How much do you agree with the following statements, scoring each one from 1 (Not At All) to 10 (A Lot) as they relate to your New Year’s Resolutions?
1. I make my resolutions with life-long sustainability in mind. ____
2. I choose resolutions that I can maintain for the rest of my life. ____
3. I only resolve to change one behavior at a time. ____
4. I am comfortable listing my own self-care among my top priorities. ____
5. My daily well-being is as important to me as almost anything else. ____
6. I know that I can achieve my New Year’s resolutions. ____
7. My New Year’s resolutions are realistic for me to achieve. ____
8. I am ready to stop trying to achieve unrealistic goals for my body weight and size.____
9. I am ready to reject any marketing that is selling quick fixes.____
10. I know how to tailor my behavioral goals so that they meet my needs and fit into my life.___
Now write down your total score. It will be between 10 and 100. Keep reading.
Here is a women-specific, motivational and behavioral framework to help guide you to New Year’s resolutions that are SMART for you. The S.M.A.R.T.™ principles below will not only help you better sustain your desired behavior but also guide you to make changes that nurture rather than deplete you. At the very end, I’ll explain how to interpret your quiz score and also offer you a variety of resources for targeted assistance if you want extra guidance. The reason why my S.M.A.R.T. principles work for so many women is because they are based not only on my 16 years of research on women in midlife but also on commonsense.
SUSTAINABLE. Smart New Year’s resolutions are sustainable. Smart resolutions begin with the end in mind because creating long-term sustainability is your core goal. Most resolutions don’t work because they reflect a desired long-term goal but not enough foresight. Most women haven’t put sufficient thought and planning into selecting a path that can be sustained for a VERY long time. If your goal is to sustain a behavior for the rest of your life (30-60 years, right?), isn’t it worth taking 6 months to 3 years to REALLY learn how to do this? Logic and wisdom tell us that anything worth doing, is worth doing right.
Often, the best approach to behavior change for women is in a sequential manner. SMART New Year’s resolutions take a sequential approach to behavior change. Most weight loss programs expect you to learn two vastly different and difficult behavioral changes (diet & exercise) at the same time. For most of us, our lives are just too busy and complicated to be able to integrate both diet and exercise into our lives at the same time. Because women juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, we have even less energy, attention, and time to learn and integrate both dietary changes and regular physical activity at the same time. My sequential strategy has you learn ONE behavior at time so that it can stick. And so that you can be successful. After you have had adequate time to learn how to integrate one new behavior into your life in a positive and consistent way, then you work on learning the next behavior. I advise taking at least 3 to 12 months to really learn ONE behavior.
MY SELF-CARE: Smart New Year’s resolutions address women’s underlying comfort with making their self-care, well-being, and health a top priority. Regular self-care is the “oxygen mask” women must consistently put on if we are to optimally take care of ourselves (and others) and experience life to the fullest. It is very difficult to sustain any self-care behavior (i.e., exercise and healthy eating) if we don’t feel like we deserve and/or value making regular time for our own self-care. Self-care includes not only creating time to move our bodies but creating time for other nurturing activities like reading a great book or taking a nap. Improving self-care attitudes and behaviors is one of the first steps a woman can take and is essential for creating a solid foundation to support any health behavior that you desire to maintain for life.(Previous posts have discussed how to build essential self-care skills.)
ACHIEVABLE: SMART New Year’s resolutions are achievable. This principle isn’t new to you, but I want to suggest that you take it to a different level. Pretend you are in kindergarten and learning something for the first time. Give yourself permission to set VERY SMALL goals for yourself. Why? Because it is truly the smart thing to do! Become consistent with these small goals. Learn what gets in your way. Learn how to overcome your obstacles. And ONLY THEN, when you feel that you have incorporated the new behavior into your “routine” increase your goals – just a little at a time. Keep this up. Take 1-2 months to learn how to add 2 – 7 minutes of physical activity to most of your days. You have your whole life to sustain physical activity (or healthy eating or time management, etc). Why not take sufficient time to learn how to do it well? That is the only way you will be successful in sustaining the behavior for the rest of your life. The mantra I teach clients is: Consistency first, then quantity. Once you’ve incorporated the smaller amount (another 2-5 minutes?) then you can increase slowly and work on mastering this higher amount. Then do it again.
