A fun goal worth pursuing. (Photo: Flickr/lululemon athletica)
This article is part of JustAnswer's "Resolution Rescue" series to boost success with common New Year resolutions. Previous: "4 strategies to improve your finances in 2013."
Losing weight is consistently the most popular New Year's resolution, but it's one of the hardest to achieve.
If you want to plan for success that lasts beyond February -- when nearly 40% of well-meaning goal-setters give up -- then keep reading.
Set a fun goal for weight loss
"The best way to stay on track is to set a fun goal that requires weight loss," said Dr. Jennifer Hanes, a physician on JustAnswer. "It's not about punishing yourself to look good for a reunion."
Some examples include horseback riding, a belly dancing class, trapeze lessons, paddle-board yoga (pictured), or golf lessons. "The key is to make it an activity you dream of doing, not one you dread."
Dr. Hanes, who chronicled her journey out of obesity in the "The Princess Plan," said her goals included a plane trip and riding a rollercoaster.
"I had never been denied a seat on a plane or a rollercoaster, but as an obese woman I was very self-conscious and did not enjoy them," she said. "Now I love them both!"
Good habits help shed pounds
Another physician on JustAnswer, Dr. Charles, stressed tried-and-true good habits to help reach your goal of losing weight. These include:
- Reduce the amount of calories you eat by 300 to 500 calories per day. This should lead to a loss of 1-2 pounds per week.
- Swap whole milk for low-fat, or low-fat milk for nonfat (skim).
- Eat plenty of salad and fruits.
- Increase your daily physical activities and work out, if you can.
- Drink plenty of water instead of soda.
How to prevent discouragement
Dr. Hanes recommends expanding your social group, especially if you gravitate toward others who are always eating. "The positive influence of peer pressure can be used to your benefit," she said.
If you don't have many friends who are physically active, seize the opportunity to sign up for a hiking group online, practice yoga, or take a dance class.
For positive reinforcement during her weight loss, Dr. Hanes wore a bracelet as a reminder to treat herself better. The constant visual cue helped her "walk taller, sit up straighter, and feel less pulled to food."
Simple tools for weight-loss success
Several free smartphone apps can also help you maintain focus on your goal. Some of the choices include Lose It!, for staying within a calorie budget, and MyFitnessPal, which also has a calorie counter and a community for encouragement. The iPhone app Fooducate lets you scan bar codes on packaged foods to bring up a letter grade (e.g., Twinkies get a "D").
"Whatever your resolution, try to make small and simple changes," Dr. Hanes concluded. "These changes are about improving life, not about punishing yourself."
For help in succeeding all your 2013 goals, try our My Goal Tracker tool and build on your success!