Michael Rogge, M.D.
Family Medicine, Primary Care
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The end of the year is a time to reflect on the changes you want to make. Whether you're kicking a bad habit or trying to pick up a good one, finding the courage to make a healthy change is the first step.
Many people use the start of a new year to make a resolution to live healthier by quitting smoking, reducing stress, working out more or creating a weight-loss goal. Remember to speak with your healthcare team before significantly changing your daily health and fitness routine, especially if you have chronic health issues.
Discover the secret to success
Making significant changes is hard. Habits are easy to fall back into because they provide a sense of comfort. Your life's challenges, changes and stresses may have you pondering setting goals and making resolutions.
New Year's resolutions are easy to make but not so easy to achieve. The key to success lies in developing a structured health plan.
Create a health vision
A health vision is a way to clearly visualize your goals. The first step is to create a powerful, broad statement that describes who you want to be once you have met those goals. Think about a healthy future and what that might look like to you. Convert those thoughts into a short, clear statement: your health vision.
While there are many ways to write a health vision, one popular format is: "I want ______, so ________."
- "I want to be physically fit, so I am no longer out of breath."
- "I want to have a better balance between my work and personal life, so I have more quality time for myself and my family."
- "I want to lose weight, so I have more energy to enjoy life."
Identify your motivators
After you create a health vision that you feel confident you can attain, determine which motivators will drive your desire to make those changes.
Some common motivators are:
- Buying clothes in smaller sizes.
- Having the energy to play with your children.
- Reducing high blood pressure medication.
- Watching your grandchildren grow up.
Tips for long-term success
Before making your resolutions, consider these tips for a successful year:
Take a minute to reflect.
Planning a change in lifestyle and committing to those resolutions takes time and energy. Set aside time to sit down and reflect on the lifestyle you want and the one you're leading now. Is this a good time in your life to make a change? Can you dedicate time to planning and taking action?
Have a solid plan.
It's hard to hit the ground running when you don't know where you're running to. That's why creating an achievable, solid plan is essential before the new year begins. A long-term goal of losing 40 pounds sounds great — but achieving that goal in a healthy manner takes planning and confidence in your ability to take the necessary steps.
Set SMART goals to help keep you focused. Achieving identified goals produces a feeling of accomplishment and much-needed motivation to fuel your health journey.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed:
- Specific: What am I going to do?
- Measurable: How will I track my progress?
- Achievable: What steps will I take to make this happen?
- Relevant: Is this important enough to me to want to do it?
- Time-framed: When will I do this?
Your SMART goals should consist of long-term and short-term goals. Establish your long-term goal first. An example of a long-term goal is "I will walk briskly for 30 minutes a day at least five days a week."
However, if you haven't been exercising regularly, you may need to start with intermediary, short-term goals. For example: "I will walk 15 minutes during my lunch hour at least three days each week for the next month." After reaching your short-term goal, extend your efforts gradually until you ultimately accomplish your long-term goal.
Keep your focus simple.
As the saying goes, "Take it one step at a time." This also applies to losing weight. To lose one pound at a time you need to be patient, confident and stick to your plan. By focusing on small, simple goals, you eventually will achieve your long-term outcome of losing the weight you want and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Remember to enjoy your resolution.
Following a diet plan and regularly working out may not sound fun, but feeling good afterward does. Make your exercise enjoyable by trying something you've never done before. Food can be fun, too. Paging through cookbooks and trying new, healthy recipes may become a new hobby.
Don't give up.
It can be challenging to change your lifestyle, so ensure you have a network of family and friends to encourage and partner with you. Consider keeping a health journal to record your activities and achievements, adding to your motivation and accountability.
Embracing a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing, dynamic process. Creating a health plan, engaging your support system, and celebrating short-term and long-term successes are positive behaviors that will deliver benefits this year and beyond. Use the new year as an opportunity to begin the journey of living a healthier life.
The finish line isn't far away. Maintaining your confidence and being patient are key to sticking with your resolution. Follow a plan and set goals, and you will soon be on your way to a healthier lifestyle in the new year.