It’s that time of year: After a long holiday season of parties, cookies of all shapes and sizes, and one too many glasses of eggnog, many of us are ready to kick off the New Year and reclaim our healthy lifestyles (and our physiques).
Reports suggest the average person gains up to seven pounds during the holiday season. In my 17 years in the weight-loss industry, I’ve seen many weight-loss resolutions fail. Here are my six top tips for kick-starting your New Year in a healthy, sustainable, non-painful way.
1. Do Your Homework
Taking the time to do a little research and prep work prior to getting started on any New Year’s resolution will seriously impact your results. That’s why I recommend spending January 1st researching.
Sure, the current it diet might be everywhere—but what do you think is the right approach for you? Get clear on your goal and make sure it can sustainably fit into your lifestyle. Then, consider what you’ll need to do to prepare and get started. Do you need to do a serious fridge clean-out or make a trip to the supermarket to get the right food in the house?
I think you can learn a lot from immersing yourself in forums, exploring Instagram hashtags, and following the right influencers and experts. Doing this helps you get a feel for other people’s experiences with losing weight or getting fit, and provides inspiration and expert input that can motivate and help you along the way.
Once you have a clear picture of your goals and necessary next steps, spend some time planning out meals and printing out workouts. If you need a little guidance, find a clean grocery list online, highlight the foods you enjoy eating, and plan a few simple meals from there.
2. Focus On Habits
Often it’s not our lack of knowledge, but our habits, that get in the way of us making healthier choices. After all, we all know a veggie-packed salad is a more nutritious meal than a cheeseburger and fries.
So, when you’re thinking about your goals and what you’ll need to do to get there, be honest with yourself about the habits that might sabotage your long-term progress. For example, do rushed mornings leave you without time to have a healthy breakfast (and lead you to grab a bagel later)? Addressing your snooze button habit will set you up for a healthier morning. Commit to getting up just 15 minutes earlier every day for a week to make breakfast. By the end of that week, your new morning schedule will start to stick—and it won’t be so hard to make that healthy breakfast happen!
To get into this mindset, I encourage you to think about three small behaviors that could be standing between you and your goals. Write them down and brainstorm small fixes for each. Once you’ve overhauled and mastered a few new habits and routines, you can layer in more.
3. Hydrate Like Crazy
If you’re coming off two months of eating lots of sugar, drinking alcohol more often than usual, and not getting your usual steps in, you’re probably going to feel tired, crabby, and maybe even flu-like in the first few days of cleaning up your act.
Hydrating as much as possible is incredibly important during this time. Drinking plenty of water those first few days—and beyond—will move the toxins out of your body and diminish cravings, helping you feel better faster. Aim for 100 ounces of water a day!
4. Find Your Support System
Having a sense of community around you makes any goal feel more attainable. Make gym dates with friends, invite family over for a healthy potluck—whatever unites like-minded goal-getters and makes the process fun.
Though social media may not always have positive impacts on our well-being, it can be an incredibly helpful tool on a weight-loss journey.
Feel free to message other social media users who share your goals, or people you follow who inspire you. Find out if any friends or family members are working on their health in fitness in the New Year and create a group chat to encourage daily support. Share tips, recipes, and successes along the way—and seek the help you need when you feel your feet dragging. Just limit these circles to people who make you feel great about yourself and who you know will truly support you.
5. Measure More Than Your Weight
If your New Year’s resolution is to make major changes to your physique and body composition, there are plenty of measurements and other data you can use to track your progress.
That first week, take all of your basic measurements and consider investing in a scale that measures more than just your weight. Many scales today can estimate body fat percentage, bone density, and even hydration.
Should changes in your weight stall—as they often do—these other measures can continue to reveal your progress. For example, if your weight hasn’t changed but your measurements have, you may be losing body fat while building muscle. And that’s a major win!
Think of your journey as a real-life science project. The more you investigate, research, and consider a number of insights, the more likely you are to succeed.
6. Take It One Week At A Time
Ready to feel and look better, many New Year’s resolutioners try to change their entire lives overnight. But completely cutting out alcohol, or vowing to work out twice a day, often leads to burnout and disappointment.
By focusing only on our end goal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and tempted to throw in the towel. Visualizing months and months of hard work casts a shadow of negativity on what can be an enjoyable process.
I’m a firm believer in focusing on the present moment and what you need to do to succeed right now. When I sit with my clients, we think only about the next week. What challenges might arise this week, and how can we prepare for them? What meals can we plan and prep? Focus on small, weekly goals that center around one or two smart changes. Doing so yields results, motivates you, and sets you up for success week by week.
For example, if you haven’t been eating well or exercising, it’s a lot easier to focus on eating healthier meals for one week than to think about all the meals and workouts it’ll take to lose those 20 pounds. Focus on the steps right in front of you, not the top of the mountain.
And when negative, overwhelming thoughts and feeling do arise (it’s natural!), stop and think about three things you are grateful for that day. This simple act shifts your mood back to the here and now, and helps you concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world and is a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on.