I say this every year, but I’m going to say it again. Where does the time go?! It feels like just yesterday I was making my 2016 resolutions, and today I’m getting ready to ring in 2017. Today I have a guest post by Brandon Caraballosa, RD, CPT. Brandon is a graduate of Long Island University’s Bachelor of Science in Nutrition DPD Program and successfully completed his Dietetic internship at James J. Peters VA Medical Center. He is currently a certified registered dietitian and personal trainer who is finishing his Masters of Science in Clinical Nutrition at New York University. Brandon currently works for Advanced Medical Associates of Westchester as a registered dietitian and at Blink Fitness as a personal trainer.
As the new year approaches, many of us make a similar resolution to GET FIT or BE HEALTHY! Come Saturday, we will all indulge in our “last bad meal” or our “last lazy day.” Unfortunately, as a registered dietitian and personal trainer I tend to see a similar end result: giving up on resolutions just a few weeks or even days in. How can we keep the resolutions we make this year? Avoid three common mistakes:
- Ending the year with a food funeral
- Waiting until Monday
- Setting too many goals
Each of these can easily get you into trouble. What is a food funeral? The day before commencing a diet, many people decide to eat the forbidden foods they are about to give up. This 24 hour binge filled with traditionally “unhealthy” foods (e.g. donuts, burgers, pizza, soda, etc.) may seem like a good way to say goodbye but is likely hindering your success. Will a cigarette smoker quit smoking after puffing down a pack? Does drinking the night away make it any easier to stop the next day? I’m not against having a few treats on your “last day,” but it may be smart to avoid binging on all your favorite junk foods and then banishing them for the rest of the year.
Don’t delay improving your health. Today is the best day to start implementing your goals regardless of what day of the week it is.
“I will start on Monday!” This is one of the most common things I hear from clients who are preparing to start a diet. January 1st is the ultimate Monday. But why wait for Monday? Tuesday is just as important and don’t forget about Wednesday through Friday! Are Saturday and Sunday really such bad days to start on your journey to healthy living? Don’t delay improving your health. Today is the best day to start implementing your goals regardless of what day of the week it is. You may even be less tempted to indulge in a food funeral if you just wake up and start.
The point is to avoid this all too common scenario: You have a perfect Monday following your strict diet and following a workout plan. Tuesday is a similar story. By Wednesday, you’re so proud of yourself that you decide to reward yourself with a late night snack. Thursday comes along and an almost perfect week calls for another reward, a drink or two. It’s finally Friday! Work was long and stressful this week and all you can think about are the foods you’ve been depriving yourself of. You take a day off from the gym and by Saturday, you’re convincing yourself that you’ve already messed up the week so you will start again on Monday. And of course like clockwork, the Sunday food funeral commences. Avoid the Monday resolutions and start today.
“Eat a low carb diet. Avoid all saturated fats. Avoid eating out. Drink 2 gallons of water/day. Eat 7 servings of fruits and veggies/day. Go to the gym 6 times/week. Get 9 hours of sleep/night.” Does this sound like your New Year’s Resolution? If it does, ask yourself this question: “What is my lifestyle at this very moment?” Let’s imagine that a person currently has no carbohydrate restrictions, eats fast food occasionally, drinks mostly diet soda, rarely eats enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, goes to the gym ~ 3 times/week, and averages ~7 hours of sleep/day. For this same person, the aforementioned resolutions would mean completely changing every aspect of his or her current lifestyle, a common mistake made by many of us.
This New Year, let’s focus on setting SMART goals.
- S – specific, significant, stretching
- M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
- A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
- R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
- T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
The key is to implement them only a few at a time. Changing every aspect of your life all at once will likely cause you to fail, because we are creatures of habit.
The idea is simple. Set an overarching, general, long-term goal (e.g. to be healthier in the New Year). Once you’ve established this umbrella goal, set small goals that will help you get there. The key is to implement them only a few at a time. Changing every aspect of your life all at once will likely cause you to fail, because we are creatures of habit. Choose 1 or 2 goals to start with. For example, going to the gym for an hour 4 days/week and eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day. Make sure your goals are specific and reasonable. An individual who currently lives a sedentary lifestyle will struggle with going to the gym 6 times/week. A more reasonable goal (e.g. 3 times/week) will facilitate achieving those goals and sustaining them throughout the year. Once these initial goals become part of your lifestyle, you can start to implement another 1-3 goals. Soon all of these goals will become daily habits and you will have achieved your overarching long-term goal.
We all want fast results, but magic pills are unrealistic and drastic changes are unsustainable. Set yourself up for successful lifestyle changes this New Year. Don’t go out with a bang, don’t wait for Monday, and don’t set too many goals at once. Happy New Year to you all, and may 2017 bring you health, happiness, and success!