Okay, let’s face it. New Year’s resolutions don’t usually have a great success rate [1]. Somewhere around half of Americans make a resolution each year, but few resolutions actually become permanent changes. The most bothersome thing about this is that the vast majority of those resolutions are health related. It breaks my heart to see people fail to follow through with health goals, so I sincerely hope that this post gives you the tools you need to succeed this year.

Nikki’s Top Ten Tips to New Year’s Success

1. Recall your previous resolutions and what hindered your success in the past. Learn from your mistakes. Did your fitness goals fizzle when you got board with that 24 hour fitness membership? Perhaps dance lessons or a membership to a rock climbing studio would hold your interest longer. Did your dietary goals get tossed aside when your valentine got you that Costco-sized box of chocolates? Plan on bringing in unplanned goodies into the office to share instead of leaving that melding, tempting box at home.

2. Do your homework- Learn from other people’s mistakes. Blogs are a fabulous tool to use in this day and age. People post an endless amount of wisdom and numerous stories on blogs and forums that are just waiting to be found. Better yet, find someone who has succeeded at what you are trying to accomplish and ask as many questions as you can.

3. Set realistic goals. This one sounds simple enough, but it’s really not. I can’t tell you how many times I discussed goals with my clients when I was a personal trainer. Time and time again I would hear “I need to lose 20 lbs in one week for a wedding/reunion/bathing suit season.” I explained to these people that their goal was most likely not realistic given the time frame they had given me, but I would do everything in my power to help them achieve that goal as quickly and smoothly as possible. In this case a realistic time frame to lose 20 lbs is 1-2 months with the proper work out and dietary choices. After that initial faster weight loss period (generally the first month or two after making changes), expect 1-2 lbs per week.

4. Write your goals down and tell people about them. The more you talk about your goals and see them the more real they will become. Added bonus: Telling all your friends you’ve started a fitness routine will keep you accountable and they may even be inspired to take up a similar goal!

5. Set several small goals that can be achieved en route to your ultimate goal. This will help keep you motivated until you reach that big goal. It may be hard to focus on that distant goal after a while, but if you give yourself check-points along the way it will remind you that you are making progress. For example, let’s say you want to lose 60 lbs by next New Year’s Eve. Perhaps good sub-goals would be to lose 20 lbs by March (keep in mind the initial faster weight loss phase), 30 (half way) by May, and an even 50 by October. Now when you fall off the wagon and have a few too many cookies in April you won’t think man, I’ve only lost 25 lbs.. I’m still so far away from my goal and I’ve already cheated. Ah well, better luck next year. Instead you can say Yeah, I have a way to go, but I achieved my first goal and am on target to reach my next goal a few weeks early if I stick with it and don’t let this derail me!

6. Plan your route to success. Try to anticipate bumps along the road, and what you will do when you encounter them. Maybe you know ahead of time that barbeque is your culinary weakness and you’re going to splurge on the 4th of July. Instead of letting that ruin your day, tell yourself ahead of time that you will do at least two things to further your health on that day. Maybe meditating in the morning and a 5k in the afternoon? Or maybe that barbeque chicken wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you planned ahead and brought a few healthy side dishes to your 4th of July party. It’s all about planning and off-setting any bumps in the road.

7. Plan rewards for when you achieve your goals. No, I’m not saying that losing 5 lbs is reason enough to binge drink and eat an entire Cold Stone cake, but you should be proud of your accomplishments and you should celebrate them. Make yourself some paleo walnut fudge [2] or some coconut avacado chocolate pudding (trust me, it’s delicious) [3] for a treat when you reach a benchmark!

8. Picture your life after you achieve your goals. World class athletes have long known the benefits of visualizing success. I am a firm believer that you tend to move toward your dominant thoughts… So why not take advantage of that and think about success? I know it’s hard to turn off the worrying autopilot in our brains, but you should, you can, and you must start using your mind for your own good. Meditation is a great way to start practicing this, but not entirely necessary. Whenever you get 5 minutes of down time just close your eyes and picture yourself when your goals are achieved. Who knew day dreaming was so practical!

9. Know that falling off the wagon is not only common, it’s part of the learning process. Rather than being consumed with guilt when you inevitably stray from your planned path (see tip 6), use that energy to re-assess what your goal really means to you and what you have learned from the detour. Nothing in life is (or has to be) 100% all the time, and nobody is perfect. Tell yourself ahead of time that it’s okay to deviate from the plan from time to time, but it’s important to always move forward. Most importantly, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel all together when you get steered off course (Well, I had a piece of Cake at the office party. Guess my diet is ruined! Might as well buy those Oreo’s I’ve been craving for the last month!)

10. Involve friends and make it fun! Don’t just jog in place with that big frown on your face- invest in a few Zumba tapes with some friends and make a schedule to go over to each others houses to use them. Don’t turn that diet of yours into a month of eating salads alone at home- find a few healthy recipes and organize a healthy foods potluck with your friends and family. We are social creatures by nature, and what better way to socialize than over common goals!

Looking forward to a healthier 2013,

Nikki Cyr, D.C.

[1] http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
[2] http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/04/recipe-chocolate-walnut-freezer-fudge.html
[3] http://mysanfranciscokitchen.com/coconut-chocolate-avocado-pudding/

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