Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, March 17, 2018

7 ways to stick with your New Year's food and fitness goals

Motivation for the purpose and plan

7 ways to stick with your New Year's food and fitness goals

"Happy New Years everyone! Research shows that 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolution by the 2nd week of February!”, posted life and business coach Tony Robbins on his Instagram the second day into the new year. Marking the end of the second month in 2018, your motivation may be lingering.

So how can you ensure you stick with your New Year’s resolutions? There has to be a larger motivating drive underpinning the goal. And when you set your goals (not just at the new year), be sure they make you truly excited.

Take, for example, billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX.

"The thing that drives me is that I want to be able to think about the future and feel good about that," Musk said in a speech last summer. "We are doing what we can to have the future be as good as possible, to be inspired by what is likely to happen and to look forward to the next day."

According to Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, professor at Wharton business school and best-selling author, “The less you care about your own success, the more successful you will be.”

However, Grant isn’t implying goals are useless. Rather, he believes resilience is the key to being a leader but that means failing and succeeding. That kind of thinking — believing deeply in achieving an ambitious goal — is exactly what Grant says makes an individual achieve greatness.

Here are seven key pieces of advice on how to accomplish your goals and maintain you resolutions:

1. Be Honest 

In order to stick with your resolutions, you need to look at them and be honest with yourself. Reflect on whether or not you made practical goals for yourself. One of the biggest problems people have with sticking to their resolutions is that it’s very easy to lose sight of practicality and give in to hopes and dreams — even if they’re unrealistic.

Jody Gan, instructor in health studies at American University, tells her public health students to fine tune their goals in order to ensure success.

“We talk about the importance of SMART goals and that is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound,” Gan said.   

2. Don’t Be Vague

Creating vague and arbitrary goals can hinder you from actually accomplishing them. Resolving to do more of the things you think should already be doing is an excellent strategy that can be applied to any resolution.  

“Rather than saying ‘yeah I want to work out’ or ‘I want to lose weight’, set something specific that you’ll be able to track and know that you met the goal,” Gan said.

3. Seek Out Support

There’s nothing better than finding a ‘buddy’ to keep you accountable. Whether this means dragging a friend to the gym with you or joining a group that helps you drop a bad habit, a support system can greatly help you get past any roadblocks along the way.

“On a college campus, you’ve got a lot of other people looking to do the same things. I really recommend finding a friend that wants to work on the same goal and go at it as a team,”Gan explained.

Whether that’s attending an AU Rec Fit class, planning late night exercise breaks from studying or creating a schedule that works for both of you, Gan says that bringing a friend can really help keep each other accountable.

4. Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

Remember: Your resolution wouldn’t be a resolution if it was something you could just make happen at will. Whatever goals you’ve set for yourself, don’t let momentary setbacks trip you up.

“My students have reflections to track their progress and that really helps keep yourself accountable but if you do mess up, it’s not all over it’s just a slip,” Gan said. “You already had recognized the progress you made, so just get back into it.”

According to Gan, having a plan B can also make it easier on yourself.

“Think about what got in the way? Maybe you were sick or you’re not enjoying going to the gym and need to do something else to be physically active,” Gan said “Figure out how you can have a backup plan if need be.”

5. Stay Focused

Setting too many goals for yourself all at once can be overwhelming and problematic. Focus on one goal at a time. Put it in front of you, find an approach that works and knock it out. When you’ve accomplished one goal, move on to another, and then another and then another after that.

“Having short term goals allows you to start small because it gives you an opportunity to have some successes, take some wins,” Gan said. “Rewarding yourself for the smaller goals as steps to get to the bigger goal motivates people to keep on going.”

“So while we talked about SMART goals, they can also be for smaller steps that come along the way,” she said.  “You want to build yourself efficacy so have some sort of reward system like going to a new healthy restaurant or buying a new pair of workout shoes.”

6. Invest In Success

Rather than treating the gym as something you have to do, Gan suggests “use the gym more like a treat. We know that our brains work better if you get enough exercise so look it as something you’re doing for yourself.”

Gan also recommends seeking the gym or working out as a means of decompressing between the other tasks that need to be done for the day.

“As far as the concern of eating healthy is more expensive, it might be true if you’re only shopping at the POD but if you’re able to get out to another grocery store, you can buy in bulk,” Gan said. She even points out that cooking with a roommate or friend can not only be a fun activity but also makes for more room in your budget.

7. Plan Ahead

Giving your resolutions a set time and place in your daily schedule will give them a sense of permanence and importance that wouldn’t exist just by saying you want to do them. Building a schedule around things like going to the gym, studying, meal prepping or whatever else you plan out will help ensure you do it. You’re blocking out time in your busy day to do these things, which will give you some kind of obligation to actually do them.

“Making time for planning your own meals, you definitely eat a lot better. Going to the grocery store with a list and you know what you’re going to eat for lunch and dinner and what days will help not only budget but buy accordingly,” Gan said. “A little flexibility though also helps so don’t forget to give yourself some wiggle room too.”

Now that March is upon us, where do you stand with your goals? Did you start small with behaviors you can change one day at a time? Even if you didn’t, talk it out with your close friends or family to keep yourself accountable. Accepting help from those who care about you strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution. However, Gan added that some goals and resolutions just won’t be what’s best for you at the moment.

“Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up because if you’re not meeting your goals right away it’s a signal that it wasn’t the right goals so you need to pick something that’s a little more achievable.”

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