For the past few years, I've made a New Year's resolution to lose weight. But for some reason, I can't seem to stick to it. I really want this year to be different. How can I make my resolution a reality?
It's the time of year many people reflect on changes they want or need to make. After a season of too many cookies, chocolates and holiday parties, it's not surprising that weight loss is one of the most popular New Year resolutions. It's also among the top 10 most commonly broken resolutions.
It might be difficult to stick to your goal, but it's not impossible. Assuming you have vowed to accomplish something that's realistic (e.g., your target weight isn't overly ambitious), how you approach your goal will help determine your success.
That's true regardless of which weight-loss plan you choose to follow.
The following strategies will help you turn good intentions into action – and stay motivated along the way.
1. Limit your goals
Multiple resolutions aren't likely to work since most of us have only a limited amount of willpower.
And losing weight already requires many behaviour changes: You have to read food labels, cook differently, exercise more, plan for social events, and so on. That doesn't mean you can't pursue a few different goals in 2015. To enhance your success though, stagger your resolutions and work on one thing at a time.
2. Write it down
If you haven't done so already, commit your goals to paper. Research suggests you'll be far more likely to succeed if you do. It's not endgame, but it certainly helps. Written goals serve as your contract; they engage and motivate you and keep you focused when temptation strikes. Post your goals somewhere you will see them – and review them – often. (e.g., the fridge, your smartphone, your desk).
3. Be specific
It's not enough to say, "I want to lose weight next year." Your goal should outline exactly how much weight you realistically plan to lose. If you need to lose 20 pounds to get to a body mass index (BMI) of 25, set a goal of 20 pounds.
Next, spell out how you are going to lose that weight. What's your strategy? Are you going to follow a certain diet plan? Or are you going to work on replacing bad habits you know are contributing to your extra weight? (Likely a more sustainable approach.)
You might say, for example, "To lose 20 pounds next year I am going to do the following: 1) bring my lunch to work four days a week, 2) substitute peppermint tea for evening snacks, 3) drink wine (one glass) with dinner only on Fridays and Saturdays, and 4) replace starch at dinner with extra vegetables." Reflect on your eating habits and choose tactics that are relevant for you.
4. Break it up
If you intend to lose 20 pounds next year, set monthly targets of five or six pounds. Setting smaller goals boosts self-confidence and motivation because they're easier and quicker to achieve. Your success at achieving each goal will only strengthen your resolve.
5. Enlist a buddy
Many people find it easier to change behaviours when they have an ally to support them. Teaming up with others also holds you accountable; it's our nature to not want to let people down.
Consider enlisting the help of a friend who has a similar goal. You might agree to send a weekly progress e-mail or
work out together three times a week.
6. Track your progress
Monitoring how you are doing provides accountability and motivation, two keys for successful weight loss. Keep a daily food and fitness journal, use an app to track calories, wear a pedometer and weigh yourself once a week. Measure your waist size monthly. Consider signing up with a nutritionist or a Weight Watchers group for added accountability.
7. Anticipate obstacles
Identifying your trouble spots will make it easier to side-step them. If you want to cut out late-night munching, purge your cupboards of snacks.
If you cave in to high-calorie fare when dining out, consult the menu (online) before you get to the restaurant. If weekends are spent running errands and missing lunch, carry snacks with you to prevent hunger and cravings.
8. Aim for 8 out of 10
You can't be a 10/10 so don't expect to be. Having an all-or-nothing attitude makes it incredibly difficult to get back on track when you do slip up (and you will, it's perfectly normal). Worse, thinking you always have to be perfect will eventually make you give up completely. If you're on track 80 per cent of the time, you are doing well, really well.
9. Stay positive
Okay, so you didn't intend to order (and eat) dessert, but you did. Big deal.
One 400-calorie slice of cheesecake is not the ruin of all your hard work. Focus on the positive changes you have made so far, how good you feel and how well your clothes are fitting. You'll be much more likely to pick up where you left off if you do.
10. Follow up (over and over again)
Weight loss is not a one-time effort. Once you reach your goal, don't get sloppy. To maintain your new weight, you must continue to follow up on your habits.
Every so often, keep a food journal, measure your food portions and check your body measurements.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to CTV News Channel.