This is where pre-resolutions, or resolutions you set right now instead of on January 1, can help. “Pre-resolutions allow us to let go of the false belief that delaying the start date of our health journey is somehow going to result in us reaching our goals more efficiently,” says Mariah Heller, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and creator of Pain-Free Fitness.
HOW PRE-RESOLUTIONS CAN HELP YOU REACH YOUR GOALS
“Setting goals at any time is a good idea, but most people are unsuccessful with their New Year’s resolutions because they don’t have a clear plan to work toward them,” says Tamar Samuels, registered dietitian and founder of All Great Nutrition in New York City. Vague, big-picture resolutions (like ‘eat clean’ and ‘get in shape’) aren’t as helpful because they don’t give you actions you need to take for real, sustainable change, she explains.
Beyond this, if you want to lose weight or maintain your current weight, you’re better off starting before January. Holiday weight gain accounts for about one pound per year — and you typically don’t lose it, which makes the Thanksgiving–New Year’s stretch a major contributor to overall weight gain, finds a review in the Journal of Obesity.
For these reasons, starting now with a specific pre-resolution beats making yet another throwaway New Year’s resolutions list.
HOW TO GET STARTED
SET THE STAGE FOR CHANGE
Before you can even begin to pursue your resolutions, “you need to mentally and physically prepare yourself to take action,” says Samuels. Unsurprisingly, research shows you’re more likely to stick with a long-term goal if you enjoy the journey, so brainstorm how you can turn your big-picture goal into an activity you’ll look forward to.
For example, if you want to ‘lose weight,’ you’ll need to prepare healthy meals you’ll actually want to eat (Read: not bland chicken and broccoli). Your pre-resolution: Create a list of must-try recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert that are both nutrient-dense and delicious. Then, schedule a time to meal plan and grocery shop each week, such as Sunday afternoon.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS
Chances are, you already know the ideal outcome of your resolution (for example, lose 10 pounds). Now, shift your focus to what you need to do to make that a reality. “This takes the power out of an arbitrary endpoint and places it on the healthy practices you want to adopt,” explains Heller.
What to do: Translate your pie-in-the-sky goal into a SMART goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Rather than thinking about 10 pounds, aim to lose 4 pounds per month (a safe weight-loss target) by using an app like MyFitnessPal to log your meals and stick to a daily calorie goal.
FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
If your resolution is to ‘get in shape’ or ‘start working out regularly,’ scheduling exercise now is essential, even if that means a quick bodyweight workout at home during the busy holiday season, says Angelica Ventrice, a certified personal trainer, health coach and creator of Fit for Life. Rather than going it alone next year, though, set a pre-resolution to find the people who will make you want to show up for your sweat sesh all year long.
Research shows sweating it out with other people gives you a greater mental health boost than working out by yourself (in particular, team sports, cycling and activities at the gym, like group fitness classes, help ward off bad days). Even better, when others rely on you, you perform better and work out longer than you would if you were only showing up for yourself, per a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Rather than waiting until January 1 to join a gym, start testing out exercise classes now to see what you like, find the instructors who inspire you the most and build a community that will give you a jumpstart.
The holidays can be especially challenging because of stressors like travel, increased social demands, and temptations like alcohol and sweets, says Samuels. Here, it’s helpful to remember pre-resolutions aren’t about being perfect, but rather creating a balance where you aren’t overindulging or depriving yourself, says Ventrice.
For example, if you want to ‘eat clean,’ rather than cutting out dessert entirely (and binge-eating when you finally give in), follow the 80/20 rule and aim to eat 80% healthy foods, 20% indulgences. If you’re trying to ‘lose weight’ but go over your daily calorie goal, remind yourself you can get back on track the next day. The healthy eating strides you make now will help you retain those good habits in the new year.