New Year’s Resolutions: Setting Achievable Goals

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Many people take advantage of the new year as an opportunity to make positive changes in their health and lifestyle. Our expert shares how to make those goals realistic and lasting.

By Kirsten Frederiksen, MD, program director, Renown Health Medical Weight Management 

It’s that time of year when people start thinking about what they want to accomplish in the next 12 months. And year after year, adopting a healthier lifestyle is a priority for many. In fact, almost 50 percent of Americans make weight loss their No. 1 New Year’s resolution. Why the high numbers?

It may have something to do with the fact that nearly 78 million U.S. adults suffer from obesity, according to the American Heart Association. Most of those individuals know they have a health problem and want to address it. And many Americans are aware that they simply aren’t getting enough exercise as part of their daily lives, so they make a resolution to exercise more to help motivate themselves to do it.

 

Setting Achievable Goals

Unfortunately, those good intentions don’t always come to fruition: 30 percent of all New Year’s resolutions fail, often because people set unrealistic goals or they’re not clear and explicit about what they want to achieve. So how do we make resolutions that stick? Simply making a resolution is a start. People are 10 times more likely to reach their goals if they make a resolution. Saying your goal out loud or writing it down can help cement your aspirations and further ensure you keep your commitment. What else? Be realistic. Set sustainable, long-term goals. Some tips:

  • Instead of making the resolution “I will lose 20 pounds,” for example, set a goal to lose one pound per week.
  • Rather than vow never to eat in a restaurant again, choose healthier every time you go out.
  • Steer clear of fad diets and fasting. Set a goal to stick to lean protein and non-starchy vegetables at lunch and dinner.

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Starting Slowly

Do the same with exercise: Set achievable goals. Start with exercising 15 minutes three times per week if you are not exercising at all currently. Or go to one exercise class per week if you have never attended but think a group fitness environment may be for you.

Start with where your body is now instead of trying to make up for lost time quickly. Your workout schedule needs to fit your lifestyle and your schedule. So be sure to account for getting to the workout and your post-workout time when establishing a fitness routine.

In the beginning, set month-long goals. At the end of that four weeks, give yourself an honest assessment of how you did. Why did you succeed or fail in certain areas? Do you need more assistance? If that’s the case, a workout buddy can help you stay consistent and adhere to your goals. They may provide good insight, new tips or just that extra support needed.

Working With an Expert

Consider consulting a physical therapist to get you started in your new workout routine, or working with a personal trainer. Not knowing how to work out the right way can lead to frustration (and injuries). You need to like your workouts, and you don’t want to get hurt doing them. A weight-loss specialist or dietitian can put you on track with an individualized plan for shedding unwanted pounds. These professionals will also help keep you accountable during your journey.

Also keep balance in mind. Consider that a healthy diet coupled with consistent exercise will lead to positive change. Once you are feeling better and more energetic, you can increase frequency and duration of workouts and continue to improve upon your diet over time.

And don’t use a slip-up as an excuse to stop your weight-loss program. Everyone backslides occasionally and diverges from their stated path. Regroup and continue with your resolution. You can do it!

This article also appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Health Source Dec. 31.

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