This year I'm getting SMART!
The New Year often brings a new lease on life, enthusiasm, and the mission to rid yourself of those unhealthy lifestyle habits and extra kilos you’ve been carrying; as well as the ones gained from an overly ‘merry’ Christmas, which for more than 2 out of 3 adults, is over half a kilogram of weight gain. (1)
According to research from the University of Scranton, about 50% of us will make a New Year’s Resolution, but only 8% of us will actually successfully achieve it. (2) That’s not to say that there is no point making a New Year’s Resolution, as people who explicitly do, are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. (2) The number one resolution people make is to lose weight, while ‘staying fit and healthy’ rolls in at number 5. (2)
Making the lifestyle changes necessary for weight loss, fitness and general health, doesn’t just happen, it requires thoughtful planning and a conscious effort to stick to the plan. Furthermore, it is important to ensure the changes made are going to effectively achieve the goals set and are going to be sustainable long term – this means no crash diets, lemon detoxes, miracle “fat blasting ab-rollers,” or other exercise gimmick that promises to shed 20kg in 5 minutes a day!
It will mean, developing healthy eating habits and exercising regularly. It is important to have the right information, resources and support to do this, so getting professional help from a nutritionist and/or personal trainer is a good idea. They can assist you develop nutrition plans and exercise programs that will work to achieve your weight loss, health and fitness goals inconsideration of your lifestyle and personal preferences. If you have any medical conditions or are at high risk, speak to your GP, dietician and/or exercise physiologist first.
When making your New Year’s Resolution, setting SMART goals is key – that is, a resolution that has Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Realistic components, within a set Timeframe.
So let’s be Specific. Rather than simply resolving to ‘lose weight,’ ‘be healthy, ’‘get fit,’ or ‘eat better,’ decide what exactly you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it, and, why it is important to you to achieve. Does “getting fit” mean you will be able to run a marathon or bench press 100kg? If you plan to lose weight, will you change your diet, your exercise levels or both? Again, getting the right nutrition and exercise information is important.
Adding a quantifiable element to your resolution will allow you to actively Measure your progress, check you are on track, and provide you feedback. Although you want the changes you make to be long term, you will need to also set short term goals which act as milestones to achieve along the way. Try to plan a variety of weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals, and determine the measurements you will make at these points to track your progress.
If ‘weight loss’ is you ultimate goal, think beyond the numbers on the scale. Try taking monthly measurements of your waist, thighs, and upper arm; use the notches on a belt; or how well your clothes fit. Also include nutrition and fitness goals within your weight loss plan. Even if the numbers on the scale haven’t changed much, if you can see you have increased the number of push-ups you can do, or how long you can run for without stopping, you will know you are making progress and will have incentive to keep going.
If ‘eating better’ is your goal try using an app such as calorific which allows you to track you meals, as well as the portion derived from ‘healthy’ options and ‘unhealthy’ options.
Aiming to achieve your 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day is an easily measured goal if you have resolved to ‘eat better’ and using a chart to tick off each serve is a simple way to make sure you are on track. These types of charts are also a great way to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables – each time they consume a serve they can add a tick or sticker to their daily intake chart. Be sure to check the recommended serves for your child’s age before you start.
There is no better way to set yourself up for failure than setting a goal that is simply unachievable, so make sure your resolution is Achievable. Consider your resources, time, support and the amount of effort that will be required to achieve your goals. Keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses, and reward yourself when you achieve goals and milestones (not with food) and have an action plan set for when you come across hurdles.
If you know you have a tendency to hit the snooze button and miss early morning workouts, move your alarm (or phone) away from the bed so you have to get up to turn it off (this might also inspire your partner to join you), or schedule workouts in the evening – this may mean you also need to be organized with an evening meal plan, cooking ahead of time, and/or cook in bulk and freezing meals so they are ready to simply reheat.
If you tend to over indulge on the weekend or when you go out to dinner, get into the habit of having either the entrée or a desert (not both), making smart choices for your main, including choosing smaller portions, and having water or a sparkling water with your meal. If alcohol is also part of your regular evenings out, don’t forget that these empty calories add up. Set your limit before you head out and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or sparkling water.
Don’t forget to reward yourself too. When you achieve your goals and milestones treat yourself; try a new activity on the weekend, like paddle boarding or rock climbing, get a massage, checkout a different exercise class at the gym, or get a new hairstyle.
With a SMART New Year’s resolution now set, it is also important to share your goals and resolution with someone who will keep you accountable for achieving them. Working with a friend will keep you accountable and is a good way to stay motivated - just be sure they are as committed to their resolution as you are. Try and find an exercise partner or make a commitment with your nutritionist or personal trainer.
To help you be accountable for your New Year's Resolution, you are welcome to post your resolution in the comments or send a message toThe Kids Menu. In-kind I will share with you my SMART New Year’s Resolution so I too will be accountable:
In 2013 my resolution is to improve my cardiovascular fitness and my strength by completing at least 4 workouts a week. It is important for me to achieve this to; assist my recovery from leg surgery, to resume the fitness I had prior to having my last baby (16 months ago!), and for my general health (including energy levels and stress). I will progressively increase the number of workouts I do each week and how long I workout for (starting with 4 x 30 minute sessions). I also am aiming to be able to complete 20 push – ups by midyear and conquer progressively harder cross fit moves each month. As I achieve these milestones I will be rewarding myself with a class at the new FitPole Studio (I am a bit excited to give this a try!)
Be Realistic about what you are going to achieve and how long it will take to achieve it – a healthy lifestyle is not a race. Don’t set yourself up for failure by depriving yourself of the things you love – it’s OK to have chocolate on occasions (not the whole block), you can still achieve your goals, just make sure you have an action plan ready when your sweet tooth calls, i.e. don’t keep the chocolate (or whatever your vice) in the house, if you really want it you will have to go out to buy it and only allow yourself a small portion.
And finally, set the Timeframe – remember you want to make long term, sustainable changes to achieve your resolution and a healthy lifestyle. If you have resolved to lose weight, aiming for ½ kg – 1kg a week is a realistic goal. If your goal is to lose 15kg, 15 – 30 weeks is a realistic timeframe for sustainable weight loss. Setting goals and milestones to achieve at regular intervals (i.e monthly) will help keep you on track.
To further help you achieve your New Year’s Resolution in 2013, until the end of January, The Kids Menu will be doing Free Recipe Makeovers!
Head to the Recipe Makeover page and submit a recipe for a nutritional transformation which will increase the nutritional value of your favorite recipes without losing the flavour.
Don’t forget to subscribe to The Kids Menu and have our healthy recipes delivered straight to your inbox. The Kids Menu can also help achieve your nutrition, fitness and weight loss goals with our online, skype or in person consultations. To find out more contact us.
1. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200003233421206, as seen in AHFG, Dec 2012
2. http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/, accessed 12/2012
Nikki is a PhD qualified Nutritionist and an expert in children's eating.