This time was different. I had packed portion-sized snacks, and I had my water bottles so I wouldn’t be tempted to have any of the calorie-heavy extras that were readily available at every turn. My daughter Siobhan and I had decided to get a salad, but believe it or not, every restaurant and food stand we went to had run out of salads. We finally located one final café where they had one chicken Caesar salad left, which we just decided to split. Obviously, eating more salads was high on the list of this year's health-oriented resolutions.
When I shared this experience with my friend Kay on one of our morning runs, she told me that she had had a similar experience on her weekend bike ride. A path that was normally empty was filled with runners and bikers. And if you go to the gym at this time of year, you will notice it is more difficult to get on your favorite equipment. January is clearly a month devoted to healthy initiatives.
But come February, experience tells me that the running and bike paths will be less crowded, there will be no waiting for the gym equipment, and Knott’s will not be out of salad at their food stands and restaurants. Why? Because people make resolutions for the New Year, are soon faced with a challenge or a back slide, and then promptly give up on themselves. Why is it that we give up on ourselves so easily?
One of my theories is that the goals we set for the year are either too lofty or not specific enough. For example, when we resolve to be healthier, what does being healthier mean? Does that include eating better and exercising more? If so, what does eating better even mean, and how many days per week exercise are you shooting for? Five? Six? Maybe seven?
What I would like to encourage you to do is to take baby steps by setting short-term goals for yourself. It is when we try for those giant steps that we are more likely to face failure. If eating healthier is your long-term goal, then set-up some short-term steps to get there. Maybe you could start with making sure to drink enough water each day to keep you hydrated and curb your hunger (click here for a hydration calculator). Once that has become a habit, and habits can take as little as two weeks to form, set another short term goal like eating 2-3 vegetable and fruit servings each day, eating a healthy breakfast (for those of you that skip this meal), packing your snack and/or lunch for the week, cutting back on your artificial sweeteners, etc. If you only focus on one smaller thing at a time, you will experience more success and be less likely to throw in the towel when faced with an obstacle.
If exercising more is what you want to focus on this year, again, set small goals that lead toward your long term one. If you are hoping to build up a life-long habit of working out 4-5 days a week, start with 1-2 days to begin with, or start with something even easier like parking at the far end of the parking lot at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. As these things become easier for you, add a little more time each day, or add an extra day each week. When I decided to run a half-marathon, I did not just go out there and begin running 3-4 miles at a time; I did 3-4 minutes running mixed in with 10 minutes of walking. As time went on and the exercise became easy for me, I increased my time running, and then I increased my miles.
As I shared in my last blog, I am really proud of what I have accomplished with my exercise in 2011, but the eating was a bit of a struggle. While I didn’t gain weight, I just didn’t lose any pounds, which is frustrating since I am the author of The Flabby to Flabulous Files blog and feel I should be demonstrating how weight-loss is achievable. Rather than dwelling on this, I have instead chosen to focus on the fact that I am stronger, I am fitter, and my clothes are fitting better than they were one year ago. That being said, I won’t lie: I really want those last 25 pounds off. This week I came across a great article that truly inspired me, gave me the motivation to move on, and I hope it will do the same for you. My favorite section I have include below, but I really encourage you to read the full article—it is short, sweet, and to the point (The 1-Step Success Plan):
We want to make 2012 the year of success. This is the year where you become UNSTOPPABLE. But change doesn’t start with making a list of resolutions, finding a great workout, or finally settling on a diet.
It begins with a hard look in the mirror and a determination that your health is worth fighting for. It’s time to unleash the limitless potential of YOU. Take the first step, don’t accept failure as an option, and you’ll remember 2012 as the year when you uncovered your best.
- Adam Bornstein
Another helpful resource I came across this week was Hungry Girl’s tips for starting the new year out on the right foot. One of my favorite tips is “ditching the ‘diet’ mentality.” I try to leave the word “diet” out of my vocabulary. To me this word means short-term change, and I am in this for the long haul. In addition, avoiding anything with the word “die” in it is probably a good idea anyway. The second tip I would like to share is her 80/20 rule—be careful what you put into your body 80 percent of the time, and then the other 20 percent can be time for you to have some splurge meals. I am still careful not to eat foods that trigger me to binge, but if I really want a piece of my friend Kathy’s peanut butter fudge, I have it. If not, I will dream about it, make my own, and then end up eating much more than just one piece.
So as you go out there this month trying to make healthy lifestyle changes, remember to set short-term goals so that you can feel the success of making positive changes in your life. Be good to yourself, don't let small steps backward take your focus off what you are trying to achieve. How badly do you want this? Are you worth fighting for? If so, don’t let small set-backs allow you to give up on yourself. Keep your eye on the prize—a more healthy you in 2012 and beyond.
Speaking of small changes, in 2012 I will be adding a new feature to some of my weekly blogs--a male perspective. My husband will be sharing some food and exercise tips that will hopefully appeal to the men out there who, like Sean, face their own struggles with health and fitness, but may not be especially motivated to read something with "Flabby to Flabulous" in the title. It will also give us a chance to share the importance of working together as a couple to support our health goals while at the same time respecting the individual differences in our approaches to becoming leaner and fitter. Right now, Sean's trying to figure out a good blog name that might hook the male reader--maybe "From Lard Body to Hard Body"? We would appreciate any ideas for the name or thoughts as to whether you or your significant other might be interested in a resource like this. Looking forward to hearing from you.