1. DON’T jumpstart a strict diet and new fitness regimen all on Day One. Although extreme makeovers and dramatic decisions make for entertaining TV, they are impractical to keep up in real life. Remember last year and the year before? About 72 hours into your bootcamp exercising and impossible 1,000-calorie diet you’ll be hoisting a white flag. DO choose a diet that focuses on replacing bad foods with healthy food options, introducing high fiber and high antioxidant foods into your diet (rather than giving you the familiar impression that there is nothing you can eat and feeling deprived).
2. DON’T choose a fitness regimen that is completely new and extreme. Research shows too much exercise on body parts that aren’t used to it can make you irritable—meaning grouchy enough to take a toll on your family and coworkers. DO start with a good foundation of prep work, problem solving and realistic scheduling—you’ll be less likely to quit if you’ve taken time to foresee what might sabotage your good new years intentions.
3. DON’T think 21 days is the magic number to change a habit. The 21-day change myth is just going to lead to frustration and failure, give yourself more time. When it comes to eating—patterns you’ve had for decades—three weeks will only put a dent in changing your palette, cravings or go-to fatty comfort food. DO consider less salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners. The health payback is big and lowering your intake can be done gradually and successfully.
4. DON’T go cold turkey. Especially when cold turkey means toughing it out solo. With bad health habits that are especially tenacious like smoking or nail biting, take all of the help you can get. DO include all that’s available whether it be online or in real time (one example is Livestrong Foundation’s new stop smoking phone app).
5. DON’T default to your old ways when you get overwhelmed. Research shows when we have too many choices, your tendency is to default to what is most familiar (especially when it comes to food), which usually is the thing you are trying to change. If in a restaurant, for example, limt your options by deciding what you’re having and asking for it rather than looking at the menu. DO recognize you are getting overwhelmed and take a time out, go for a walk outdoors or to visit a co-worker’s cubicle rather than head for the evil vending machine.Follow these five steps, and you’ll stay on the road to success. Good luck!