They say that the only difference between dreams and goals is a deadline. Many of us set a deadline of one month, six months, or even a year to reach our goal – whether it be feeling stronger, building stamina, weight loss, muscle gain, toning up – or making some other change in your life.
And, year after year, many of us are amazed when that year comes and goes with no results to show for our efforts. What is your goal for how you feel or look this time next year? Or how about by June? Whatever your goal, there are some hurdles you’ll need to avoid.
Hurdle #1: The Holidays
The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but too many of us take the opportunity to overindulge all year round. It starts with Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties and quickly progresses into Valentine’s dinner and chocolates, Easter chocolates, summer barbecues, Halloween sweets, and Christmas indulgence. And that’s not even counting birthdays, weddings, promotions, and other causes for celebration!
Moderation is the key to overcoming this hurdle. Allow yourself to splurge for one meal per event, and make it good. Don’t keep stuffing yourself with leftovers for days at a time. Aim for quality over quantity.
If you drink alcohol during a celebration, have one or two diet-friendly drinks like wine spritzers or gin and tonic. Once the fun has ended, don’t starve yourself to compensate for overindulging; simply go back to your regularly scheduled eating and fitness plan.
Hurdle #2: Weekends
Weekends can sabotage our weekly weight loss efforts. Long weekends and holiday weekends are particularly notorious for this, but any weekend will do.
If you start partying and eating junk food on Friday night and don’t stop until Monday morning, your goals will suffer.
Careful planning can keep you from gaining weekend weight. If you have a celebration to attend, cut a few calories from your other meals that day to compensate. If your friends want to hang out, bring some healthy snack options like veggie trays and hummus. Or offer to cook a couple of healthy dishes for a shared dinner.
It’s important to stay active on the weekends as well, but they provide a great opportunity to break up a monotonous routine. Instead of hitting the gym, go for a walk or cycle. Walk or bike when running your errands. Play with your kids or pets at the park. Grab a backpack and hit a nature trail. The idea is to have fun and burn calories doing something you don’t normally do.
Hurdle #3: Procrastination
“I’ll start the new routine Monday.” That’s a tired old cliche for a reason: many of us find all sorts of ways to justify putting off our plans. We’re too tired, too stressed, too busy to work out.
We can’t do it this weekend, because we’re going on a trip. Next week is full of business dinners and conferences. The following weekend, we’re supposed to host a birthday party. Excuses, excuses! If you wait for the perfect time to start your diet, you’ll never get around to it. If you do manage to get started, it’s important not to let excuses get you off track.
You can overcome procrastination by starting off with small, workable changes that fit into your lifestyle. Just get yourself to the gym – don’t worry what you do when you get there. Do a home workout video when you cant get to the gym. Make some lower-calorie substitutions in your meal planning. Commit to taking a walk after dinner 3 or 4 nights a week. Pamper yourself with something other than decadent food. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and beat bloating.
“There’s no time like the present.” “Just do it.” Those are cliches for a reason, too; they work.
Hurdle #4: Giving Up
Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit. We will continue engaging in unhealthy behaviors, even when we know the consequences, because “that’s what we’ve always done”.
Our eating and exercise habits caused us to gain weight, so losing weight will require changes to those habits. The key is to make those changes permanent, not to try for a while and then give up when the going gets tough.
There are several ways to avoid falling off the health wagon. First, make changes you could live with for life. (Note: Eating nothing but cabbage soup is not a change you could live with for life!). Find a balanced meal plan and an exercise routine you don’t dread. Then plan logistics: how will you fit exercise into your schedule? How will you fit healthy foods into your grocery budget?
After the planning stage, all that’s left is to do it. You don’t have to have a killer workout every single time, and you don’t have to skip every dessert that comes your way. As long as you’re sticking to the plan 80% of the time, you’re making progress.
Don’t let another year pass you by! Get to your goal by identifying potential hurdles and taking steps to avoid them.
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