REJECT “quick fixes”: Smart New Year’s resolutions reject “quick fixes” and unrealistic goals. Focusing on “losing weight” can easily undermine your ability to sustain any weight you lose and leads to long-term failure for many. There are quite a few reasons why this is true. One reason is that I often prevents developing positive and life-long relationships with the very behaviors that are essential to weight control. If the research showing that most people regain their lost weight after only two years isn’t enough to convince you that making “losing weight” your New Year’s resolution AGAIN might not be a good idea, think about your own experiences over the past 20-40 years with weight loss efforts.
SMART New Year’s resolutions are made by women who have learned, often numerous times and from firsthand experience, that “quick fixes” don’t stick in the long-term. SMART women are ready to create goals based on what they can realistically attain, not goals based on false advertising and impossible cultural standards and pressures. If they desire to lose weight, they value losing it in a way that they can maintain over the long haul, instead of losing it quickly and then gaining it back.
TAILORED: Smart New Year’s resolutions are tailored to fit into your life. When you think about which behavior you want to change or goal you want to achieve, think hard about who you are. Tailoring to who you are is of utmost importance. If you don’t respect your own likes, needs and wants when selecting a behavioral path to travel it is extremely unlikely that you’ll be able to sustain the changes over time. If you hate the stairmaster, don’t include that in your resolution to be physically active. Instead choose activities that will feel good, or at least not bad to do. If you love bread, why pick an eating plan that removes it completely? When you decide to change in ways that respect what you want and like, you will rediscover a deep trust in yourself as you begin to reap the rewards of improved mood, energy, health, and quality of life.
How SMART are your New Year’s Resolutions? Where is your score?
Over 70 points: Your resolutions are SMART! You are primed to make New Year’s resolutions that you can enjoy achieving. Your greatest efforts should go toward devising an effective mindset and strategies to sustain your desired behavior change. You can feel great about the changes being made and for being a great role model to other women.
Between 50-60 points: You are inclined to make SMART resolutions but don’t have the full conviction of the women in the group above. Most importantly, consider why you might feel ambivalent. Think about how empowering it could be to be proactive in determining your own goals rather than simply following what others suggest. Determine if you are ready to make your own health and well-being something worth investing in. If you feel ready, peruse the resources below to see if any resonate with you.
Below 49 points: You scored in the lower 50th percentile of my SMART quiz. It’s important that you understand what this means. It may mean you do not agree with my perspective, or you aren’t ready to try my SMART principles. Either way, I wish you luck toward the principles you are pursuing.
A lower score might also signify that you haven’t been exposed to these ideas and might just need some time and/or assistance to digest them and leverage their power to enhance your daily quality of life. Only you know where you stand. If these ideas resonated with you, but you scored low, you are ripe for learning and change. Start to think about these ideas, and read the resources below for some suggestions, further education, and/or guidance.
Regardless of which group you fall into, I wish you the inspiration to create a joyful mind and happy body in 2010!
EssentialSteps Phone Coaching with Dr. Michelle Segar. I offer two different phone-based programs for women in midlife. One program teaches women how to develop exercise motivation that sticks and the skills for sustaining physically active lives. The other program teaches women the mindset and skills to make their self-care a priority. They are both developed out of my research and work with women in midlife, and the shift in mindset and new skills can be learned in only 4-sessions by telephone (one hour each) plus a workbook. See my website for further information: www.essentialsteps.net . Let me know if you have any questions about either program after going to my website.
The Hunger Within (eating behaviors): The Hunger Within is a Michigan-based program (http://www.thehungerwithin.com/workshops.html), developed by Marilyn Migliore, to help women understand the core reasons why they overeat and how to develop healthier relationships with eating and food. There is a great 12-week self-paced workbook that I have read and recommend (http://www.thehungerwithin.com/).
Health at Every Size (physical activity and eating behaviors) Health at Every Size is a “movement” and an alternative approach to “dieting”. There isn’t an official website but you can check out these URLs: Health At Every Size, Healthy Weight Network; JonRobinson.net.
The New York Times’ fitness writer, Gina Kolata, has written two great books on the research about fitness and dieting. She shows that most of what we have been told will work regarding diet and exercise, even by evidence-based programs, does not work in the long run. 1. Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise; 2. Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting. These are not self-help books, but very interesting and well-written.
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