The new year is here, which means new goals are being made! To get started, here are some tips from the University of Mississippi’s RebelWell, a campus and community wellness program, to create a healthier you:
- Make your goals smart. This means that they need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Instead of “I will work out every week,” say, “I will walk or jog for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next month.”
- Make basic alterations. Making a drastic goal of losing 30 pounds by March is unrealistic and can lead you to become discouraged and give up. Making small changes will add up! They do not all have to be made at once, but changes in what you eat, when you eat and how much you move will ultimately help you lose weight. This is not a temporary change or a quick fix; this is a lifestyle change.
- Have someone to hold you accountable. Focus on one or two goals/areas and team up with a friend, relative or personal trainer who will make sure you stick to your plan. It’s much easier to go for a walk at 6 a.m. every day if you know a friend is waiting for you.
- Make your goals known! Telling others, especially those you encounter daily, about your goals not only will help keep you accountable, but can even help others avoid temptation. If you tell your co-workers that you are limiting high-sodium foods to lower your blood pressure, instead of ordering pizza for the department lunch, they might choose a healthier option, too.
- Keep a diary. Writing down everything you eat or drink – even that little piece of candy – and logging all your exercise will keep you accountable as to the foods you eat. Studies show that people who keep a food diary end up eating 15 percent less than those who don’t keep a food diary.
- Make peace with trigger foods. Banning your favorite treat – whether it’s chocolate, soda, Frappuccinos, chips, or French fries – is bound to backfire. Instead, remove the temptation from your home or work environment and allow yourself to indulge only once or twice per week.
- Find a physical activity you enjoy. Using a gym you really like is a good start, but remember that signing up does not mean you are on your way to losing weight. Instead, first figure out what type of physical activity you enjoy and then work on your specific goals.
- Measure you progress wisely. It’s important to check your progress to see how far you’ve come. For example, if you are working on managing your weight, weigh yourself once a week to keep track of your progress. If it’s difficult to measure your goal without proper equipment, use benchmarks to track progress until you have access to the equipment again. For example, to track improved cardiovascular health, you can monitor how far you can walk or how many stairs you can climb.
- Ditch the “all-or-nothing” mindset. The idea that you have to either do everything correctly or do nothing at all can set you up for failure. It’s important to know that if you do have a day that you missed your workout or ate more unhealthy foods than you had planned, it doesn’t make you unsuccessful. Instead, recognize your capabilities and move forward to reach your goals.
- Be prepared. As stated before, having setbacks does not make you a failure. But having a plan in case of setbacks and obstacles will help you overcome them. This is not an excuse to cut corners, but will help keep you prepared for events that are beyond your control. If you are unable to go for a walk outside due to weather or construction, have a backup place to walk that shield you from these things.
Mariana A. Jurss is RebelWell’s registered dietician.