If you’re tired of setting health or weight loss resolutions every year that don’t work for you, I’m sharing three tips for changing your goal-setting strategy so you can keep your intentions this year.
Tired of setting New Year’s resolutions that you just can’t stick to?
Does it feel like the same old song and dance every January? Are you so excited starting January 1st that by the end of the month you’ve lost steam?
Do your decisions look like:
“I will lose 15 pounds by March.”
“I will work out in the gym every day for a month.”
“I’m going to cut out the carbs.”
If so, you are not alone! Our culture has completely normalized setting New Year’s resolutions around weight loss and extreme and unsustainable diets and exercise regimens.
Why don’t these kinds of resolutions work?
- They are rooted in an all-or-nothing mentality. For example, exercising every day is “everything” in an all-or-nothing mindset. Then what usually happens is you get so exhausted from going to the gym every day that you stop and then don’t go at all (turning into “nothing”).
- They rely on a scarcity mentality. Cutting out all carbs leads to a scarcity mindset, which can backfire and make you feel out of control on your carbs and lead to you eating an amount that makes you feel uncomfortable or even sick.
- It revolves around trying to control the exact size of your body. Weight is a complex science and is influenced by much more than just diet and exercise. When people set weight-loss goals, they usually have to resort to unhealthy or extreme behaviors that aren’t sustainable to achieve results. And then once they lose the weight, they start to go back to some of their old behaviors and patterns, and the weight comes back on. Enter the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and weight riding.
How do we set healthy goals for the new year that are actually sustainable?
(This assumes you value health and want to set health goals but health is not a moral issue and you don’t have to value health to be worthwhile).
1. Change the language. Set intentions, not decisions.
This may sound trivial but I believe the language we use shapes how we feel and act. The definition of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. It feels a little tougher and black and white to me — like if you set a decision, you either succeed or fail and there’s no space in between. How does this word feel to you? Does it trigger fear or pressure or make you feel excited and expansive?
The intention of the word seems more fluid and streamlined. An intention is a goal or plan. You can set an intention or goal to do something and then change course if your circumstances change or you realize that something isn’t working for you. I believe in going back to our intentions or goals every few months and checking it out for yourself. Does this intention still serve me? Is it still realistic and doable? If not, how can you modify it to be more attainable or to serve you better?
I personally enjoyed defining a word for the year to guide my choices and decisions rather than setting concrete goals. I see it as a larger theme or intention.
When you change the language, you change the way you think, and when you change the way you think, you approach change with more flexibility and grace.
Decisions that make you feel ashamed. Intentions put you into self-compassion. The latter is a driving force. The former stalls progress.
2. Focus on health-promoting behaviors, not weight loss.
Weight is very much out of our control. Sure, extreme behaviors can lead to weight loss but these behaviors are not sustainable and it is almost impossible to maintain weight loss. When you intentionally seek to lose weight, you are working against your body’s natural set point (a range of 5 to 20 lbs. so that your body is comfortable and not resistant to slight weight fluctuations). When you’re working against your body’s set point or your genetic blueprint, the weight you’re comfortable with, you’re working against your own physiology, which is why it’s not sustainable, and you end up putting the weight back on again. Body diversity is real and we’re not all meant to be the same size. Just as we are not all meant to be the same height or shoe size, we are not all meant to carry the same weight. If you really value health, keep in mind that research shows it’s better to stay at a higher weight than in a weight cycle (ie, lose weight and put it back on again, repeat).
Instead of focusing on weight we can’t control, set intentions based on health-promoting behaviors that are actually within your control. You may not be able to control the number on the scale, but you can control adding a piece of fruit with your breakfast. Studies show that health indicators improve with health-promoting behaviors even if there is no change in weight.
What are some examples of other health-promoting behaviors?
- Get an extra hour of sleep.
- Walk to the store instead of taking the car.
- Add vegetables to dinner.
- Eating every few hours.
- Wear a seat belt.
- Drink more water.
- Set aside 5 minutes most days to meditate.
- Make an appointment with a therapist.
These are all intentions and goals under your control (assuming you have access and the financial privilege to do so). Instead of using the number on the scale as a measure of success, take note of your energy levels, your mood, how you feel physically, your sleep, stress levels, and markers of your health (such as blood pressure, cholesterol, A1C, etc.).
3. Focus on setting intentions with an abundance mindset.
Focusing on what we cannot or cannot do puts us in a scarcity or deprivation mindset. Have you ever been in the room with a young child and told him that he can play with any toy in the room except for that one off-limits thing? Guess what they will want to play with? Forbidden fruit! We are connected in the same way as adults.
If you tell yourself you can’t eat bread, ice cream, or pasta, guess what you’ll all think. the. the time? Instead of setting goals with a deprivation mentality, set intentions centered around abundance. What do you want to invite you more than In your life
This might look like adding more fruits and vegetables to your day in exchange for avoiding carbs. It may feel like adding more whole grains to your week instead of cutting out white rice.
Also ask yourself, Actually what lights you up? What feels good to you physically, mentally and spiritually? If you make intentions about doing things you really don’t You want you do but i think you are ought toit will not be sustainable.
Say you hate the gym but feel compelled to hit the treadmill, chances are you’ll leave the gym without feeling energized or inspired. What if you set an intention around a form of movement that you actually enjoy, even if you don’t think it’s “important,” like yoga or barre. If you’re after things you actually enjoy, you’re more likely to do them!
For more tips for a non-food New Year, check out my posts below:
10 non-dieting resolutions for the new year
Are you on a hunger and fullness diet?
A beginner’s guide to intuitive eating
How will you set goals or intentions this year? Tell me in the comments below! We’ll continue the conversation on Instagram so be sure to follow me there if you haven’t already! And if you want even more support, make sure you subscribe to my email list so you never miss a newsletter!
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