Instead of making lofty promises to lose weight this New Year, focus on changing your behavior. It’s a slightly different way of setting personal goals that fosters success and offers sustainable results.
Most resolutions aren’t achieved because there are no defined behavior changes to accommodate the goal, which is often vague and unstructured. Sure, you can eat healthy and exercise occasionally, and you may lose 20 pounds, but it is common to plateau and give up. In this instance, the goal did not clearly define how change will take place.
Set SMART Goals
The most effective goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. I encourage all my patients to form SMART goals because consistency in defining what you desire goes a long way toward staying on track. For example, a SMART goal for weight loss would be to log everything you eat each day in a food journal, perhaps with a specific calorie goal in mind.
Start small. Sometimes just being aware of your weight can foster the motivation needed to change your behavior. Keeping a daily weight log helps you understand why your weight is changing over time and gives you the insight necessary to make a change.
Once you have your SMART goal, take steps to monitor your behavior. Keep a daily chart in a highly visible place to track each behavior that supports reaching your goal. On the days you were unable to engage in that behavior, reflect on why you think you struggled and write it down. This approach gives you the knowledge to address new challenges as they arise.
Plan for Slips
It would be unrealistic not to anticipate slips as you work on building new behavior. Evidence suggests that these setbacks may even be essential for lasting change. The most important thing is not to be hard on yourself when slips happen. Reflect on what contributed to the slip and find ways to navigate through the challenges. Build a positive way of thinking and keep moving toward your goal.
Define what success looks like for you and reward yourself for the behaviors that support your goal. Be sure to identify options that are not food-related for rewards. For example, if you met your goal six of the seven days in a week, treat yourself to a movie, pedicure or shopping. This keeps you motivated and makes a big plan much easier to achieve when you look at it on a smaller scale.
If you are continually coming up short on weight-loss goals, or if the idea of starting a weight-loss plan is too overwhelming, consider enlisting some support. Your doctor can advise you on diet, physical activity and medications that may help. He or she can also inform you of the health advantages for losing weight, which can be motivating.
Also consider joining a weight management support group, which provides information, encouragement, accountability and camaraderie. It’s empowering when you are successful and when other people recognize that success.