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Succeeding at Your New Year's Resolution
At the start of the New Year, many of us will resolve to lose weight, but by the next day, week or month, most of us will have given up trying. Few will have lost weight and even fewer will maintain the loss.

How do we go about achieving some measure of success? Maybe it is because we are focussing on the wrong thing. If we are only concerned about losing weight, it is a difficult struggle because anytime the scale does not go down, or even worse go up instead, we feel that we have failed. Or we may be trying to lose weight for a school reunion or to look good at your girlfriend's wedding and that is not a good reason to do so.

To succeed, we must do it for ourselves. The rewards are feeling better, having more energy, increased self-esteem and knowing that we are "doing our body good".

Instead of focussing on weight and appearance alone, it is better to focus on improving health. When you focus on improving health, you get the benefits right away. Any small change that you make is going make you feel better and give your body a boost. If weight loss occurs as a result of your efforts, that would be a plus. Some areas you may want to focus on are:

Areas of Health Improvement
  1. Improving eating habits.
    You may already have a very clear idea about what eating habits you want to improve e.g.. eating too much chocolate or love fried foods. That is a good place to start. However, if you want to dig deeper into your food habits, do the following. Keep track of your food intake for 3 days, recording down the time, what you ate (including measure/portion size), where you had the meal (hawker centre, in front of the TV, etc.) and who you were with (friends, family, alone). Do not change your eating habits during the recording period. After the 3 days, take a look and see if there are any patterns in your diet.
    • Do you eat out for lunch daily? Where do you eat?
    • What are your favourite dishes?
    • Can you choose lower fat foods or have less sweet desserts?
    • What type of snacks do you have? Are these loaded with extra fat, salt, sugar & calories?
    • Do you eat in front of the TV? Research has shown that you tend to eat more when you eat in front of the TV as you are not as aware of what or how much you are eating.

    Now that you have some idea of how to improve your diet, set some goals for improvement. See the section below on goal setting.

  2. Increasing weekly physical activity.
    To include physical activity in your busy daily schedule, you have to plan for it and make it a priority. Otherwise it gets push out by other pressing matters. Physical activity does not necessarily mean a couple of hours at the gym. It could be as simple as brisk walking, playing with your kids or dog, gardening or even vigorous house cleaning. It just has to add up to 30 minutes per day. Health experts suggest that you do 30 minutes of activity at least 3-4 times per week, if not daily. Check out our article on Make Your Move in the Diet & Exercise section for further tips.

  3. Taking time for yourself
    One of the most neglected area in our lives is planning some quiet time for ourselves each day to unwind. Research has shown that if we take some time to consciously relax, we are able to cope with stress much better, our blood pressure goes down, the "fight or flight" response (that is triggered when we face challenges) calms down and we are in a better state of mind which in turn improve our health. Do something that you enjoy for about half an hour such as
    • soaking in a aromatic bath,
    • sitting back & listening to soothing music,
    • meditating (if that works for you),
    • taking a slow walk along a river or a lake (away from traffic),
    • doing deep breathing exercise, yoga or tai chi
    • and any acitvity that you can be alone & relaxed.

    It is difficult to find time to do that especially if you have children or if you are a caregiver, but it is even more important for you to do so as we tend to neglect ourselves when we are looking after others. Remember, you can't look after others unless you are healthy yourself. Take the time, get some help if necessary.

To achieve your goals, you have to:
1. Quantify it.
It is not enough to say "I will eat less chocolate". A more specific & quantifiable goal would be "No more than 2 chocolate bars per week". Or if your weakness is fried foods, then a quantifiable goal is "Have fried foods (includes all deep-fried chicken/fish, fried noodles, fritters, doughnuts, etc.) no more than 3X per week.
2. Pick only one change at a time.
Change is difficult. So if we want to be successful, we need to focus our efforts on one item at a time. From the list of possible improvements you can make on your diet, pick one that is you feel is going to be the easiest for you to achieve eg. turn the TV off during meal times. Work on that for a week or two until you feel you have mastered that change and that it is second nature to you to have the TV off at all mealtimes. Now you are ready for the next change. Having succeed in making one positive change, you are more likely to go on and keep making other changes especially when you decide to tackle more difficult ones.
3. Be realistic.
We have many pressure & responsibilities in our lives. Any goal that you set should take into consideration factors that are going to impinge upon them ie. if you know you will be working late for the next 2-3 weeks, then plan your exercise for the weekends. Try & squeeze in a a walk (near the office) when you take a break from work.
Also don't set too many goals. You can only accomplish a certain amount within a period of time. Don't saddle yourself with unrealistic resolutions that will only spell failure later on.

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