How to Make 2021 the Year of Lasting Change
By: Jen Mueller, SparkPeople Blogger
How much can you relate to the following scenario: You start every January 1st with great intentions. You’ve renewed your gym membership, stocked your pantry full of healthy food, tossed out all of the chips and cookies and told yourself this is it. The healthy lifestyle begins now.
Things go well for the first few days, the first few weeks or even the first month. Then slowly, the old habits start to return. You’re tired of getting up an hour early every morning to head to the gym, so you hit the snooze button and begin skipping workouts a few times a week. The occasional splurge is becoming more frequent, and staying in your calorie range becomes the exception rather than the rule. Eventually, all of the hard work that began on January 1st has been undone, and before you know it, you’re right back to where you started. What went wrong?!? Here are some ways to prevent history from repeating itself in 2021.
Learn from your past mistakes. When you go about things in the same way for the same reasons, you tend to get the same results. While you don’t want to dwell on what happened, it’s important to learn from those experiences so that you don’t repeat them. Consider why your weight loss or healthy living goals haven’t been successful up to this point.
Are you trying to change too many things, too soon?
Are you setting unrealistic expectations for how quickly you’ll see results?
Are you trying to make changes for the wrong reasons, like to please someone else in your life?
Do you eat for reasons other than hunger, like when you’re stressed, bored or sad?
Questions like these can help you figure out how to stop the yo-yo cycle and create permanent changes.
Even though you’re full of motivation and want to change everything right now, slow down. Drastic changes are often a recipe for failure. Your best bet is to make gradual changes you feel like you can live with forever. Can you commit to 2 hours at the gym every day or no more chocolate for the rest of your life? Probably not, and the truth is, you shouldn’t have to. You can lose weight and improve your health by making small changes, building momentum by developing a pattern of consistency. What if you committed to just 10 minutes of exercise a day? What if you started by cutting back on the number of sodas you’re drinking, or by replacing one unhealthy snack for a better one? If goals like this sound easy, great! Accomplishing lots of simple goals will bring you more success than failing at goals that are too ambitious.
Establishing new habits is challenging, so be ready to put in the hard work and effort. If you’ve been a couch potato for the past 20 years, you can’t expect that working out for 30 minutes every day is going to be a breeze. Exercise is probably going to be uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning, as your body gets used to regular activity again. If you’re used to eating fast food for dinner 4 nights a week, it might not be easy to start cooking healthier dishes at home. (That’s one reason why gradual changes are a good strategy. Start with 10 minutes of exercise instead of 30. Start with fast food just 2 times a week instead of 4.) Expect that you’ll have some days when you’re more motivated than others. Keep in mind that if changing habits was easy, we’d all be in better health. We live in a society that’s not always supportive of healthy living, instead promoting convenience and immediate results. It’s not easier for me than it is for someone else to turn down a giant piece of cake, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice (still allowing for those treats now and then) because my health is a priority. If you are ready, really ready, to make changes to your life, anything is possible.
Take time to set meaningful and realistic goals. It’s great to set a goal to lose 30 pounds, but without a plan, it’s like heading out on a road trip without a map. Setting short-term and medium-term goals, as well as detailing the action steps you’ll take to reach those goals, is time well-spent. It gives you a clear path of where you are and where you’re headed. Also don’t forget the importance of rewarding yourself for a job well-done.
Post your goals in a place where you’ll see them multiple times a day to keep you focused and motivated. Create a supportive environment around you to increase your chances of success.
Think about how proud you’ll feel six months from now, when you’re still on track and making positive changes in your life. With the right plan and a little determination, 2021 can be YOUR year! Are you ready? Cheers to a healthy and happy New Year!
Krys (forwarded by Bob)