How many times have you resolved to lose weight at the start of each new year, but the year went by and you hadn’t lost an ounce — or perhaps you gained weight? I explain why with Marty Gonzalez, KRON 4 Morning News weekend anchor, and provide some tips to make this year’s weight loss effort a successful one.
Top Three Reasons Why Weight Loss Resolutions Go Astray
Aside from emotional eating and mindless eating that we talked about in previous weeks, here are more reasons why your weight loss efforts may have missed the mark.
- You’re a diet or exercise “perfectionist”. When perfectionists deviate even the slightest bit from a rigid diet or exercise regimen, such as eating a cookie or missing a workout, they feel like they failed (like they’re “bad”), so they give up since they couldn’t follow the program exactly. Perfectionists are bound to an “all-or-nothing” way of thinking. They’re either all in or all out — there’s no in-between with perfectionists.
- You focus on weight goals (“I’m going to lose 25 lbs.”) versus focusing on behavior goals. Weight is not a behavior.
- You don’t have a clear-cut plan. The quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” rings true in the quest to lose weight. A sound weight-loss plan builds healthy habits with SMART skills.
Build Healthy Habits with SMART Skills (The SMART Way to Lose Weight)
SMART is an acronym for five behavior skills: Set a goal, Monitor your progress, Arrange your world for success, Recruit a support team, and Treat yourself.
For more info on the SMART skills, check out Living SMART by Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. and Sheri Pruitt, Ph.D.
“S” — Set a Goal: Goals put control back into your life and gives it direction, purpose, and power. In order to be effective, goals should be specific, observable, measurable, and achievable.
- Goals are often too vague and too general, such as “I want to eat better”. Change to: “I will eat five servings of vegetables every day this week”. This goal is better because it focuses on precise details. (It is specific, observable, measurable, and achievable.)
- New Year’s resolutions are often too ambitious at the outset and can cause you to get discouraged and stop trying. For example, if you’re out-of-shape and your goal is to jog an hour every day after work for a month, that’s likely not a goal that’s achievable. Change to: “I’ll walk 15 minutes during my lunch hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week,” which is more realistic.
- Set weekly goals that are small and simple. Short-term goals are less daunting and help break big goals into small, doable steps. The simpler the behavior, the greater the chance you’ll accomplish it.
- Be sure the goal is meaningful to you. That is, it’s based on YOUR desires — not those of someone else (e.g., spouse, parent). Otherwise, you’re destined for failure.
“M” — Monitor Your Progress: If your goal is measurable, you can monitor your progress. Monitoring your progress makes you accountable, reinforces your behavior, and can be motivating.
- This goal isn’t measurable: “I’ll make better beverage choices at lunch this week.” Change to: “I’ll drink 12 ounces of water instead of a can of soda for lunch at least three times this week.” This goal is something you can actually track and monitor.
“A” — Arrange Your World for Success: Setting the goal is just the beginning. Deciding how you’ll achieve a goal is fundamental to accomplishing it.
- If your goal is to walk 15 minutes during your lunch hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then arranging your world for success may mean that you pack up your tennis shoes the night before, set them by the door, and take them to work. (This skill puts control back into your life and that’s extremely powerful if you lack self-control.)
- Another example… if your goal is to eat no processed food for a week, then arranging your world for success may mean you clean out your pantry of all processed foods.
“R” — Recruit a Support Team: Team up with others and seek outside resources.
- Camaraderie is essential in building and sustaining healthy habits. Reach out to a friend, family member, or spouse for support as well as team up with professionals like a physician, exercise specialist, or dietician. Don’t try going it alone.
“T” — Treat Yourself: Set benchmarks. Weight loss is a slow, gradual process, so reward your achievements with NON-FOOD treats.
- Establishing a new habit is no different from trying to potty train a new puppy. When he gets it right, you reward the behavior with a treat immediately. Reward your own efforts right away. Eventually, the behavior will become a habit and you won’t the reward anymore.
- An example of a non-food treat could be 10 minutes of alone time or time to engage in a favorite hobby, a hot shower, etc.
The Bottom Line
1. Watch your language. When you use the words, “I have to”, “I need to”, “I should” — e.g., “I have to exercise. I need to lose weight. I should stop eating fast food.”, it implies that something is wrong with you and needs to be fixed. These are negative words and phrases and don’t put you in control of your goal.
- When you say, “I want to” or “I will”, you empower yourself, and it puts you in the driver’s seat.
2. Make it enjoyable. Pick healthier foods and exercises that you enjoy. So if you hate to run, don’t. An exercise program should be sustainable, not torture. Try walking instead, or spinning, yoga, Pilates or Zumba.
- Everyone has their own “fitness personality”. For example, if you’re a social exerciser (you like to talk), then you probably won’t like swimming laps, but that doesn’t mean you don’t like to exercise. It just means you haven’t found the right exercise for you.
3. Start anytime. You can start losing weight at any time of the year and on any day of the week — not just on Mondays or on the New Year! A healthy plan doesn’t have a beginning and an end — it’s a lifestyle.