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Setting goals at the beginning of each calendar year is as much a part of the New Year celebration as counting down the seconds to midnight. The website Statistic Brain reports that 45 percent of Americans make resolutions. Of those that set these goals, only eight percent actually stick with them until reaching achievement.

Of all the New Year’s resolutions that people make, losing weight is the most common. It makes sense that people turn their focus toward getting in shape following the excess of the holiday season. Christmas, Hanukkah, and the surrounding festivities also bring a fair amount of self-reflection as people reassess their life priorities. Losing weight is not just about improving looks; it is about improving quality of life.

If you have already faltered in your resolutions, do not throw in the towel. There is still time to get back on track and reach the goals that you set on January 1 to accomplish. Here are some tips to help you carry out any goals you set this year; particularly goals related to weight loss:

  • Work backward. If your weight loss resolution is to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year, take a moment to ponder how exactly you will reach that point. With your ultimate goal as your focus, work backward in smaller increments and break down the total number. Decide how many pounds you will need to lose each month in order to get to your end goal. Once you have that in place, develop a game plan for losing those pounds. How many days each week will you work out? How will you change your diet? What simple daily changes can you make that will add up to long-term weight loss? In order to achieve a larger goal, you must break it down into smaller, more manageable segments. Remember: one small step at a time.
  • Tell someone. Do not keep your goals sealed in an envelope to read again on December 31. Let the people around you know what changes you want to make and how they can help you achieve them. Publicly declaring your goals is an act of commitment and will keep you accountable to what you set out to accomplish. With the right support group, any achievement is possible, so let those around you provide that advantage.
  • Get online. There are so many resources available for weight loss at the touch of a button, or the click of a mouse. Look for websites that help you track your goals while providing an online environment of support from others who are in the same boat. You can also find forums on weight loss issues that will encourage you and give you the answers you need to progress. Everything from weight loss surgery benefits to low-carb recipes are plentifully available on the Internet, so use the technology to your advantage.
  • Be realistic. No matter how enthusiastic you may be upfront, there will be tough days when it comes to losing weight. You will feel unmotivated more times than one, and sometimes you will not do as well as you had hoped during a workout. Mentally prepare yourself for these times so that when they happen, you are not tempted to quit. If you know that you will be taking a vacation, work out a little bit extra before and after the trip to make up for the days you are sure to miss while away from home. If you have a large project coming up for work, schedule shorter, more intense workouts and watch what you eat more carefully. Every day will not be your best one when it comes to goal achievement, but realizing this upfront can help you plan for any pitfalls. If you feel discouraged, allow yourself to feel it—and then let it go. Onward and upward.
  • Ask for help. When it comes to reaching goals, no person can do it alone. Having the support of friends and family is one step toward achievement, but you should take it a step further for optimal success. Join a gym and hire a personal trainer to help you. Pay a nutritionist to help you develop a healthy meal plan, and to educate you about lifelong healthy eating. Consult with a surgeon about receiving weight loss surgery, or getting rid of excess skin through a tummy tuck after the weight is shed. Realize that there are experts who understand the inner workings of the human body better than you do and have helped numerous others reach weight loss goals. The same is true for any achievement you seek; ask for professional help to get to your goal. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Know when enough is enough. While a certain amount of tenacity is necessary to reach a goal, remember that you have a life too. In an interview with the New York Times, Professor Maurice E. Schweitzer warned against people pushing too hard in order to reach often unattainable goals. He compared goal setting to a “powerful medication” and said that it takes careful monitoring to be sure the means to reach the achievement are not out of hand. If you find that your goal is consuming your life, or causing too much stress, reassess it and determine how to make it more accommodating.

Goal setting is a healthy practice toward self-improvement. Whether you decide to make resolutions on New Year’s Eve or realize mid-year that you want to make some changes, know that some obstacles may arise. Keep your eye on the prize, though, and follow these tips toward better goal achievement.

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