It’s that time of year when most people are feeling pudgy from indulging too much over the holidays, tired from staying up too late and stiff/sore from not getting to physio nor doing their home exercises. It is no surprise that the number one New Year’s resolution is to simply “Get Healthy.” Getting healthy encompasses a lot of smaller goals to be successful: eating healthy, getting more exercise, getting more sleep, drinking less, and getting your nagging injuries finally addressed. At this point, 2 weeks into the new year, most people are still pretty gung-ho about their goals. However, by March more and more people revert back to their old habits, and evidently the gym isn’t as busy and the salad bar isn’t as crowded. Unfortunately, statistics show that only 12% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. This also helps explain why most people usually have the same goals every year. How can you make sure that 2016 is the year you get healthy, lose weight and feel good about yourself?
Most people won’t achieve their goals because:
- Goals are unrealistic;
- Goals are vague;
- Everyone wants a quick fix
One of the most effective approaches developed to help with achieving goals and changing lifestyle behaviours is the Transtheoretical Model. It was initially developed to help people to stop smoking and has since been applied to other health behaviours, such as losing weight and getting active. If you want to be one of the 12% of the people who achieve their New Year’s resolutions, follow the steps briefly outlined below in the model:
Step 1 for Getting Healthy:
Are you ready for change? If someone else is telling you what your goals should be then you can guarantee that gym membership will be a waste of money. There needs to be some internal motivation in order to be compliant with your new behaviours. This involves understanding the health benefits, assessing how it will impact your life and your feelings around new behaviours like exercise and healthy eating habits. For example, when a new patient starts physiotherapy to address a nagging injury, the main factors which determine if a patient will be compliant with therapy is if they believe the treatment will be effective and if they perceive themselves as being able to carry out the treatment. Individuals who have these positive beliefs are more likely to adhere to the treatment sessions and the home exercise program, which ultimately lead to getting healthy.
You really cannot move on to Step 2 unless you are committed to changing your habits, behaviours and lifestyle.
Okay, you’re commited to change, now what? You need a plan!
Let’s say that your goal is to run a 10k in 6 months. Without a plan you likely won’t get your butt off the couch. In order for people to start and maintain a new behaviour (i.e., start jogging), they need to feel confident and successful in being able to achieve their goal. The easiest way to build confidence is to set realistic short-term goals that enable success. For example, the wannabe runner can set a short-term goal to get out for a walk/run 3 days/wk for 20 minutes. They have 6 months until their 10k goal, so there is no need to set initial expectations too high, especially since failure will likely lead to quitting. As short-term goals are achieved, one feels more confident in their ability and success to reach their long-term goals.
Recognize any barriers and have a plan to deal with them.
Old habits are hard to break, so don’t get down on yourself if you fall off the wagon. Of course you’re going to get together with family and friends and eat too much, stay up too late and decide it’s way more fun to hang out at home in your PJ’s watching Netflix than to go out in the cold for a run. Not sticking with your plan from time to time is no reason to quit and give up. If you know ahead of time when and what will make it hard to stick with your goals, then you can be prepared to deal with those obstacles and potential setbacks.
Tell someone your goal.
Your spouse, a friend, a coworker or your physio. Pick someone that you see on a fairly regular basis, someone who will be positive and encourage you along the way. By telling someone else what your goal is, it helps keep you accountable. It also creates a support team for when you need extra motivation and run into obstacles.
4 simple steps which require a whole lot of effort! Achieving your New Year’s resolution isn’t easy; if it were, the success rate would be a lot higher than 12%. The best piece of advice is not to expect a miracle overnight. Sure a 30-day cleanse will help you lose weight initially, but after those 30 days what are you going to eat and how will you maintain your new weight? New Year’s resolutions are about long-term changes to your daily habits. You need to be ready to change your lifestyle and behaviours in order to be successful and to ensure that your goals for 2017 don’t end up being the same goals that you’ve just set for 2016.