GTJ Health Series: A Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed a few too many latkes and slices of apple cake (we all should have read my healthy holiday eating column a few more times), you may be looking forward to a fresh start in the new year.

We enter the New Year with important goals that are often challenging to accomplish.  Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, or paying off debt, this guide will get you ready to make and keep your New Year’s resolutions in 2013.  This week’s column includes general tips on achieving your goals and avoiding pitfalls (stay tuned over the coming weeks for more in-depth columns on starting a fitness routine, quitting smoking, and losing weight).

Setting and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

1. Love Yourself, You’re Pretty Awesome! 

The first step of self-improvement is realizing that you are pretty awesome and you are motivated to make yourself even more awesome.  By loving yourself and starting from a place of strength you will be more likely to achieve your goals.

2. Set Small, Realistic and Reasonable goals.

If you have a larger goal, break it into smaller units.  By making your goals small, they are more easily obtainable and you will be more likely to succeed.  If you are trying to lose 30 pounds by your high school reunion, break it into weekly weight loss goals such as a pound of weight loss a week.  As you meet this goal, you will get more frequent and positive feedback of success which will motivate you moving forward.

3. Write it Down

Write down your goal and why you want to achieve it on an index card.  Think about why your goal is important to you.  Identify what you want to change and why.  Keep this index card with you and put a copy on your fridge, bathroom mirror, car steering wheel –wherever you’ll see it.  These cards will serve as a reminder of your goal and why it is so important.

4. Plan

Consider your goal, how best to accomplish it, potential pitfalls, and a plan for when the pitfall happens (because they will and that’s okay).  Keep a copy of this plan and refer to it regularly.

5. Hire a Professional

Whether you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or learn to dunk a basketball- a professional can be an important component of your plan.  Physicians, psychologists, and therapists can provide guidance, therapy, and medication to help you quit smoking.  A personal trainer, dietitian, or physician can provide exercise, nutrition, or other advice to help you lose weight.  While you are doing the bulk of the work, professionals can provide guidance and support to help you achieve your goals.

6. Share your Goal 

Share your goal with loved ones, significant others, children, parents, friends- anyone that will listen.  By sharing your goal it becomes larger than yourself.  Your friends will be there to support you, cheer you up when you stumble, and keep you focused.

7. Get Rid of Negative Stimuli

Rid yourself and your home of the objects and people associated with the thing you are trying to change.  If you’re quitting smoking, get rid of your cigarettes and lighters, and ask your loved ones and friends who smoke to abstain when they are around you.  If you’re trying to eat better, throw out your unhealthy food and ask those you eat and cook with to try healthier options.  Altering your environment, and thus your environmental reinforcement, will help change your behavior.

8. When Setbacks Happen, Move Forward

You’re making a lifestyle change and it will be a marathon, not a sprint.  You will hit setbacks and you’re not alone.  The average person who quits smoking succeeds on their seventh try.  Treat each setback as part of the process of succeeding in reaching your goal.

9. Celebrate your Accomplishments!

You’re awesome- and you’re getting more awesome as you reach your goals.  Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.

Liked this article? Stay tuned for Alex’s next article on Starting a New Fitness Routine!

Alex Berger, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He graduated in 2008 from the University of North Carolina and is currently in his last year of a combined MD/MPH program. He is excited to be back in the DC area and to share tips on nutrition, health, and fitness. He can be reached at Alexander_Berger@med.unc.edu.