not and exercise a few days per week, you’ll reach your health and fitness goals.
Thank you for reading and have a successful 2020!
Jim Gazzale Food for Thought Archive
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SPORTS NUTRITION SPECIALIST, USAT, USAC, PN1, CERTIFIED ONLINE TRAINER, Proprietor SENS Fitness