January can feel like a time of healthy new beginnings, but even with the best intentions, determination sometimes fades and you may feel like giving up on your New Year’s resolutions before the calendar turns to February.
But that doesn’t have to happen to you. While some of the most common resolutions deal with physical health— like eating better, exercising and losing weight— your mental state will help determine your success. A large research review in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that the most successful strategies for weight loss and maintenance not only included a diet and exercise program, but also some type of mental training or strategizing. In other words, the most successful weight loss subjects had to change their physical habits as well as their mental habits.
So, if you’re already losing steam on your New Year’s resolutions, don’t give up yet. Whether it’s your goals or how you approach them, you can still make tweaks that will help you chart the course to a healthier life, even if the path is slightly different from what you imagined.
Here are 3 strategies you can use to adjust your resolutions so they work for your life:
1. Do a goal makeover
Are you determined to lose 20 pounds by Valentine’s Day or drop two dress sizes by summer? If so, you may want to ditch the tight timeline and opt for more short-term, tangible goals, says Deborah Orlick Levy, a registered dietitian, and health and nutrition consultant at Carrington Farms in Closter, New Jersey.
Tangible, short-term goals are easier to achieve because you’ll have more control over them. If you make them specific enough, these goals will create healthy habits and still help you drop those 20 pounds— just without the pressure of a deadline. Examples include:
● Eating at least four servings of vegetables every day
● Replacing your daily afternoon soda with tea
● Exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes, five times per week
2. Check your mindset
If you’re looking to fail quickly at a weight loss regimen, adopt an “all or nothing” mentality, Orlick Levy says. That is, the type of thinking in which you’re feeling good as long as everything’s going to plan, but after one little slip-up, you give up and go back to old habits.
“It’s important to understand and accept that there may be setbacks along the way,” Orlick Levy says, such as a wedding or birthday celebration. These things will be part of your journey, because they are part of life in general, but they don’t have to define your success.
“How you choose to respond when you get off track will play a big part in ultimately reaching your goals,” Orlick Levy says. To achieve success when you indulge, don’t punish yourself, and don’t quit altogether and binge on unhealthy foods. Instead, stay the course and resume your healthy habits as if no slip-up ever occurred.
3. Make sure your goals fit into your life
A lot of people don’t work out, in part, because they’re so busy. If that sounds like you, and you have general goals to work out more or cook healthier meals, you may be disappointed to find that room in your schedule to do those things won’t magically appear.
People who dream of returning to their glory days or becoming a born-again athlete often make this mistake, says Dr. Brian Quebbemann, president of The N.E.W. Program in Newport Beach, California. But with a family, a career and other obligations, most people don’t have as much time to devote to fitness as they think they will, and when progress stalls, it’s easy to give up.
“You must take into account the numerous other important things in your life, and plan a workout and fitness strategy that is reasonable,” Quebbemann says.
If you’re a busy person, that probably means taking time away from other things that are important to you— something many people don’t recognize at first. “You need to decide whether fitness is a high enough priority for it to take place of something else important to you now, and if so, replace it with your workout time,” Quebbemann says.
If you’re losing motivation or having difficulty finding time, it’s not too late to adjust your schedule— or your mindset — and succeed with those resolutions.