As one year comes to a close and another one begins, it’s a time for reflecting on the year past and making goals for the future. Weight loss continues to be the most popular type of New Year’s resolution made by Americans. Unfortunately, setting a New Year’s resolution is not the same thing as keeping a New Year’s resolution. In fact, a study of 200 people found that although 77% maintained their resolutions for one week, only 19% were successful over a two-year period. This means that 80% of New Year’s weight loss resolutions are doomed to failure. Don’t let yours be one of them. Learn some strategies for weight loss resolutions that really stick.
Set a SMART Weight Loss Goal
The first mistake many people make is to set weight loss goals that simply aren’t realistic. Setting the resolution of “losing 100 pounds” is unlikely to be successful if you don’t have a road map of how to start losing the first five. Psychologists who study goal setting and behavior change have identified several characteristics that make a good goal. So-called “SMART” goals have been demonstrated to result in longer lasting behavior change.
“SMART” stands for the following attributes:
- Specific. A good goal is specific in outlining the desired change. Rather than, “lose weight,” be specific about the change you want to see. “Lose 25 pounds” or “fit in size 6 pants” are excellent examples.
- Measurable. If you cannot measure the success or failure of your goal, it’s not likely to be very effective. Make sure you have strong, measurable indices of your success in a given area. Rather than “become healthier,” choose to “lose X pounds” or “run one mile without stopping.”
- Actionable. Write your New Year’s resolution in an action-oriented way. This means that you should have a clear strategy for getting from your present situation to your goal state. For example, contacting a weight loss clinic is a great way to take action toward your resolution.
- Realistic. When dreaming about what your life might look like a year from now, it’s easy to fall into the trap of unrealistic thinking. Sure, it might be great to drop 50 pounds by April 1st, and it can be exciting to dream of that total body transformation. However, setting goals that are too ambitious will just set you up for failure. Take things slow and steady, recognizing that you might gain a pound one week and lose two the next.
- Time-oriented. Set a deadline for your goal. This helps you remind yourself of the New Year’s resolution, giving you something to strive toward. Remember to be realistic about the likely pace of your progress.
Reward Yourself for Smaller Milestones
Of course it will feel amazing once you achieve your New Year’s resolution, but that might not happen overnight. Think of your resolution as a permanent lifestyle change, rather than a short-term goal to work toward. To help yourself stay motivated, build little incentives into your schedule. Identify short-term milestones that will help you move toward your long-term goal. Then, celebrate and reward yourself when you meet them! Buy something for your home, treat yourself to a (healthy) dinner out, buy that gadget you’ve been eyeing, or get a new haircut. Anything that makes you feel special and motivates you to keep moving toward your resolution is a great choice.
Don’t Get Derailed by Small Failures
The path to achieving a weight loss goal is rarely linear. You will almost certainly encounter roadblocks and hurdles along the way. It’s how you deal with this adversity that sets those who achieve their resolutions from those who fail. If you fall off the bandwagon, take a moment to regroup. Avoid beating yourself up or engaging in all-or-none thinking (e.g., “I couldn’t even make it to the gym once this week. What’s the point. I’m just going to give up.”). Instead, forgive yourself for the mistake and resolve to do better next time. Like any major life change, it takes time to adjust.
Get Professional Weight Loss Help
Sometimes, it’s helpful to recognize you can’t do it all on your own. Chances are you’ve tried various diet and exercise programs in the past. This year, make things stick by seeking help from a professional weight loss clinic. You will get individualized advice and interventions from a weight loss clinic that you would never glean from fad weight loss programs.
Put it on a Calendar
Holding yourself accountable is one of the trickiest aspects of keeping a New Year’s resolution. Think of strategies to ensure that you will stick with your resolution. Putting it on your calendar is one. Schedule exercise sessions, hikes, yoga classes, and other to-do items on your calendar. Also put your intermediate goals on the calendar to help yourself stay on track.