Monday, January 14, 2008

Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions by Dreaming Big but Starting Small

In my last post, I offered my Top 10 Tips to help you make healthy New Year's Resolutions and stick to them.

Let me re-quote my #5 tip:

5/10
Dream big but start small. Your old-and-never-worked resolution could be like "I resolve to start exercising 5 to 7 times a week, 30 to 60 minutes each time." If you haven't exercised regularly for the last 3 months, this resolution is bound to fail and you're doomed!Start with small baby steps. You could start with a combination of walking, aerobic exercise, strength training, and other physical activities for 2 to 3 times for a total accumulation of 2 hours of exercise a week. The key is to be able to get into a regular exercise habit. Gradually increase the duration, variety, intensity and frequency. This is one of the reasons why a coach/trainer can be a really good source of professional guidance and accountability.

Improving health and fitness is on the top 3 New Year's Resolutions for most people. You can witness by the crazy crowd in the gym for the first two weeks. I can testify by the exploding number of visitors to my website and blog and new subscriber signups. People all over the world are searching for advices on losing weight, building muscles, eating right, workout routines, six pack abs, etc.

Health and fitness is the case where haste makes waste, as the old saying goes. Many people start the new year with good momentum, then lose steam by the end of January. By February, most people already quit or visit the gym much less often. Pad yourself on the back if you're still working out by June. You're rare if you're still showing up in the gym regularly by year end.

One study from the University of Scranton showed that a quarter of people who resolve to lose weight and change their eating habits on January 1st will go back to their old ways within a week.

The following list shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:

- Past the first week: 75%
- Past two weeks: 71%
- Past one month: 64%
- After 6 months: 46%

Source: Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).

Respect yourself by showing your commitment and accountability in healthy lifestyle changes, not just 3 days, one week, or 6 months, permanent, for the long run.

One of the biggest mistakes when people make their New Year's Resolutions is that they want to do everything, change everything - all of them at the same time. Sooner than later they get so overwhelmed that they simply cannot keep up with and just quit.

Changing or replacing an old habit takes time to become permanently part of you. Healthy lifestyle and habit changes don't just happen overnight. You should have known human behavior by now. It's true to eating healthy and working out regularly.

It's perfectly okay to dream big and have a big goal. But you need break down the big goal into smaller goals and action steps. Make the smaller goals challenging yet still easily and realistically achievable. You'll feel confident and good about yourself when you achieve the small steps. It gives you the momentum, reinforcement and sense of accomplishment to move to the next step, a step closer to your bigger goal.

I suggest that you pick no more than two things to work on in each of the following areas. When you stick to it for one month, then add another one or two thing in the following month. If you're really conscious about your actions, you'll achieve 24 things in one area by the year end. That could be your bigger goal.

I must admit that I cannot start to change with all 24 things at the same time in just one area. But I can certainly focus on just two things in one month.

Here is an example of action plan to start with. Gradually add more healthy choices to your desired goals.


Nutrition

  • Eat more whole grains => Eat at least two servings of whole grains food per day such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, etc.
  • Eat more vegetables => Eat at least two servings of dark green or leafy vegetables per day such as broccoli, spinach, kale, romain lettuce, bok choy, etc.
  • Eat more fruits => Eat at least two servings of fruits such as apple, blueberry, grape, grapefruit, orange, etc.

Lifestyle

  • Drink less alcohol => Limit to one glass of wine per day.
  • Watch less TV => Limit to two hours a day, no later than 9 pm.

Exercise

  • Exercise every day => Walk at least 2ooo steps per day.
  • Lift weight 5 days a week => Do any type of weight training 20 minutes each time, twice a week.
  • Do cardio 7 days a week => Combined with the weight training, do 20 minutes of any cardio exercise at moderate intensity (RPE = 5) twice a week.

Once you get yourself into a regular habit and routine, add more options, variety, intensity, duration or frequency.

If you need help to get started and get going, it won't hurt to hire a coach and trainer. It's worth every penny. And it goes a long way.

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