| 15.1°C Dublin

Seven simple tips to help stay on track with New Year’s resolutions

THE New Year brings with it a mix of emotions, some gloom after the excitement of Christmas, as we consider our depleted bank accounts and our tightened waistbands, but it also brings a sense of optimism at the possibility of a fresh start and a chance to reinvent ourselves.

Almost half of us commit to a New Year’s resolution. And having overdone it at Christmas (and, let’s be honest, having indulged ourselves planning to ‘make up for it’ in the new year) it is no surprise that promises of improved health and fitness routinely top the list of resolutions.

Ambitious plans to quit smoking, to losing weight and exercising more, see gym memberships swell, junk, alcohol and cigarettes thrown into the bin and our shelves and fridges stocked with healthy foods.

But despite our great intentions and high hopes, a mere 10pc of us are successful in keeping our resolutions, with most falling by the wayside within just weeks. Why? Because all too often we simply don’t plan correctly to maximise our chances of success. If you feel your New Year’s resolve waning, or indeed you have already fallen off the wagon, it is not too late. Use the tips below to make sure you stay, or get back on track with your resolutions this year.

1) Set manageable goals

While abrupt or extreme changes may seem exciting at |first, they can quickly lose their lustre as a sense of |deprivation sets in, or when our daily routine is too |disrupted. Studies show that people who set more realistic goals are more likely to maintain them in the long term.

So, for example, instead of saying you will never eat your favourite food again, decide to only eat a modest portion once per week.

2) Make your goals specific

Without a clear plan, vague promises of being ‘more healthy’ or ‘exercising more’ are very easy to break. Make your goals as specific as possible. For example, instead of merely saying I want to ‘lose weight’ aim to lose 2lbs per week for a |specified period of time.

3) Make a plan

While it is great to have a goal, now you need a plan of action as to how you will achieve it. As the saying goes ‘fail to

plan and you plan to fail’. So, for example, to lose that 2lbs set out clearly how you will do it, perhaps by walking for 30 |minutes every evening and cutting your bread intake.

4) Take it in Baby Steps

Though your overall goal may be to lose 20 pounds, you'll be more motivated if you don’t focus exclusively on this end number but rather, say, 5lbs at a time. Looking far ahead to the finish line can make it appear far more daunting and challenging than when you take it step by step.

5) Reward yourself

Using a reward system for each milestone reached will help to keep you focussed. Recognising your accomplishments is |a fantastic way to keep you going during tough moments. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your goal is to eat a better diet or to lose weight. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something that does not contradict your resolution such as a new item of fitness clothing.

6) Get support

Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Tell a friend or family member who will be there to support you. Studies show that those who tell others about their goals are far more likely to succeed in reaching and staying with them. Challenging moments are almost inevitable when changing behaviours, and the support of a loved one can mean the difference between success and failure during those times when |motivation is flagging.

7) Be patient

Changing a habit does not happen easily or overnight. Studies tell us that it takes 66 days to make a new behaviour automatic to us. That means it will be March 7 before your resolution is an ingrained habit and comes ‘naturally’ to you. Be patient with yourself and the process of change.

Most importantly of all perhaps, don't allow a slip-up to derail your resolve to improve your health. Setbacks are inevitable, what matters is how you respond to them. Never give up on yourself. No matter how many times you fall off, what counts is getting back on to the wagon again.

Gillian Hynes is a personal trainer and pilates teacher specialising in weight loss in both children and adults. To enquire email: info@gillianhynes.com