Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Tips for Successful SMART Goals

Today's the last day of 2013! Are you ready for a new year full of health and happiness? If you answered 'Yes!" I trust that's because you've already given some thought to how you'll make it happen. If you haven't, then now's the time to translate your hopes for the new year into SMART goals that will help you make those dreams into reality.

Three Tips for Successful SMART Goals

1.  SMART goals need to be based on behavior change. Goals like, "I want to lose 10% of my current weight," or "I want to get back into a size 30 waist," are terrific starting points for developing a SMART goal. To make these goals specific, though, you'll need to focus on your behavior -- and if you intend to maintain your new weight, you'll need to focus on behavior changes you can maintain for a lifetime.

I encourage you to consider developing goals based on small-but-meaningful changes. Zero in on an aspect of weight management you can control: Change up your eating habits, be more active, drink more water, get more rest, manage stress, take care of your health. (Feeling overwhelmed? Not to worry! We'll be looking at ways to be successful with each of these aspects of weight management in 2014.)

2.  Make sure your goals have a time frame. Perhaps one of the most common mistakes people make when they begin developing weight management goals is failing to include an end date. At first glance, it makes sense: If you're going to make behavior change for a lifetime, who needs end dates, right? Wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. Because you're making behavior change for a lifetime, it's crucial that you develop some short-term goals. Without short-term goals, weight management becomes a grueling, never-ending experience.

As you're thinking about a time frame, I urge you to consider goals that sound like, "I will track my water intake for 14 days," rather than, "I will track my water intake for two weeks." That way, if you miss a day or two in two weeks -- and chances are extremely good you won't do things perfectly -- you don't need to start over again. Instead, you just get back on track with your goal.

This truth leads to Tip #3, which is...

3.  Consider building a reward into your goal. Rewards make the journey fun. If your goal is "I will walk during my lunch break for 14 days," but going for a walk isn't your favorite thing, then planning ahead for a reward after you've been successful will benefit you in two ways. First, it'll give you something to look forward to as you're out walking. And second, if you choose a tangible, non-food reward, you'll have something to remind you of your success.

For example, I once worked with a client who bought herself a charm bracelet, and every time she reached a goal, she bought herself a charm for the bracelet. After a year of reaching goals, she had a gorgeous bracelet laden with charms, each one representing a success. You don't need to buy a charm bracelet, of course. You might buy yourself a new workout shirt or a new yoga mat. Or, treat yourself to a new album for your MP3 player.

We'll get back to work next Tuesday. Until then, I wish you and yours much health and happiness in the new year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top Five Tips for Handling the Holidays

Christmas is almost here, and New Year's Eve is fast approaching! As we head into these final weeks of the year, losing -- or even maintaining -- weight can be a real challenge. So, let's take a look at...

Donna's Top Five Tips for Handling the Holidays

1. Stay active. This is not the time of year to worry over whether you're logging enough time in the gym, or getting enough steps on your pedometer. All that matters in these last two weeks of December is whether you are moving around as often as you can. Organize a family walk, have a dance party, go caroling, or start a tennis or bowling championship with friends and family using your gaming system. If all you can manage is a ten-minute walk, don't sweat it. Get up and get walking!

2. Plan ahead for balance. There's no better time than the holidays to think about what really matters, and make sure your actions are in line with your beliefs. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to do everything perfectly, attend every party, or drink eggnog and eat fruitcake. You do have to set limits, though, so you can actually enjoy the activities that matter most to you.

3. Manage stress. The holidays, for all their joy and wonder, can also be a difficult time. The general hustle and bustle, societal expectations, loneliness and loss, financial worries, and many other concerns can ramp up in December. Break out your assertive communication skills. Take time for yourself. Ask for help when you need it.

4. Up your water intake. It's one of the simplest things you can do during the holiday season, but it's often overlooked. Staying hydrated is good for your mood, helps you avoid headaches, and does wonders for dry skin. Drinking water also gives you something to do with your hands, instead of eating or drinking at get-togethers. In addition, all that extra water gives you an excuse to head to the restroom, where you can take a short sanity break!

5. Write it down. Whether we're talking about a food record, physical activity, or any other aspect of weight management, you'll find it easier to focus on -- and reach -- your goals if you keep track. Write down your goals, and keep them where you'll see them throughout the day. Keep track of how it goes as the day progresses. Don't worry about being perfect. Learn from what happens, and build on your successes.

My family and I will be celebrating Christmas next week, so I won't be back until the last week of December. We'll talk then about how to up your odds of weight management success in the new year (and no, it won't involve the cabbage soup diet!). Regardless of what holidays you may be celebrating this time of year, I wish you and yours all the best, and hope you enjoy a happy, healthy December! :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Focus on Maintaining, Not Losing

For many people, December isn't just the holiday season. It's also a time when weight loss is a real challenge. Chances are, you're busier than usual, which makes physical activity and adequate rest less likely. You'll probably face both more frequent and higher-calorie temptations, food-wise. And the holidays tend to bring a mix of both positive and negative stresses, on top of the ordinary stress and anxiety we face every day.

That said, I have a novel proposition for those of you who are working on weight loss: Why not consider maintaining, instead of losing, weight this year? The challenges of the holiday season make  maintaining weight a more realistic goal -- even if you're enjoying success with weight loss. Maintaining weight means you'll need to keep doing what you're doing, of course. But, just as with weight loss, you don't need to do weight maintenance perfectly to do it well!

With maintenance, you have a little more leeway than you do with weight loss. It's okay to stay up late a few nights, enjoy a half-cup or two of eggnog, have a few candy canes, and cut back on your workouts a little (or even skip a few). You won't lose weight, because you're not keeping up with the behaviors that lead to weight loss. But as long as you don't get too carried away, you won't gain weight, either.

That said, I want to point out that the holidays tend to encourage getting carried away, whether the topic is shopping for gifts, partying, or food choices. And, of course, that's why so many people gain weight during the holiday season.

So, this holiday season, I encourage you to consider how you can change what you're doing a little bit. Not a lot, just a little -- just enough to give you some leeway to enjoy the holiday season, without crossing the line to abandon. It's crucial to give it some thought now, and to plan ahead for the challenges you're likely to face. That way, you can relax, enjoy the holiday season, and maintain your weight. So, when January arrives, you're ready to get back on track with your weight loss behaviors that will keep you on the path to health and happiness.

If you're already maintaining your weight, then spending some time thinking about how you'll maintain is even more important. Whatever you're doing on a regular basis is just enough to keep you where you are, so any indulgences you enjoy put you at risk for weight gain. That means it's especially important to think ahead to how you'll create a balance between the things you do that allow you to maintain your weight, and the things you'll do differently during the holiday season.

We'll continue talking about handling the holidays next week. Until then, post and let us know what challenge you face this holiday season, and how you plan to tackle it. See you next Tuesday! :)