There’s something captivating about fresh starts. It’s no surprise that the new year inspires so many of us to resolve to live healthier lives.
As the calendar flips from one year to the next, you may promise yourself that you’ll eat healthier, exercise more, or lose weight. For many reasons, staying on track with these goals can prove elusive.
Straying from objectives may come down to aims that are not well-defined, or perhaps you haven’t formed a clear plan for how to pursue your ambitions.
“The good news is that with a little determination and planning, you can make your goals more attainable,” says Amanda Atkinson, an Exercise Physiologist with the ThedaCare Bariatrics program.
Sustainable Weight Management
To up your chances for succeeding with your weight management goals, Atkinson suggests trying these time-tested tips.
1. Assess your readiness. Ask yourself if now is a time that you can commit to weight loss goals. People with gradual, steady weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds per week are more likely to keep weight off than people who lose weight quickly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That requires tenacity, commitment, and a willingness to embrace new habits. Ensure you’re in the right frame of mind and place in your life to make changes.
If you’re facing obstacles, it could be a good idea to speak with your doctor about barriers or stressors. Addressing those can help you start from a place of strength and readiness.
2. Determine what motivates you. Many factors may inspire you to lose weight. Perhaps you want to feel better about yourself, have more energy, or live with less pain. Maybe you have underlying health conditions that you’d like to improve or resolve. Get granular about what drives you, and let those factors help keep you going.
To sustain motivation, you may consider journaling or finding a network of people with like-minded goals. Peers can support you and keep you accountable. Rewarding yourself can help too. Small rewards along the way could include buying workout clothes that make you feel great or planning a weekend getaway.
3. Set SMART goals. Perhaps you’ve heard of this concept in your work or school life. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Simply saying, ‘I want to lose weight’ isn’t likely to get you very far. The more specific you get, the more likely you are to follow through.
It’s all about balance. Setting small, achievable goals to help manage your mental and emotional health is a skill. If goals are too large, they may make you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. This can lead to neglecting yourself and your overall health.
Examples of SMART goals could be swapping sugary soda with flavored seltzer or infused water, walking for 15 minutes over your lunch break, and coming up with a plan to incorporate vegetables into your dinner each day. Through taking small, specific steps, you can start on your way toward building lasting habits.
4. Find healthy foods you enjoy. Reducing calorie intake is essential to weight loss, but that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the joy of eating. Often, it simply means embracing new foods and taking incremental steps toward healthier choices.
Mayo Clinic offers these general guidelines:
- Eat at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruits daily.
- Replace refined grains with whole grains.
- Use modest amounts of healthy fats, such as olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados, nuts, nut butters, and nut oils.
- Cut back on sugar as much as possible, except the natural sugar in fruit.
- Choose low-fat dairy products and lean meat and poultry in limited amounts.
5. Incorporate physical activity. Exercise is crucial. Reaching and maintaining a health weight requires both a healthy eating plan and exercise, according to the CDC. Staying active also offers other benefits, including stress relief, enhanced mood, and improved cardiovascular health.
When it comes to exercise, figure out what works for you. Do you like to exercise indoors or outdoors? By yourself or with others? In the morning or at night? With endless options that include gym memberships, home exercise equipment, free video resources, and the simplicity of going out for a walk, you’re bound to find something that fits.
As you deepen your routine, don’t strive for perfection; strive for consistency. We are not perfect. Remember that exercise is not all or nothing. If you drop an egg, that doesn’t mean the entire carton is broken. Similarly, if you miss a day, that should not ruin your entire week. Get back on track tomorrow.
When You Need More Support
Sustaining a healthy weight is an important and worthwhile goal. However, many people struggle to maintain weight loss, despite their best efforts. That’s because obesity is a chronic disease. It stems from genetic, metabolic, environmental, hormonal, and neurological factors that are difficult to control.
If you’ve tried other weight loss methods and continue to struggle, the ThedaCare Bariatrics program may have a weight loss solution that could help. The team includes surgeons, nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists, counselors, and care managers. They work together to guide people through finding the solution that best meets their needs.