Happy New Year, Harvey County! As 2018 comes to close, many of us are looking toward 2019 with wide eyes. The new year brings endless new possibilities. It is a common practice for people all over the world to create lots of goals for change at the beginning of the year. Many people make admirable attempts to accomplish these goals, but often fail to meet them. That can be understandable. We often underestimate the time involved in making goals happen, especially when those goals are related to a change in our behavior. Common New Year’s resolutions include exercising more, changing dietary habits, and tobacco cessation. All of these are wonderful goals to set and positive changes in these behaviors are associated with myriad of benefits to health. These behaviors are also often associated with entrenched emotions that, when left unchecked, can quickly derail progress toward successful change. The following are some tips to help you make healthy goals and mitigate any barriers that come along the way.
One significant reason why we fail to reach our goals is that we set our sights too high. We create huge weight loss goals, we expect to quit smoking far too soon, and we forget that exercise hurts. It is understandably tempting to set huge goals, but do not set your goals so big that you set yourself up for failure. Rather, make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. In other words, set yourself up with SMART goals. Start small and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach your goals. If you want to quit smoking, start by intentionally decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke daily. Continue to decrease that amount over the course of several weeks to a few months until you are not smoking at all. It may also help to keep track of how much money you spend on tobacco products. When you feel the temptation to go buy a fresh pack of smokes, put the money you would spend in a jar and set it aside. After you have fully quit smoking, open the jar and see how much money you have saved.
Pay particular attention to the reasoning behind your change. Are you making the change for you or for someone else? It is great to want to lose weight to fit better in your clothes or to impress your date, but superficial reasons for change are a common mistake. Find deeper reasoning for behavior change. Pay attention to your daily moods and physical health. After a few weeks of exercise, are you waking up in the morning feeling more rested? Is it easier to get up from a seated position? Has your joint pain decreased? Most importantly, how has your quality of life changed? These outcomes will add greater value to your efforts and will motivate you to stay the course for lasting behavior change.
Finally, be sure to make a solid plan of action and take time to identify any obstacles that may impede your progress. If you smoke heavily while you are with your friends, suggest a group effort to decrease the number of times you go outside for a cigarette. If you smoke at work, leave your cigarettes at home and chew gum when you have a craving. Remember that exercise is associated with some discomfort. Expect sore muscles, stiff joints, and of course a lot of sweat. You are not a perfect human being, so expect to have lapses in your efforts. It is okay to eat cake, have a day on the couch, and (yes I’ll say it) smoke a couple cigarettes during a highly stressful event when you are working toward lasting behavior change. Do not be so hard on yourself. You are not a failure if you have one bad day. You are human. Take your time with behavior change and do not expect it to happen overnight. You are taking on a great adventure. Stay the course, friends. You are worth it!
From all of us here at K-State Research & Extension – Harvey County: May your new year be full of success, joy, and wonderful memories that will last you a lifetime. Thanks for reading!
Nutrition & Family Finance News
By: Aaron C. Swank, Harvey County Extension Agent, Nutrition