How to Finally Reach Your Health and Fitness Goals This New Year

It’s that time of the year again—the time of change, the time for a fresh start, the time to finally get fit. Getting healthy and fit has probably been on everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions list at some point in their lives. It has also probably been one of the hardest resolutions to stick with. I always start the year out extremely strong, then slowly start going back to my old habits after about a week. However, from lots of trial and error, here’s how you can finally become the healthiest version of yourself this year!

The first thing to understand is that “becoming healthy” shouldn’t be looked at as a long term goal. It truly is a lifestyle change. During your health journey, it is essential to understand that nothing will be perfect. You will have slip ups, and that’s okay! A healthy life is all about balance, not restraint. There are three components of a healthy lifestyle: diet, exercise and mental health. I like to think of mental health in its own category, while diet and exercise are kind of melded together. In terms of diet and exercise, a good rule of thumb is to think that getting fit is affected 80% by your diet and 20% by exercise.

The first step to this process is setting 2-3 realistic goals. Setting too many goals will make it harder to hone in and focus on what you want to achieve. It is also important to make sure these goals are attainable. If your goals are too broad and extreme, you may lose motivation to continue pursuing them if you aren’t seeing much progress. For example, rather than having your goals be to 1) get 7 hours of sleep every single night, 2) cut out sugar for a whole month and 3) workout for an hour every day, your goals could be to 1) get at least seven hours of sleep three days a week, 2) only have dessert one time a week and 3) workout at least three times a week. The latter set of goals are much more realistic, and therefore, more sustainable. Again, becoming healthy shouldn’t be temporary, it should be a lifestyle change.

The second step is to plan! Plan out your workouts and meals. As a college student, it is easy to say, “I don’t have time to work out because I have so much homework," or "I want to relax.” However, in reality, you do have time. Maybe take out an hour of watching Netflix before bed, or maybe wake up 30 minutes earlier. It is important to start prioritizing exercise in your life as well. A great way to do this is to schedule your workouts as if it were a class. If you physically write in your planner that you have to go to the gym from time A to time B, then you will do it as if you go to your 11 am discussion section. Also, make sure you do workouts that you enjoy—whether that be dancing, running, playing volleyball with friends or even doing Yoga, anything is better than nothing. Plan not only your workouts, but also make sure to plan out your meals. If you are living in the dorms, take a look at the dining hall menus and nutrition facts before you eat. You don’t have to write everything out, even just planning mentally what you are going to eat is better than just getting everything that looks good to you. Make sure you have well-balanced meals too. A great rule of thumb is to make sure to 50% of your plate is made up of green vegetables. The rest of your plate should have some sort of lean protein such as chicken breast, fish, legumes and complex carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes or quinoa.

The third step is to find someone to keep you accountable. You could schedule set workouts with a friend or set weekly healthy dinners with someone. Another great way to keep yourself accountable if people around you don’t have the same goals is to take pictures of every meal and snack you eat. By taking a second to track down what you are eating, you will be more mindful of everything you consume.

The last step is to make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep will help speed up your metabolism to help you burn calories more efficiently. Getting enough sleep is not only essential for your physical health but also your mental health. More sleep can help keep your stress levels down, which also helps keep your hormones at bay, thus improving your internal health as well.

Overall, the most essential thing to realize about your health journey is that it is all about balance. In order to succeed, you shouldn’t be extreme. It may be sustainable for a few weeks or even a few months, to have no sugar or carbs and to work out every day. However, it will not be sustainable for the rest of your life. You can have that pizza with your friends, and if you don’t feel like working out one day, then don’t. You just have to make sure to bounce back and keep on going. Becoming healthy is a slow process, but it is also a rewarding one. Not only will you see changes physically, but you will also see changes mentally. Your mind will become clearer, and by seeing progress and accomplishing your goals, you will be able to gain confidence in yourself to achieve more than you ever thought you could.