So January comes around again and everybody sets out with fantastic aims of losing weight and improving their health after the Christmas excess. Gyms and weight loss clinics are full to the brim with new enthusiastic and eager customers looking to change their lives and improve their health for the better.
However, scientific research has shown that adherence to such programs is difficult to maintain for many with a large decrease in new participants after 3 months and about a 50% drop off after 6 months (Tudor-Locke & Chan, 2006). Additionally, research has indicated that only 8% of people who take up such a programme will still be adhering to that programme 12 months later (Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012).
So what can we do?
Effective Goal Setting
Effective goals is key in helping you to facilitate your intentions. These goals must sit closely with the issues concerning what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Setting of what are known as SMART goals (Doran 1981) can prove very effective.
SMART is an acronym that ensure goals set are
What, How, Where, When I will take action?
What exactly i want to achieve?
How exactly i will achieve the goals?
Where and when will i go about reaching these goals.
How much exercise I am going to do?
How often, many?
How much weight i intend to lose?
Reach my target weight of 10 stone.
If the goal is unrealistic or out of reach, then there is a greater chance of one giving up on the programme. Trying to lose three stone in a month is unrealistic and unhealthy. Trying to get a non runner to run a marathon within a few weeks is also unattainable. Is this goal realistic to what you can actually achieve in the set time frame? Small but achievable steps lead to attainable outcomes.
Are your goals relevant to you reaching your long term goal. Are they facilitating you to reach your longer term targets?
What kind of time frame are you allowing to reach each aspect of the goal. As stated previously, trying to lose three stone in a month is unrealistic and unhealthy. Trying to get a non runner to run a marathon within a few weeks is also unattainable.
The following is an example of such SMART goals with a strategic and realistic aim of weight loss and healthier living under various characteristics.
Time Management, Children & Responsibilities
When cooking, I will prepare dinner for two days to reduce the time spent cooking each week.
I will delegate that husband cooks on one evening per week –Reduce my cooking from 7 – 3 days.
I will delegate children to make their own lunch each evening and make rota to share cleaning, hoovering etc
Diet & Nutrition
Enjoyment – People tend only to maintain participation if the experience is enjoyable. Take up a sport you enjoy or make your exercise fun and something you enjoy doing. There are numerous fun classes out there- zumba, aqua-aerobics, spinning, yoga, pilates etc while activities like hill walking, social running clubs etc have become quite popular of late.
Motivation – Keep a record of what you are doing and note how you can improve your levels of fitness. Use this self reflection to monitor your emotions about participation and your beliefs about progress.
Belief and Knowledge -read up and inform yourself of the benefits of what you are doing and eating and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Knowledge is power.
Exercise Plan – Try and set targets to increase your activity levels as you gain in fitness levels – example being SMART goal setting as above. What you find challenging today might not produce the same benefits as you get fitter so loo to challenge yourself a little more as you go through the process.
Social support – One is more likely to maintain a programme if they have the social support of a friend, so get your friends involved in your regime or bring a friend to a class you are taking. It will be a key factor in you achieving your goals.