If it’s not already the topper on your list, it’s probably in the top 5. Getting fitter and or healthier reigns supreme on most New Year’s resolution lists. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first to fall by the wayside after only a few valiant attempts.
Compared to some of the other common goals most people have like, finding a new job, saving money, being happier or more fulfilled, it would seem like simply exercising more and eating better would be the easiest of goals to accomplish. But as we all know it isn’t.
I’ve been helping people commit to their health and fitness goals since before you had your first AOL account. Here are my top strategies for success:
1. Make it excuse proof. If you’re trying to stick to a new workout regimen, put your classes or training sessions on your calendar and do not schedule anything else in those time slots or too close. If you’re going for PM workouts, put your gym clothes in your car or better, change into them before you leave work. For morning workouts, have everything packed and ready to go before you go to bed. Set your coffee maker, have your workout clothes next to the bed and keep your alarm clock out of arms reach so you have to get out of bed to hit snooze. I once had a roommate who slept in her workout clothes – admirable!
2. Keep your fridge and cupboards full or your favorite healthy foods instead of guilty pleasures. If you’re a chocoholic you probably keep a stash of emergency candy in a secret jar in the back of a cabinet. Instead, make it easy to make a healthier choice like chocolate or mocha yogurt. Trader Joe’s has ones I love. For eating more fruits and veggies, pick ones you know you like instead of trying to force yourself to eat something you don’t like.
3. Creatures of convenience need to minimize prep work. People who eat out a lot or get take out have a much harder time getting healthier from what I’ve seen. Fortunately restaurants are gradually shifting into adding nutritional values of their foods so try to frequent those places more than places you have to guess at because I promise you, you will guess wrong at how many calories that chop chop salad has. You probably already buy pre-washed lettuce in a bag. But I’m as huuuuuuge of a fan of crudite platters as Twitter is of Donald Trump. If you said, “what’s a crudité platter,” you probably need to add more veggies to your diet. It’s also a savior for mindless eaters and Netflix series binge watchers. Making your own is as simple as buying prewashed and cut up veggies you like, assembling them on a platter and putting some not-too-crappy salad dressing on the side for dipping. The more unpronounceable ingredients, the crappier it is. Try yogurt dips or dressings.
4. Get a dog if you love animals. Don’t say you don’t have enough space or time. That’s the point. It will force you to make time for yourself and the dog for regular walks. Plus more and more offices are letting people bring their pets to work. It’s easier now to get a landlord to accept an “emotional support” dog. And there are so many affordable and Uber-esque services for daily dog-walkers and sitters when you really can’t schedule exercise time. If being healthier emotionally and physically is on your list, dogs really help.
5. Log it. This is perhaps the easiest actionable step to take, but for some reason, one of the hardest for me to convince people to do. If your top goal is to workout more, write down your activity each day. Whether it was a 30 min. or 2 mile walk at light intensity or a 20 minute high sweat sesh, keep a log in a notebook, on a calendar, whatever is convenient to refer to. And guess what, if you’re too lazy to keep and pad and pen handy, the biggest trend in fitness is ready for your adoption. Start using a tech enabled device (iWatch, Fitbit, VivoFit, etc.) or an app on your phone to track your activity. Same goes for food. One of the most fool proof ways to control your weight gain is to actually know what is going down your gullet. I can’t tell you how many people think they have a clue as to how many calories they’re eating or burning and are just in a galaxy far far away. Jot down what goes in your mouth, or download a calorie tracking app like Myfitnesspal, Lose it, Fooducate, etc. These types of apps will change your eating habits if that’s on your resolution list.
6. Ante up. One thing we know about the human condition is we are loss averse. Everyone, except my mom, hates wasting money. Pay up front or sign a contract to pay a certain amount each week or month to a trainer you like, a fitness facility that appeals to you to or a monthly online subscription service. Once you’re paying, you’re more likely not to use it. Do your homework first though. Interview your trainer or get referrals. Choose a fitness facility that’s convenient to get to or that your friends go to also. For online workouts, make sure you have a good space to exercise in and you subscribe to a service with a variety of workouts you want to try.
7. Failure isn’t fatal and success isn’t permanent. If you slip up, remember everyone does and start again before you are too discouraged or far gone. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to re-start. Once you reach your goal, give yourself a high five and a reward, then set another one. There’s really no need after all to wait until next year.