Five Tips to Keeping your Goals for 2019

It’s mid-January. Have your goals or resolutions for 2019 already failed?  If so, don’t beat yourself up.  You are in good company.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, by January 8, 25% of resolutions have failed and by the end of December only 10% will have been fully kept.

I set a number of goals for 2018 and did not meet several of them.  Much of this was because I set the wrong type of goals.  I set product goals instead of process goals.  

Weight loss is a common goal for many Americans. A product goal for weight loss is “I want to lose 20 pounds in 2018.” A process goal is “I will exercise 4 days a week in 2018.” You have a great deal of control over how many times a week you exercise, so this is a goal that you have an excellent chance of meeting.  If you had been sedentary in the previous year, did not exercise on a regular basis, and you are overweight, then it is quite likely that you will also lose weight.  You have less control over the amount of weight you lose, so the product goal is not as good.  Factors such as your metabolism, your current weight, your gender, and your body type all affect weight loss.  

If your health is not ideal, then examine your diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits to see if there are changes that could help improve it.  In most cases you will have a good idea of what a few of those are without consulting a health professional.  Then set process goals for those changes.

Process Goal Example

Consider Sally.  At her last physical Sally weighed 20 pounds more than a year ago.  Her doctor told her that her BMI was approaching the obesity range and that her fasting glucose of 105  was in the pre-diabetic range.  In addition, her triglycerides were 200, considerably above the maximum normal level of 150. Sally knows she can improve these markers and lose weight by eating a healthier diet and exercising.  Several process goals Sally could consider are eliminating added sugar, walking 4 days a week for 30 or more minutes at a time, and eating five servings of vegetables a day.  

How could Sally accomplish these goals?  And how can you accomplish your health-related goals? 

Choose one habit to change at a time.

It is extremely difficult to change everything at once.  By focusing on one goal at a time, it is much more likely you will meet that goal.  In 2008, when I discovered that what I was eating (specifically gluten) was the major contributor to my ill health, I focused all my effort on eliminating gluten from my diet.  I did not worry about anything else in my diet or lifestyle, until gluten-free eating was routine.  Sally decided to focus first on eliminating added sugar from her diet.  

Substitute one habit for another habit.

When I initially went gluten-free, I started eating gluten-free bread, cookies and pasta instead of those that are the wheat-based.  It was only later that I concentrated on eating a more whole foods diet.  Sally was drinking one to two cans of Coke a day, and decided to substitute sparkling water for that Coke.

Keep a food journal.

Food journals have been found to be a keystone habit for diet change.  The simple act of logging your food makes it more likely that you will eat a healthier diet.  Plan your meals in advance and put them in your food journal.  Then adjust your journal record to match your actual consumption.  Sally began planning her meals for the next week on the weekend and went grocery shopping to make sure she had the required food on hand.  Then she logged her meals in her food journal.

Provide yourself little rewards along the way.

Treats can help boost us up and keep us moving towards our goal.  Since Sally was eliminating sugar, a sugary treat was not an appropriate reward. Instead she chose non-food treats such as getting a manicure or spending an hour browsing in a bookstore. Anticipating (and then receiving) these treats has been shown to help maintain resolutions when willpower flags. 

Enlist the power of a group.

Working towards a goal with a small group, even one or two individuals, makes it more likely that you will achieve your goals. Once Sally’s sugar elimination habit was well established she decided to focus on exercise.  She found a walking buddy at work and they spent 30 minutes at lunch walking on most weekdays.  Having that other person counting on her to walk, made it more likely that Sally would meet her exercise goal. 

 Do you have a desire to improve your nutrition and health?  Set a process goal and then try these tips to implement it.  You will join the 10% group: those who fully keep their 2019 resolutions.

This article was updated from a similar article published February 2018 in Bella Magazine.


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