Every year, millions of people make a vow to be healthier—get in shape, lose weight, and stick to a workout routine. Yet, come February, those same millions—minus eight percent—fail to keep those resolutions and fall back into their old ways.
Let’s face it: Changing your lifestyle is effing hard, and there are umpteen reasons to maintain the status quo—lack of time, lack of energy, lack of whatever. But if you really, truly want to make lasting changes, there are certain strategies you can use to make your dreams a reality in 2017.
1. Create a Resolution You Actually Want to Achieve
Don’t just go along with your girlfriend who wants to lose some weight or your buddy who wants to bench press a Volvo. Choose goals you’re excited about, and make a plan to achieve them. That way, you’ll be motivated to stick with it—even when the going gets tough.
2. Make a New Resolution
Resolutions you’ve made in the past might still be things you want to achieve; however, since you didn’t achieve them last year (or the year before, or the year before), chances are you’ll flop again in 2017. Most likely, those resolutions were too vague, unrealistic, or not well-planned. This year, make resolutions that are…
S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, rather than saying, “I want to get lean,” say “I want to lose a pound of fat a month by cleaning up my eating, going to the gym consistently, and doing cardio.” The more precise your resolution, the clearer it will be in your mind—and the more likely you’ll be to achieve it.
4. Focus on the Positive
People have a tendency to focus on what they want to stop doing—eating pizza, reverting to bad habits on the weekend, or falling off the wagon for the third time. Instead of framing your resolution in terms of what you want to avoid, think of it in terms of what you want to achieve. Focus on goals that speak to positive outcomes, such as building bigger shoulders, carving chiseled abs, or eating high-protein meals for the week. Then, move forward with positive intentions.
5. Take Willpower and Motivation out of the Equation
It’s great to have willpower and motivation, but they are in limited supply, especially when you’re tired, hungry, or both. Instead of simply relying on strength of will to prevent you from ordering a pizza after a long day of work, for example, limit excuses proactively by prepping healthy dinners on Sunday. Instead of relying on your morning optimism to push you through your evening workout, schedule a time to meet with a friend to train for some added accountability.
6. Build Rewards and Penalties Into Your System
Rewards are great motivation for reaching short-term goals as you make strides toward reaching your resolution. For instance, earning a pair of shoes for a month of consistent training at the gym or a pair of tickets to the game when you hit your squat one-rep max are great incentives. But don’t focus only on the positives; penalties can be just as motivating.
7. Remember That “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” Is a Real Thing
If you’re not surrounded by chips and cookies, you don’t constantly have to tell yourself, “Don’t eat the chips and cookies.” Ever-present temptation from “naughty foods” will exhaust what little willpower you have, wearing you down until you eat the damn things. Purge your kitchen of guilty pleasures and replace them with healthy items that are visible and easy to access, such as fresh fruit and sliced vegetables. Produce not enough to nix your cravings? Try turning your go-to cheats into healthy takes on comfort food.
8. Start Your Resolution on January 2
Chances are you’re going to be hungover—or at least sleep-deprived—on January 1. Rather than starting out on the wrong foot, begin fresh the next day. This way, you’ll have had a good night’s sleep, filled your belly with a warm meal, and shipped the kids off to school. Having things on track will give you a better chance for success right away.
9. Find Some Accountability Buddies
Pairing up with a friend or significant other to train can provide some much-needed motivation; you’re more likely to show up when someone else is expecting and relying on you. Looking to take things one step further? Tell anyone and everyone about your vow to make lasting healthy changes in 2017. Verbalizing your resolution makes it more tangible and expands your commitment across a broad base of people who can check up on you from time to time. Don’t feel like blasting your Facebook feed with details of your new transformation plan? Find a like-minded community on BodySpace, a free online fitness community where you can track workouts, upload progress photos, and find motivation from other fitness buffs. You can even download the handy BodySpace app onto your mobile device, to keep motivation at your fingertips wherever you go!
10. Ditch the “All or Nothing” Mindset
You’re going to trip up from time to time over the course of the year. Planning for that in advance can help prevent you from diving headfirst into the French onion dip when you slip up on your diet or slack on your exercise program. Accept the wobble, then straighten back up and fly straight the next day. Look at those extra calories as fuel for your next-day workout, or view that skipped squat session as a much-needed rest day. Then, hit it like a bomb tomorrow.
11. Make a Plan, Then Follow It
Sounds obvious, but words are just words unless they’re backed up by action, and action requires a plan. After making sure your resolution fits the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, take paper to pen and map out a course of action in your calendar that will best enable you to achieve your goal. See where you can fit in your workouts, do your meal prep, and take off days for rest and time with friends and family. Seeing things written out in front of you helps make them real. The more detailed your plan, the better your chances of success.
12. Track Your Progress
You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting. As off-putting as it might be initially, it’s imperative that you take measurements of your waist, chest, arms, hips, and legs before starting. It’s equally important that you take progress photos. The number on the scale can be deceiving, but the camera seldom lies.
If your goals have been primarily physique-related, consider adding performance goals. Record your lifts, and make a plan to improve your numbers—whether that means increasing weight or reps or cutting down on rest time. That way, you can adjust your program to hit your goal within the time frame allotted. If it turns out that time frame was unrealistic, adjust accordingly.
13. Don’t Go “Cold Turkey”
Changing your behavior or your lifestyle is hard enough without eliminating all joy. Make a smoother transition towards a healthier you by taking things slowly. Don’t cut out all sweet treats, chips, or cocktails right away. Instead, trim things down slowly but surely until your nutrition is squared away.
14. Dream Big, but Think Small
It’s okay to aim high with your resolution, so long as you break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Reflect on how long it will take you to achieve the goal. Then set monthly, weekly, and even daily milestones that move you steadily toward achieving your ultimate resolution.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.