Lose weight. Exercise more. Stop smoking. Eat better. With a new calendar comes New Year’s resolutions . . . and, for many of us, the end of our ambitious health and fitness pursuits arrives right around Valentine’s Day. Cold, dark days test the mettle of even the most committed exercisers, but that’s no reason to ditch your resolutions. Here’s how to beat the cliché and commit to your goals all year long.
“Exercise more” or “Start eating better” are worthwhile goals to have, but their vagueness can make them seem overwhelming. And if your current unhealthy habits developed over months or even years, you may need a powerful catalyst to jump-start your resolution. To effectively overhaul your behavior, set very specific goals, like “lose 20 pounds” or “run four days per week” or “eat one serving of fruit at every meal.”
See the Forest and the Trees
Next, break that larger goal into manageable chunks: for example, if you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, focus on losing five first, then 10, etc. Keeping a smaller intermediate goal in sight allows you to see progress along your journey, bolstering motivation and commitment, and if you’re feeling satisfaction and accomplishment you’ll want to continue working toward the end goal.
Enlist the support of others any way you can: going to Zumba with a friend every week, challenging a friend or relative to a healthy weight-loss contest, or posting workouts to a social media app or website are ways to get those around you involved with your goal, which can help keep commitment and motivation high. (While you’re at it, take a look at the habits of your friends and family: in the mid 2000s, social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler analyzed the data from the Framingham Heart Study—a long-term study of 15,000 residents of Framingham, Mass.—and learned that, as summarized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, “Staying healthy isn’t just a matter of your genes and your diet, it seems. Good health is also a product, in part, of your sheer proximity to other healthy people.”)