New year resolutions are a common practice. The turn of the calendar from Dec 31 to Jan 1 usually witnesses a flurry of resolves for a better life, better body, more money and greater happiness. Setting a goal does not automatically translate to its accomplishment. Most New Year resolutions fall by the wayside by the end of a couple of months, if not earlier.
Here are some tips to ensure that your goals suit your lifestyle and are actually realised.
Goals need to be SMART:
- Specific and definite
- Time bound
While all the above hold true, ensure that goals need to be action – and not result-based. What does that mean?
A goal such as, ‘I intend to lose five kg this year’ is result-based, even though it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time sensitive. The loss of five kg is the result of your effort. The result is not always within your control. Much depends on genetics, metabolism and other lifestyle factors like sleep and stress. You may lose five kg or, you may not reach your goal. On the other hand you may end up losing more.
A better approach is to focus on your effort or the action leading to that result. So, for instance, your goal should not be simply to ‘lose five kg’ but perhaps one or more of the following:
- I will walk for 30–40 minutes every day at a moderately intense pace
- I will aim to cover at least 10,000 steps a day, every day
- I will stop eating sugar and desserts
- I will consume at least five cups of vegetables a day
- I will include weight training for two days a week
- I will reduce the intake of refined carbs and processed foods
- I will stop consuming alcohol
- I will be more mindful of what I eat.
The above action is pretty much under your direct control. If adhered to, the result, which is the weight loss, will emerge. The success of the result of course depends largely on the effort you put in. Your focus therefore needs to be on the effort which is under your control.
Many times, however, despite your best efforts, you may not achieve exactly what you were going for. While this may be the case, it is quite pointless lamenting this ‘lack of success’ (as I said the result is not always under your control). Instead, recall the positive spinoffs from your effort (which may not have been on your agenda to begin with). Following the above goals will make significant ‘lifestyle’ changes for long-term success. These changes are far more important than the mere loss of weight. You learn to incorporate regular exercise, you understand and apply the basic principles of healthy eating as a lifestyle rather than a short-term strategy with an end goal like ‘weight loss’. You understand food groups and serving sizes, you learn to adapt to your new goals by walking those 30 minutes a day, even while on a holiday. Focusing on what you can and should do on a day-to-day basis is more beneficial than focusing on the end result.
Record your progress
Recording your progress in a journal, which includes your exercise and diet on a daily basis, gives you not only a sense of accountability but also something concrete to work with. Human beings have a notoriously selective memory. Very often we tend to forget what we actually ate or how much we exercised or walked through the day. We disregard stress and lack of sleep. Journaling all of these aspects keeps things in perspective. Looking through your journal reminds you that you haven’t, for instance, eaten all the vegetables you aimed for. It reminds you that you haven’t walked three days in a row. It also allows you to really understand food as you identify the various components of your diet and mark them in various groups like carbs, protein and fats.
Remember to incorporate stress and sleep in your journal. Both these aspects of lifestyle hugely impact weight. We don’t realise just how much, until we go through our journal and recognise the signs of stress or lack of sleep.
Review your effort periodically
While you may set out with certain objectives and intend to achieve them, review them periodically to understand if they are realistic, given your lifestyle. So while you may start out saying you will walk for an hour every day, six days a week and train with weights twice a week, this may not be feasible for you. You may need to rework your planned effort to better suit your day. This is where a journal helps. Looking through it you are able to understand, for instance, that the problem time when you tend to binge is perhaps the evening hours between 5 and 7. You may then identify boredom at this time as the cause for the binge. Finding something to do at this time, eating a better midday meal, changing your morning exercise to an evening routine etc may help.
Set goals on various aspects of wellness
While it is advisable and commendable to set goals pertaining to physical health, fitness and weight, it is important to focus on other aspects of wellness too. Divide your wellness into the following and explore ways in which you can improve all the aspects.
- Physical wellness (fitness, weight, posture, health)
- Psychological wellness (self awareness, emotional hygiene, anger, depression)
- Social wellness (relationships, community, friendships, contribution)
- Financial wellness (establishing financial security, understanding your finances)
- Spiritual wellness (exploring the realm of spirituality, if it appeals to you)
- Environmental wellness (caring for your environment, recycling, segregation)
- Intellectual wellness (work, education)
- Creative wellness (hobbies, creative outlets for fun)
When you focus on more than your physical wellbeing, you diminish the anxiety involved with not being able to achieve the intended weight loss. Addressing all the aspects of wellbeing is important for holistic development. This is not to say you need to overwhelm yourself with lofty goals for each aspect of wellness and finally not attend to anything. Address them all periodically. Set simple goals and take them forward once again, focusing on what you can do and not the end result.
Whatever your goals, focus on the action and give it your very best. The results may or may not be exactly what you intended, but that’s okay. The effort invested is all that really matters.
The author, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, is a fitness & lifestyle consultant, and has published two books: Get Size Wise; Gain to lose.