As we know, the New Year is a popular time to reflect and set goals for health improvement—and weight loss is often the most common resolution. This makes sense for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we indulged our sweet tooth over the holidays (hmm….Christmas Cookies), took a break from exercise, and watched a ton of TV (Big Bang Theory re-runs, anyone?). Guilt may be a driving force in the decision to pump some iron, but is that right?
Taking a positive approach to change is a better approach than talking down to yourself. Thoughts like “I should have gone to my yoga class in December” or “I’m never going to get my pre-baby figure back” are very tempting, but avoid this line of thinking at all cost. If you really do want to lose weight and keep it off, then consider engaging in these specific strategies when designing an exercise program.
Set realistic goals.
Yes – this implies that there are goals in the first place! If you don’t have a purpose, then you won’t be able to fight through the struggle of changing your lifestyle. But often times, people will set overly ambitious goals that lead to a lot of pain or injury ending their exercise program.
Instead of saying “you want to lose weight,” be more specific. It is better to say you want to lose 10 pounds by March 1st and then you will be able to track your progress over time. Remember to designate when you will exercise and if this will take place at home or somewhere else.
An appropriate goal will depend on your level of fitness and health status. If you haven’t exercised all year (or longer), realize that you need to start slowly. Perhaps 5-10 minutes of exercise per day is adequate until you can build endurance and muscular strength.
Take anthropometric measurements to assess your progress (girth of thigh, waist, hips, chest)
Start with a baseline measurement before you begin your exercise program, and re-measure every month. A recent study indicated that participants who lost inches from their waist circumference were motivated to continue an exercise program. This is a positive way to celebrate milestones and to increase awareness about your progress.
Construct a pro/con table
Life is extremely busy, and most people juggle several responsibilities, such as kids, work, volunteering, etc. An exercise program may seem doable now, but barriers will pop up challenging your good intentions. By identifying challenges from the beginning, you can be proactive when designing your program. Perhaps exercise is perceived as boring. Then pick an activity that is intriguing to you. Walking and running are not the only options. Participants in a recent weight loss intervention reported high intrinsic motivation from Zumba –indicating that they enjoyed this activity (how about that!).
Whether this means inviting friends or family to exercise with you or just talking with someone about your progress, this will build-in accountability. Exercise doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Consider family exercise to set a good example for children, too.
Happy New Year and best wishes for a healthy 2015!