Like every year, the month of January is often filled with New Year’s resolutions and the best intentions to better ourselves.
And after a hellish 2020 dominated by stress (eating), Netflix and cancelled gym memberships, many of us are looking to get fit, healthy and ready for our re-entry into the world.
But setting your health goals is the easy part. Sticking to them is another matter entirely.
Nutrition scientist Dr Gilly Hendrie, who leads the research behind CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet, said an important element of sticking to your diet is the ability to identify your underlying motivation.
“If you have that understanding of why you’re on this journey, when times get tough (and they will), you can just remind yourself of that bigger picture, or that underlying reason of why you’re doing it,” Dr Hendrie told The New Daily.
“People sometimes fixate on the end point, as in a number, or just, ‘I want to lose weight’ or, ‘I want to be skinny’ as opposed to why they want to do that or why that’s important to them.”
Discover your drive
Motivators for managing weight are personal and sometimes hard to pinpoint, but can include anything from a desire to regain control, be physically fit, get healthier or better your appearance.
In fact, an analysis of 11,000 of the newest CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet participants found that 93 per cent listed the desire to “feel good and improve their quality of life” as a main motivator.
The analysis also showed that 36 per cent were motivated by family to manage their weight, while 16 per cent listed a “trigger event”, such as a wedding or a death.
For people classed as obese, receiving a recommendation from a doctor or another person in their lives was six times more likely to be a main motivating factor for weight management.
Dr Hendrie worked with a behavioural scientist to create CSIRO’s Start Strong Diet Quiz, which can help identify a person’s values, and can map out a motivational path to achieving health and wellbeing goals.
“This year people are really going to want to reset and get back on track and take some control over their lives,” Dr Hendrie said.
“We’ve seen that already people are leaning towards digital programs – we’ve seen in the Total Wellbeing Diet there has been a peak in activity amongst members on the closed support group.”
Aside from finding and reminding yourself of your underlying motivation for weight management, there are a number of other tips and tricks to help you stay on track.
Take the pressure off
Expecting your entire lifestyle and behavioural habits to magically change as the clock ticks into 2021 is a recipe for disappointment.
Instead, alleviate yourself of the guilt and pressure you might have placed on yourself, and take things slow.
“It doesn’t have to be the new year, or the first week of January that you make your changes,” Dr Hendrie explained.
“It’s probably taken a good nine months to gain weight over COVID, so give yourself time to lose it.
“People are going to want to reset almost like clicking a switch for 2021, so take the pressure off and set smaller goals, and more realistic goals over the new year.”
Set smaller, specific goals
To ensure your ‘new year, new me’ health objectives aren’t but a distant memory by mid-February, try to avoid overwhelming yourself with unrealistic or vague goals.
Dr Hendrie recommends setting smaller targets that can be measured and achieved easily.
“If you say, ‘I want to lose 20 kilograms this year’, that’s 12 months away – you’re not going to be able to tick things off along the way.
“By setting baby steps that you can build on and being able to achieve something regularly on your journey to this longer-term goal is important.”
Connect with a community
Finding like-minded individuals and people with similar health goals can help keep you driven, focused and accountable.
Sharing your goals and your reasons for wanting to achieve them with friends and family, or finding an online community can be a great source of motivation and positivity when you slip up.
“It’s somebody that just gives you that pep-up when you’re falling off the wagon … so that a bad day or week doesn’t turn into a bad month.”