On January 1st, everything seems possible. Shedding forty pounds? Sure, why not! Eating a salad every darn day? Totally doable! Ditching cigarettes cold turkey? No prob!
Fast-forward to February, and you’re lazing on the couch, hours deep into a Netflix binge, wearing a bag of chips as a glove. The last green thing you ate, (besides maybe a green M&M)? It’s but a distant memory.
Trust us when we say: We’ve ALL been there. (A mere 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, while around 80 percent fail to keep them, according to research by the University of Scranton.) The real question is why our health resolutions fizzle.
In a word, they fail because they’re not S.M.A.R.T. (That’s capital S-M-A-R-T, an acronym meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.)
Flippantly saying, “I want to lose weight” is not a goal—it’s a wish. To make it real, you need to add specificity. How much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by? What methods will you use to lose it?
If you want to shed five pounds in two months, that’s 2.5 pounds a month. Your hyper-specific goal could be, “I want to lose .63 of a pound a week by exercising and following a dietician’s meal plan.” Numbers help you quantify your resolution, and break your big goal down into bite-sized steps.
For your best shot at resolution success, create a goal with components you can track, such as duration or frequency. Resolving to exercise more? Make your objective measurable: “I will run for 30 minutes, three times a week.” Trying to get your blood pressure down? Decide how you’ll track your milestones: “I’ll check my blood pressure once a week using the same machine, and I’ll log my results on my calendar.”
No matter your resolution, tracking your progress in a journal or app can remind you of how far you’ve come.
This doesn’t mean you can’t shoot for the stars. However, biting off a bigger resolution than you can chew leave you feeling defeated. Does a jog around the block make you wheeze and gasp? You may want to rethink running that resolution to run a marathon next month. A better goal might be to walk briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week—or to alternate between running and walking. Soon enough, that jog around the block will be a breeze, and training for a marathon won’t be such a lofty goal.
If you want your resolution to succeed, make sure it really, truly matters to you—and that you’re making it for the right reasons. Say your goal is to quit smoking: Are you doing it because your partner is nagging you? Or is it something you want to do for yourself? If you make resolutions out of a sense of obligation or (even self-hate), they probably won’t last long.
If you make resolutions with deep importance to you (rather than ones that are expected of you or things someone else wants), you’ll have a higher chance of making them stick. Think critically about what’s right for you and how your resolution can change your life for the better. Resolve to quit smoking to reduce your chances of cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke—or because you want to set a good example for your kids. With the right reasons behind you, you’re more likely to succeed.
The best “specific” and “measurable” resolutions are also time-bound. When making your goal, incorporate a realistic timeline towards reaching it. Set a limit that gives you enough time to accomplish your resolution—but not one so far off that you lose focus and forget about your goal.
It’s also helpful to create a timeline with lots of smaller, intermediate goals built-in. Focusing on the little wins will keep you on track as you make gradual progress towards your victory. It also helps you build a habit, which is something that can last you a lifetime.
Our Annual Wellness Exams are the perfect opportunity to get ahead of your health in the New Year. You can use your visit to check in about your lifestyle habits and get screened for health issues like depression, diabetes, and cancer.