This time of year tends to be a roller coaster of happiness and stress, frantically running around and quiet moments with family, overindulgence and a bit of guilt for said overindulgence. Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, there is most likely a bit of feasting and merriment involved, and if you are like most of us shortly after the parties are over you start thinking about how next year you will get in shape. The week between the holidays and new years many of us start thinking about our new year's resolutions, and for many, those resolutions are health based.
As a coach, I highly recommend having a goal for the new year however there are a few tips I would like to pass along because a HUGE percent of people who make health changes, like going to the gym or nutritional changes, don't stick with them for very long. In fact, so many people buy gym memberships and then stop using them after a couple of weeks that gyms base their business model around it, they plan for and profit from your failed resolutions.
If you are like me you make goals when you are excited and feeling very motivated, you feel like you could accomplish anything, so you make BIG goals and swear you are gonna stick to the plan this time. You are going to go to the gym 5 days a week and completely change your diet and finally drop those extra pounds, maybe even train for a marathon! Then after a few weeks, the motivation level slips and you start missing trips to the gym and your old eating habits creep back in so you give up completely because you can't follow your new plan so why bother. How do we avoid these all too common failures? By starting with better resolutions.
Let's start with the time commitment, everyone I know is busy and if I asked them to add an hour long routine to their day they would probably smack me. Making resolutions like "going to the gym 5 days a week" are very time-consuming when you figure in travel time, working out, and then getting cleaned up. Setting a goal that takes up that much time feels good when you set it but fitting it into your schedule may not be realistic. I know we are all inundated with messages like "go big or go home," and pictures of people with ripped muscles in places you didn't even know you had muscles. This barrage of motivational messaging is really good at getting you to sign up or buy the latest and greatest thing but in truth, most of us aren't all that worried about being "fight club" shredded, we just want to feel better. So let's set some goals that feel good to you, not what some guy on Instagram said should be your goal.
The goals I help my clients set are typically based around 3 things, looking, feeling, and performing better. You will notice there is no mention of six-pack abs or deadlift records, just goals to be better. Because we all start in a different place our goals will be different, maybe you would like to lose 20 pounds or maybe you want to put on weight in the form of muscle. Would you feel better if your joints didn't ache or your brain didn't feel foggy? Has your performance in everyday activities decreased over time and you want that performance back? These are the places to start when making your resolutions, where are you now, and what do you want to improve. The time commitment for realistic goals is far less than you may think and therefore easier to fit into your already full schedule.
I would also encourage you to be realistic about what it takes to achieve your goals, in other words, what changes will give you the results you desire. For many of us, our resolutions revolve around our physical bodies, we would like our biological machine to look different. By far the healthiest and most effective way to change our bodies to be leaner, healthier and to perform better is to give our biology what it wants. Our biology has evolved over millions of years and it knows what it wants to thrive, all we have to do is provide it. I realize that human nutrition and movement is now a huge industry that puts out an overwhelming amount of information resulting in confusion and frustration. It doesn’t need to be that way. I tell my clients all the time that nutrition and movement are pretty simple, making the changes is not always easy but the plan is simple. I encourage you to find a nutrition plan that is based on our biological necessities and is sustainable indefinitely. A short-term “diet” may drop some pounds but what happens when you stop? Finding a plan that you can comfortable do every day is more likely to give you the long-term results you want. I coach my clients on the Primal or Ancestral nutrition model because it provides what we need nutritionally and can realistically be eaten for a lifetime.
Movement or exercise is another area where understanding how our bodies work can save us time. A simple phrase I use all the time is “you lose weight in the kitchen and build muscle in the gym”. If your goal is to shed a few pounds then your nutritional plan is far more important than a gym membership, in fact, if your goal is to lose weight I would coach you to back off trips to the gym because it can be counterproductive. Once your biology is getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy it will regulate your bodyweight without the never-ending cardio sessions. A daily 20-30 minute walk is usually enough for your genes to properly express themselves and produce lean muscle mass. A daily walk is also a great way to connect with your partner or to relax and let go of some of your stress.
So now that you have set some realistic goals, how do you stick with them? The number one thing that I have found for myself and my clients that will keep you on track is being accountable to someone else. I know it sounds odd to be accountable to someone for your own goals but we as humans are far more likely to follow through with something if someone else is holding us accountable. This trait in humans goes back to a time when disappointing a fellow tribe member could have catastrophic consequences. Using this to our advantage we can help push ourselves through the harder times as we make changes. Sharing your goals with someone else and asking them to help keep you accountable can be a game changer. I know for the men in my 12-week group this was invaluable. I have been told repeatedly that the weekly call with the rest of the group was the reason they were able to make the changes they needed to. They knew the support was there if they needed it but they also didn’t want to let the guys down by falling off the wagon. This works with couples as well. Several of the couples I coached have tried to make changes as individuals and were not overly successful, yet when they made changes together and held each other accountable at every step of the way they were able to not only achieve their goals but also grew closer as a result. So share your goals with someone and ask them to help you keep on track.
Setting resolution and goals for the new year can be fun and exciting, and I encourage you to really feel into what you want to do and be in the new year. If you set realistic goals and understand what it takes to achieve those you will be on your way to looking, feeling, and performing better in the new year. Finding someone to hold you accountable will make it even more effective and enjoyable.
I wish you all the best in the coming year and if there is anything I can help you with please reach out.