Before you declare to hit the gym every morning, or shun carbs entirely (please, don’t!), take a few minutes to set yourself up for real-life success. By setting realistic goals and creating a plan to achieve them, you’ll make 2022 a year to remember. Read on as we share how to set realistic goals and how to crush them in the new year!
It’s officially the start of a new year — the beginning of endless possibilities. For many, it also marks a time to start focusing on better health, weight loss and working toward sustainable lifestyle changes (because why not start off the new year right?).
If you’ve set a goal for the new year — there are ways to make it happen. Here’s how:
How to Set Goals and Achieve Them
If you’re thinking about setting goals for the new year, losing weight is likely at the top of your list. A survey of more than 600 Americans, conducted on behalf of Jenny Craig, found that more than half of Americans cite the desire to improve their overall health, with one-third naming losing weight as their New Year resolution, closely following eating healthier and exercising more.
These are all worthy goals — and codifying them may help you succeed in your efforts, research has found. One study conducted at The University of Scranton1 found you’re ten times more likely to change a behavior simply by making a New Year's resolution to do so.
Once you identify a goal you’d like to achieve — weight loss, for instance — follow these steps to help ensure your success.
1. Be Specific with Your Goal
Instead of simply aiming to lose weight, be very clear about what you want to achieve. For instance, after assessing your body mass index, you might decide to set a goal of losing 15 pounds. Or you might resolve to get your blood pressure into a healthy range, or to be able to walk a mile in a certain amount of time. The more specific you are, the more able you’ll be to assess your progress as you move toward your goal.
2. Set a Realistic Weight Loss Goal
It’s important to be realistic about your goals and expectations. For instance, if your focus is weight loss and your goal is to reach your high school weight, take a look at whether that weight is achievable through healthy weight loss and if it’s sustainable. By losing a modest amount of weight — 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight — you can still bring significant improvements to your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2
Research has found that people who want to lose weight often have unrealistically high weight-loss goals. Several studies, for instance, found that patients receiving weight-loss treatment ideally wanted to lose approximately 33 percent of their body weight within one year.3 Having overly aggressive weight loss goals such as these might not be advisable, experts say,4 as it can lead to disappointment — and, possibly, failure. Setting realistic goals, on the other hand, may make it more likely that you’ll reach your New Year’s resolution.
3. Come Up With a Realistic Timeframe to Reach Your Goal
Set a date by which you aim to lose the weight. Although you may initially see a large drop on the scale when you begin a weight loss program, your progress will likely even out as you continue your new, healthy lifestyle. After a month of weight loss, aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week as experts recommend.3
4. Set Both Long- and Short-Term Goals — and Write Them Down
To help keep yourself motivated toward meeting your ultimate goal, set mini-goals you can reach within a month or so. Perhaps you’d like to lose 5 pounds, or tighten your belt by a notch — think about the little things in addition to the big ones, then write them down. A study conducted at Dominican University of California5 showed that more than 70 percent of people who wrote down their goals (and in this case, shared them with someone else) were successful in achieving those goals, compared with a 35 percent success rate among those who didn’t commit to their goals in writing.
5. Create Action Steps
Figure out exactly what will help you reach your goal — and in doing so, think back to any time when you tried to lose weight but weren’t as successful as you’d hoped. What kept you from succeeding? What were your missteps?
For instance, you might decide that you need to modify your behavior at home or work by doing the following:6
- Eating more mindfully — avoid watching TV, reading, talking on the phone or working on the computer during a meal
- Keeping healthy snacks on-hand: fruit, non-starchy vegetables, nonfat Greek yogurt or one of your favorite Jenny Craig snacks
- Drinking a glass of water before eating
- Avoiding high-calorie add-ons such as butter, mayonnaise and sugary creamers
- Swapping soda for a glass of sparkling water with lemon
- Going for a walk during your work breaks
6. Don’t Rely on Willpower Alone
According to the American Psychological Association (APA),7 expecting to lose weight through willpower alone could be a mistake. Sure, you might have loads of resolve at the beginning of your weight-loss journey, but with time, that resolve can falter. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the APA, respondents cited not having enough willpower — which the organization defines as “the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals”— as the top reason they were unable to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Likening willpower to a muscle that gets fatigued from overuse, experts say that relying on your internal strength to resist temptation can take a mental toll over time; you need tools and strategies to support your resolve. In addition to summoning — and maintaining — as much willpower as you can, the APA recommends the following to help you achieve your goals:
- Get support. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, discovered that individuals following structured weight loss programs with support were more likely to lose weight and more likely to keep off the weight, than those who did not.8 If you’re looking for a plan that offers dedicated support — Jenny Craig provides personal weight loss consultants for every member.
- Focus on one behavior at a time. Instead of coming up with a long list of behaviors you will institute (or change) all at once, focus on one clear tactic at the outset; then add on from there. Doing so, experts say, will allow you to focus your willpower in one area — and, once you’ve mastered that one, you’ll have more willpower to tackle the next one on your list. So, for example, you might decide that you want to eat fewer sweets — you should master that behavior before adding another tactic of, say, exercising daily. Succeeding at modifying each successive behavior will boost your confidence — and your willpower.
- Monitor your behavior in regard to your plan. If your target behavior is to eat fewer sweets, make a plan of how you will achieve that, whether it’s substituting fruit or non-fat yogurt for dessert, doing some meditation after dinner instead of reaching for a bowl of ice cream, or ridding your pantry of candy. Keep track of your progress and stumbles: If you were able to resist those temptations for a full day, write it down (and celebrate it!) — along with any tactics you used to steer clear of the sweets. And if you do experience a slip-up, don’t let it take you off track. And show yourself some self-compassion: Brush yourself off, try to figure out what contributed to the stumble, write it down and learn from your mistake. Then recommit — daily, if necessary — to your goal.
7. Reward Yourself Along the Way
You’re working hard — you deserve to reward yourself! Not all of your achievements need to be weight-related, though, so if you’ve shunned dessert for an entire week, treat yourself to a movie. Hit the gym four days this week? That calls for flowers!
8. Envision Your End-Result
Picture how you will look at your goal weight, how it will feel to fit back into your favorite pair of jeans, the triumph you’ll feel as you run up a flight of stairs without becoming winded. Then write down how that feels. Having a clear picture of where you want to go, as well as the emotions involved once you get there, will help you stay motivated and on track.
We hope these tips inspire you to make realistic goals this year — and set you up for success to accomplish all of them! Remember — your resolution can serve as a powerful way to help you connect to your truest wishes and your most fervent hopes to live a healthier life.
Do you need help committing to your New Year’s resolution? Jenny Craig can help! Learn more about our newest, most effective and holistic program ever, Max Up!
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus.
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