Holidays are over, and for most of us, a trail of excess drinks, food and fun are left in its wake.
As you take stock of the damage, it’s common to target January as the time when you’ll “really get your shit together”, and commit to a serious transformation.
But, studies show that only 8% of us who make a New Year's resolution actually keep them all year and 80% will have failed by the start of February.
Not too promising.
So, how can we effectively harness this new year motivation and find a way to actually hit our health and fitness goals - be they performance, nutrition, physique - in a real and sustainable way?
What NOT to do:
You’ll probably be familiar with this approach:
1) Hit the ground sprinting and try to make up as much ground in the first week as possible.
- Eat at an extreme caloric deficit, exclude all the foods you love, and plan a diet including only complicated, new meals you’ve bookmarked over the past year.
- By the same token, you should likely try and double or triple your workout volume. Make it 2-3 hours minimum of high-intensity workouts. Every. Day.
2) Choose extremely challenging daily goals and tasks that you have a low probability of completing.
Most people attack their resolutions like this for a few days/weeks, only to ultimately miss a day, beat themselves up, and revert back to their old ways.
Why It’s So Hard:
Since we’re in Canada, the holiday season goes hand in hand with the coldest, darkest, and shortest days of the year.
On top of that, we’re in lockdown, and find ourselves indoors more and more, not moving as much, indulging in more sugar and alcohol than we typically do, and likely overwhelmed by the year ending work obligations and deadlines.
It’s the perfect storm for Seasonal Depressive Disorder. Your energy is down, you may have put on some unwanted weight, and you just can't seem to figure out what is happening to your body. It is no wonder why January 1st is such a popular time to set the intention to reset yourself, get back on the right healthy track, and try to re-write some of the last few months.
Knowing these challenges, we can begin to re-frame the usual “all-or-nothing” approach to one of a slow ramp-up, celebrating the small wins, and building momentum.
3 Steps To Making 2021 Your Best Year Yet:
1. START SLOW - don’t be like the majority of people that come out hot on January 1st and burn out before the end of the month. Instead, create a plan of action that will get you more and more motivated as the month and year progresses.
- Think of January as the month of building momentum
- Starting slow might mean treating the first week or two as a small, incremental upgrade from how you were living last month. If you were eating out 3-5x per week in December, then aim to cut that back to 1-2x for January. If you want to go down to zero, then make February the goal date. If you stick to your slow start plan you may just find yourself motivated to go to zero sooner and with less resistance and struggle.
- Think of February 1st as your real “starting day” for when you will really ramp things up.
- Start your journey on January 1st but improve in steps/stages.
2. START COLLECTING MANY SMALL WINS - 9 out of 10 is the rule to aim for.
- Having ambitious and lofty goals means that you are going to have to make significant changes over time. However, these first changes you make don't have to be the hardest ones. In fact, they shouldn't be.
- To get the momentum going you simply have to start collecting daily victories. That is best achieved by choosing habits and daily goals that you feel confident you can achieve.
- The right behaviour in January for you to establish is one that is an improvement upon your previous behaviors and one that you feel confident you can complete 9 times out of 10. Perhaps eating low carb under 100g a day is a behaviour you aspire to, but starting there is going to be very difficult if you've been consuming 300g or more every day of refined carbs. A better goal might be to say to yourself, "I am going to avoid all added sugars to my diet." That leaves room for you to eat lots of fruit, potatoes, and veggies to satisfy your need for carbs, but will likely reduce your total carb consumption dramatically with the removal of sugar.
3. SET KEY CATEGORY GOALS FOR YOUR HEALTH - For January, make 3 daily goals for yourself across these 3 categories. Make them goals that you feel confident you can hit 9/10 times - ones that feel almost too easy for you.
Nutritional Quality - What is a qualitative improvement you want to make to your food?
- More Vegetables - have a salad each day as a meal
- Zero Caloric Beverages - commit to not drinking any beverages that have calories in them (stick to tea, water, black coffee)
- Less Alcohol - start to restrict the number of alcoholic beverages to a reasonable amount (ex. drop down to just 1 a day, or 2 a week)
- Less Eating out - commit to cooking 2 of the 3 daily meals yourself (commit to only having 1 meal out a week)
- Less Sugar - commit to having no ADDED sugar to any of your food (ie Fruit is OK, but strawberry jam with added sugar isn't)
- Nutritional Quantity - Some aspect of nutrition that is measurable with numbers that you want to push yourself to adhering to. A nutritional quantity goal is something that you can measure precisely each day.
- Protein Goal - aim to have your bodyweight in grams of protein every day (ie - 150g of protein every day)
- Calorie Goal - aim to not exceed your calorie limit each day (ie - 2200 calories per day)
- Produce Goal - aim to consume 800g of fresh produce (veggies and fruit) every day
- More Water - commit to hydration with 50% of your bodyweight in pounds as ounces of pure water each day
- Movement - What is your daily movement goal? This doesn't have to be your training goal as much as it is something you are going to hold yourself accountable to each and every day. You might go to the gym or workout on top of this goal.
- Steps - aim to get in 10k steps every day
- Bodyweight Calisthenics - set a goal to do ______ reps of ______ exercise every day (100 sit ups, 50 push ups, 100 squats, 100 lunges, 50 pull ups)
- Cardio - you will commit to 30mins of uninterrupted cardio each day (bike, walk, run, row, ski)
- Stretch/Yoga - you will commit to 20mins of guided yoga each morning
Stick to my recommendations above and start slowly. Choose 3 goals that you can confidently hit and repeat.
I can almost assure you that if you do this and get 2 solid weeks of consistency under your belt, then come January 18th, you are going to be feeling much better and ready to take on a little bit more.