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How to keep those 2013 weight-loss and fitness resolutions

  • McClatchy-Tribune
  • Published Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at 11:31 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, at 6:45 a.m.

Here we are on the first day of 2013, when people look within and think about how they want this year to be better than last year. And in America (and much of the world), No. 1 or No. 2 on nearly everyone’s list is some sort of New Year’s resolution related to weight loss or fitness. Good intentions are nice, but alone they are not enough. This is why 88 percent of people fail at their New Year’s resolutions. Here are five strategies to make sure that this year really is different:

1. Are you playing blind archery?

At my first archery lesson about eight years ago, my excellent instructor was able to get me hitting the ring right outside of the bull’s-eye consistently on day one. Just for fun, at the end of the lesson, I tried shooting with my eyes closed (I saw this in a movie). I missed by a lot (surprised?).

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions most people are playing blind archery. They have vague goals such as “I’m going to eat better” or “I’m going to work out more this year.” These goals are just about as good as me thinking, “I’m going to shoot this arrow over there” with eyes closed. That is to say, with vague resolutions you’re going to miss.

Working out more should become “I will work out twice a week for one hour each” if you don’t normally do anything. Eating better becomes “I will not drink my calories,” or something else specific.

Good goals (resolutions) are set with the acronym S-M-A-R-T. “S” is for specific.

2. How will you actually know?

Create a measurable finish line. This is the “M” in S-M-A-R-T.

You need to be able to attach a number or at least answer a “yes” or “no” question to your goal. For example, if you want to be more flexible, how will you know when you are as flexible as you want to be? A good suggestion is when you can easily touch your toes with your feet together and knees straight.

If you want to get rid of your belly roll, how much smaller is a smaller belly for you? How big is your belly now? How are you doing along the way? You don’t want to leave this up to your eye or your feelings because they change like the wind and can leave you depressed when you are doing great (losing inches), or happy when you are going in reverse. The numbers have it.

3. Mission impossible?

The “A” in S-M-A-R-T is for attainable.

Do you aspire to look like somebody (man or woman) in a magazine? Do you think you need to look just like them to be happy? Then you’re going to have a terrible year, because those models don’t even look like that in real life. If it’s in a magazine, you can virtually guarantee that it’s been Photoshopped. In addition, these models have some talent for looking good, and they work full time (it’s their job) to look as good as they possibly can.

Your goals for yourself need to be something you can and will actually do. Walking around with a full-on six-pack all of the time will require most men to feel terrible and to sacrifice nearly every other aspect of their lives. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

4. Does it matter?

Relevant is the “R” in S-M-A-R-T.

“Lose weight” is actually completely irrelevant 99 percent of the time. People want to lose fat, but they weigh themselves on a scale to check progress. Scales tell weight, but not fat, nor how you look.

Weight and BMI are popular because they are cheap and easy, not because they’re useful when it comes to body composition. We have a member who started with us wearing size 12, and one year later is wearing a size 6, but she weighs essentially the same on the scale. Did she fail? How much do you weigh in the mirror?

5. What’s the deadline?

The “T” in S-M-A-R-T is time-bound.

Just because it’s a New Year’s resolution doesn’t mean you need a year to achieve it, nor that you need to commit to a given behavior for an entire year. In fact, one-year goals for weight loss and fitness usually lead to procrastination because you have an entire year to get it done, so why not wait until tomorrow to get started?

Instead, think about where you want to be in a year, and then work backwards to figure out what that means in six months, three months, one month, one week and one day. If you don’t have anything specific to do right now (one-day and one-week goals), then it’s usually too overwhelming to do anything about the huge one-year goal (resolution).

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