January is just around the corner, and you know what that means: It’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions.
We all have the best of intentions when we pledge to eat right and exercise, but breaking resolutions has become as much of a tradition as setting them. Research suggests that fewer than 10 percent of people who make resolutions end up following through with them.
So how do you join those fortunate few who make good on their promises? According to OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., it begins with setting the right goals.
“A big reason people fall short is that their resolutions tend to be too vague,” said Prescott, a physician and medical researcher. “To have success, you need to pick something achievable and specific that makes sense to you personally.”
For long-term payoffs, establish short-term markers to help stay on track. “If your specific goal is to lose 20 pounds, don’t try to make it all happen in January,” Prescott said. “Set a target of losing two pounds each month, and your chances of success go way up.”
Another key, said OMRF’s Prescott, is focus. “Choose a single goal that is most important to you.”
“There are the usual suspects: lose weight, go to the gym every day, quit smoking. But if you want to succeed, pick only one,” said Prescott. “The more items you have on your agenda, the less likely you’ll succeed at any of them.”
Prescott learned this approach from personal experience. “When I resolved to lose weight and improve my fitness level, I discovered it was really hard to exercise more when I was also dieting,” he said. “It worked much better when I shifted my focus to losing weight alone. Then, after I dropped about 15 pounds, I got serious about fitness.”
When it comes to which goal to set for 2015, Prescott advises focusing on the one that is most important to your overall health.
“If you’re smoking, that’s a no-brainer. Focus on quitting immediately. If you’re significantly overweight and at risk for diabetes, get on a manageable weight-loss plan with a diet that doesn’t drive you nuts,” said Prescott. “Outside of those two, focus on goals to improve your overall physical fitness.”
Prescott emphasized that overall fitness is more important than body shape or what the scale says. “Research supports the idea that if you have to choose between being fit and overweight versus out of shape and ideal weight, fit is better. Improved fitness gives a better health outcome than focusing on your weight exclusively.”
Little things—like taking the stairs instead of the elevator—can make a big difference in whether you meet your health goals for 2015. “Creating new habits takes a little work,” said Prescott. “But in the long run, your day-to-day, ingrained rituals make all the difference in maintaining lifelong good health.”
Make “SMART” Resolutions You Can Keep
Keeping your resolution is easier if you keep it simple.
Instead of this Say this
Specific I’m going to eat healthy! No more sugary soft drinks for me.
Measurable Exercise will be at the top of my list! I’m going to take a walk three times a week.
Attainable By summer, I’ll get fit! Every day, I’ll take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Realistic Sign me up for a marathon! I’ll park further away from the building to get in extra steps.
Timely I will lose 25 pounds! My goal is to lose two pounds a month.