How Not to “Should” All Over Yourself – New Year’s Resolutions – 80 Twenty Nutrition

How Not to “Should” All Over Yourself – New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! It’s an exciting time when libations are flowing and the gym is still and quiet for one more day… Until January 2nd hits. Then it’s like they’re paying people to be there. I used to work at a gym and you couldn’t move the first 2 weeks of January for all the people rammed in there. Where did they all go that 3rd week? {Crickets}

I have mixed feelings about this time of year. Without a doubt, a new year brings with it hope and promise of new possibilities. For many, it also brings guilt and pressure to set a goal and stick to it. And what if the new habit doesn’t instantly stick? This is what we are all dreading. The lack of stickiness with new habits that isn’t our fault. Guess what? It’s completely natural! New Year’s resolutions can be tough to stick to.

I was recently working with some clients in a group setting and we were talking about how social settings and holiday parties often trigger mindless eating. One of my clients said she often puts pressure on herself to “eat better”, “eat less” and is constantly unhappy with her progress. A friend recently told her “stop should-ing all over yourself!” The group could not stop laughing at the cute play on words, and I could see from the happy faces and shining eyes that this really resonated with everyone. I have been thinking about it every day since. We all have “shoulds” in our life that make us feel inadequate. Perhaps this New Year’s we can take time to think about what these are and whether they are helping or hindering our progress.

I tried looking up where the “shoulding all over yourself” phrase came from, and the Internet tells me credit goes to Al Franken’s SNL character, self-help enthusiast Stuart Smalley.

I couldn’t find video of him saying this particular quote, but got some good laughs from this video of his daily affirmations.

I tell my clients that goal-setting is an essential step in meeting their nutrition, fitness and health objectives, and I truly believe that. What many people don’t know is HOW you set those goals will determine how likely you are to achieve them. WHEN you set goals is another important consideration. Do you wait until January 1st to set goals and it’s a free-for-all the other 354 days of the year? Goal setting needs to happen frequently to work.

Join me in setting a goal that just happens to be set now, but doesn’t need that nasty “New Year’s Resolution” label. What makes a plain ol’ goal better? It can be revisited, tweaked and modified based on where you are at any given time. Here are some important goal-setting steps that you may already know, but may need a refresher on.

1. Write them down!

The power of writing things down cannot be underestimated. Somehow the act of writing down a goal makes it real and harder to ignore. Even better, make that goal impossible to ignore! Stick it to your fridge or bathroom mirror or forehead. Somewhere you will have to face it and therefore be more likely to do it.

Writing goals down is also essential because as I mentioned above, you will want to revisit and possibly tweak them later. You need to monitor your progress to see the progress!

2. Tell other people

I’m not talking about telling the saboteurs in your life or strangers on the bus. I’m talking about telling the cheerleaders in your life, the ones who will ask you out of love how you’re doing with your goal, and actually want to know the answer.

You can try joining a group of like-minded people for an even higher chance at success. That’s why groups like Weight Watchers are so successful. If fitness is your goal, join a group at the Running Room or visit Running in the USA for a running group in your area. If running isn’t your thing, find another fitness group or class to join. You’ll meet some amazing cheerleaders who can share what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

3. Make them positive

Setting a goal like “Stop eating junk, dummy” is obviously not going to inspire as much as “I will choose balanced meals of lean and vegetarian proteins, vegetables and whole grains, and enjoy 2 squares of dark chocolate each night for a healthy treat”. What would Stuart say?! (Review affirmations video above if you’re stuck…)

Stay positive when setting goals... and in general. Laughing helps! (photo credit: photodonny via Flickr)

4. Make them SMARTER

You may have learned about “SMART” goals in school, but why settle for smart when you can be smarter? Ooooh…

Each letter stands for a different element your goal should have to be successful. Here is what each letter of “S.M.A.R.T.E.R.” represents:

S = Specific

I’d like to eat healthier and be more fit. Good for me. But how am I going to do that? What does that look like in my mind? How about I say I will eat 2 cups of leafy greens every day and start a kickboxing class on Monday and Thursday mornings. Now I know what I’m signing up for!

M = Measurable

Make yourself a little checklist or use a calendar to track how you’re doing. For example, I could put a green check mark on each day of my calendar for every cup of leafy greens I have on that day. Then it’s easy to see how I’ve been doing at a glance and strategize about how to improve on more difficult days (i.e. Sunday mega brunch day may need to include a big dinner salad).

A = Action-oriented

What are the steps you need to take to make your goal a reality? Let’s use the healthy balanced meal goal as an example. It’s wonderful to want to do that, but what will it take to make that happen? Unless you have a personal chef or uber-supportive partner, these meals are not going to magically appear. This goal will take meal planning, grocery shopping and require planning for meals out and on the go.

R = Realistic

I would like to brag about being able to run a marathon, but I currently run for 30 minutes 2 or 3 days a week. So is running a marathon in a few months a realistic goal? Probably not. I am going to sign up for a half-marathon and give myself 4 months to train.

T = Time-bound

What is the start and end date of your goal? Is it short-term or long-term? I suggest you start with a shorter time period of a month at first. Why? It seems less daunting then setting a goal with an end date of a year or (gulp) forever.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, although some may disagree, I still think it’s a good rule of thumb to get you over the “honeymoon phase” of a new goal.

It’s also helpful to break down a goal into smaller chunks. What will you need to do each day to make the goal a reality?

E = Exciting and Enjoyable

Set a goal to do something you’ve always wanted to do. If leafy greens aren’t your thing, no biggie. Set a goal that gets you pumped. For you, it might be to try a new vegetarian recipe once a week, or learn to dance like a Bollywood film star. Whatever makes you happy!

R = Resourced

This is such a significant step it should be circled, underlined and highlighted, as my 10th grade English teacher used to say.

Take some time to really think about what time, energy, money, support and other resources will go into achieving your goal. Have a talk with the people in your life who may be affected by your goal and ask for their support. What roadblocks do you anticipate? How will you handle them? Put aside the resources you need so you can’t use resource requirements as excuses to quit later.

Are you raring to get started on setting your goals? That’s the spirit! There are some helpful worksheets available online to help you put the SMART concept into action. I’ve created a SMARTER goal-setting worksheet just for you! Download the PDF and print off copies here: Plan SMARTER – 80 Twenty Nutrition goal setting worksheet

Wishing you and yours all the best for a healthy and happy 2014!

blog signature - Christy Brissette media dietitian 80 Twenty Nutrition

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