New Year’s resolutions kick into high gear on January 1st—actually, probably more like January 2nd. Gyms around the country are suddenly packed to the brim.
Resolutions have their own problems. According to data from the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people achieve their resolution goal. But also of concern is the time leading up to the new year.
So let’s set the situation.
You plan to recommit to achieving your performance, fitness or aesthetic goal in the new year. But from Thanksgiving until yearend, you don’t do all that much, since you foresee a lot of hard work ahead of you. Watching Christmas movies and indulging in holiday desserts sounds a lot better than hitting the gym and being careful about what you eat.
Your resolution deadline has become an excuse to forget about fitness and healthy eating. You say to yourself, “I’m not going to work out now because I’m going to get after it in January,” or “I can eat an entire apple pie because I’m going to start eating healthy in the new year.”
“I think people look at it like I can just hit the reset button in January,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian based in the Cleveland area.
Ultimately, during period of more than a month, it’s easy to take a massive step backward. You might lose some strength because you’re not consistently challenging yourself, or you pack on a few extra pounds.
If you’re like 92 percent of the people out there, this tendency becomes particularly problematic.
Maybe you added a few pounds over the holiday season. After the new year hits, you work out and eat well for a few weeks. Then your workouts become more infrequent and bad habits start finding their way into your diet. Before you know it, you can hardly remember the last time you stepped into a gym.
And you didn’t do enough to shed your extra holiday weight. You’re now worse off than when you started.
That’s why waiting around until the beginning of January to start working on your resolution goal(s) is a trap. To avoid falling into it, follow these four guidelines.
1. Don’t Go Overboard With Eating
We get it. You will indulge during the holidays. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you indulge on the holidays, and not throughout the entire holiday season. It shouldn’t be a month of stuffing your face with whatever treats are presented to you.
Even on the holidays, be smart with what you eat. “If it’s not delicious and worth the calories, then let it go,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “I love stuffing but I only eat it once a year, and I avoid mash potatoes and casserole. I don’t want to use the calories on something else.”
Pick the things you love and ignore stuff that’s not on your priority list. “This is the time of year where we really need to take care of ourselves. It’s not a time to overindulge,” she adds.
RELATED: 3 Healthy Holiday Meals That Won’t Ruin Your Health
2. Get a Head Start With Your Fitness
If you’re an athlete coming off your fall season, now is the time to help your body recover and establish a base of strength for your off-season training program.
For non-athletes, it’s a time to get into the gym as much as you can. Your schedule may get in the way, so it’s important to be flexible. Even a 30-minute workout can be challenging and effective.
It might not be realistic to make huge progress toward your goal. But even if you just maintain where you are now and get to a place where you can hit the ground running in January, you will be much better off.
3. Set Your Goals Now
Take the next few weeks to think about your goals for the new year. Write them down, look them over a few times, and modify them if needed. Show them to a trusted friend to get some objective feedback.
Most goals are typically outcome goals, such as “I want to bench 315 pounds,” or “I want to lose 10 pounds.” These goals are helpful in terms of identifying what you want to achieve, but focusing too much on outcome goals can become problematic.
Instead, set process goals so you can focus your attention on how you are going to achieve a goal. A process goal might be “I’m going to strength train four times per week,” or “I’m going to cut sugar from my diet.” Setting this type of goal and sticking to it will help you achieve your long-term outcome goal.
RELATED: 4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting
4. Find Your Training Plan
The holiday season is the perfect time to find the training program you will commit to in the new year. Establishing a training plan is the key to long-term success, because it progressively gets more challenging, is designed to help you achieve your goal and allows you to keep track of your progress.