So when the New Year drops, nearly everyone has the same thought: “This year is the year. I’m going to exercise every single day and eat only salads and walk to places more often.” Sounds kind of familiar, right? Unfortunately many of us know how that ends up.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re trying to lose weight, whether it’s your New Year’s resolution, or a life-long goal, you can do it. There isn’t a secret, or at least one that works for everyone, but how you think about the process is just as important as all those crunches you do, smoothies you drink, and miles you run.
Being realistic doesn’t mean being cynical, pessimistic, or limiting yourself. Being realistic simply means that you are allowing yourself to attain your goal one step at a time. It’s telling yourself that you can, and you will, accomplish your goal in a sustainable, authentic way.
So when we set unrealistic, “no-win” weight loss goals, we’re sabotaging our achievements from the start. There are two common pits that dieters fall into when setting goals.
- Insistent imperative syndrome: Sounds potentially scary, but this “syndrome” occurs when you set goals filled with imperatives. What’s an imperative? Words like always, every, never, and must. These words leave no room for error and aren’t specific enough to become habit forming. These words insists on perfection—don’t get us wrong, you are awesome—but you can make mistakes. That’s what being human is all about! So get rid of those awful imperatives.
- Mount Everest syndrome: When you set goals that are impossibly high—as high as Mount Everest—you’re giving in to this syndrome. Goals like “I will lose 75 pounds” or “I will run ten miles” are overwhelming. They sound like a huge and impassable hurdle. The worst part: goals like this make success an endpoint. Mission accomplished doesn’t mean you can go back to your old ways. Staying at a healthy weight, like so many other things in life, is a constant, continuing process.
Does that mean you shouldn’t push yourself? Not at all! Any good weight loss regimen needs a little push. What it does mean is that you need avoid those giant goals. The key to success is taking one step at a time. Try breaking down your ultimate weight loss goal into smaller, manageable steps. This is healthier for your body and your enthusiasm.
Setting Your Goals
So now that we know what not to do, what exactly makes a solid goal?
- Making it personal: This is the most important thing about any goal you set, weight loss and beyond. Don’t lose weight to please others. This all about you.
- Keeping things specific and short term: Think about what exactly you want to achieve by, say, tomorrow or the end of the week. Make it as specific as possible. Instead of “I’m going to do some cardio,” say “I’m going to walk for half an hour after lunch every day this week.”
- Good ole positivity: Negative goals will only make you feel like you’re punishing or depriving yourself of things and makes your wins seem not as great as you wish. Instead of saying you won’t do something, say you will do the opposite. “I won’t eat any added sugar” turns into “I will eat fruit, vegetables, and lean protein with every meal.”
- A healthy dose of rewards: Do something good for yourself when you achieve those little victories. You’ve earned it. While you could take a “cheat” day and grab yourself a small Frappuccino or frozen yogurt, it doesn’t always need to be about food. Buy yourself the latest NY Times Best Seller, a mani-pedi, or take a weekend trip.
- Trackable progress: Keep a journal or diary that tracks each visible step you’re taking to reach your goal. What do you eat every day? How many miles did you run and for how long? What do you plan to do tomorrow to stay on track?
If you’re still not sure how to approach the whole weight-loss-goal-setting thing, here are a few examples you can run with.
- Instead of “I’m going to run every morning,” try “I’m going to walk for 25 minutes three times this week.” Gradually build up.
- Instead of “I won’t eat more than 1,000 calories each day,” try “I will try to average 1,500 daily calories this week.” Don’t undernourish yourself!
- Instead of “I’m going to lose ten pounds before my friend’s birthday next month,” “I will eat smaller portions and go for a 20 minute walk four times a week so that I’ll feel healthy, look great, be confident, and have a great time at my friend’s party.”
Remember: weight loss is only a failure if you stop trying. Take that mountain-sized goal and divide it into smaller goals. Reward yourself, celebrate yourself, and give yourself the healthy, happy body you deserve.