How are your New Year’s resolutions? In need of some fine-tuning? Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” As you diligently plan for action, may you have abundance of success in making changes for a healthy lifestyle. Here are some suggestions for diligent planning.
Although many people make New Year’s resolutions, not everyone has success. By fine-turning resolutions into goals with an action plan, you can and will be more successful. Goals succeed when they meet three criteria: realistic, reasonable to your starting point, and flexible. Goals need an action plan. Goals such as “losing weight,” “exercising,” or “changing eating habits” do not really address a specific plan. However, setting goals with several realistic, reasonable, and flexible action plans turns resolutions into reality.
Let’s take a look at how this can be done. For example, how can “losing weight” be turned into a realistic, reasonable, flexible action plan? What specific actions are needed? Here are several possibilities:
Goal: Increase fruits and vegetables.
- Action: Buy some fruits and vegetables while grocery shopping each week.
- Action: Plan fruits and vegetables into most meals.
- Action: Take fruits and vegetables to work as snacks.
- Action: Make fruits easily available (baby carrots, washed grapes, etc.).
Is this realistic? Yes, fruits and vegetables are readily available, and you can use coupons and sales to help stretch the budget.
Is this reasonable? Yes. If you are currently not eating any fruits or vegetables, you can begin the process by eating even one or two per day and gradually increase the amount.
Is this flexible? Yes. You can pick from a great variety. You can eat them at various times of the day.
Monitor: By using a food diary, you can keep track of how many fruits and vegetables you eat each day. After a week, you can check the diary and see if your action plan is working. If not, revise. Perhaps you need to buy different fruits and vegetables that are more palatable to you. Maybe you need to buy sandwich bags so it is convenient to take veggies and fruits to work. Or try researching different options for cooking vegetables.
Goal: Eliminate high-calorie eating at nighttime. (It is very common for overweight people to struggle with this problem. Often, nighttime eating habits have been formed since childhood. You can help your own children and grandchildren by developing healthier habits.)
- Action: Establish a stop-eating-after-supper routine. Here’s an example: Wash the dishes. Turn out the kitchen lights. Drink a tall glass of water. Brush your teeth. Walk once around the block. Begin to train your mind and body that this cue means eating is finished for the evening.
- Action: Choose to eat evening snacks only two nights per week. Save those two nights for special times, such as Friday night card party or movie night.
- Action: Plan a low-calorie evening snack. Eat a clementine or two (35 calories each) if you are a sweet eater or an individual bag of prepopped popcorn (such as Skinny Pop brand, 100 calories per bag) if you are a salty person.
- Action: Develop a list of alternative activities to hang on your mirror or refrigerator door. Include hobbies such as crocheting, woodworking, playing piano, doing jigsaw or crossword puzzles, reading (a delightful, laugh-out-loud read is Katie Schuermann’s House of Living Stones), painting your or your daughter’s toenails, golfing, journaling, or calling a friend. Put only fun ideas on your list!
Goal: Increase exercise.
- Action: Schedule exercise most days of the week. Over the weekend, look at your calendar for the following week. Schedule exercise time on your calendar just as if it were an appointment.
- Action: Plan 120–150 minutes of exercise per week. The number of minutes needs to be reasonable based on your current exercise level. If you are not doing any exercise, start with 15–20 minutes per day. You may even start with 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon. Ultimately, exercising at least 200 minutes per week is ideal. Having a weekly goal allows you to make adjustments for the days. Some days may be 40 minute days; on a really busy day, you may get only 20 minutes. But you begin to get a sense of how every exercise minute benefits your weekly total.
- Action: Buy and wear an exercise tracker, such as a Fitbit. Keep track of how many steps you get each day. After a week, average your daily number of steps. Try to increase your daily goal each week by about 1,000 steps per day until you get to 10,000 steps per day.
- Action: Arrange activity “dates.” Walk with your husband. Ride bikes with a friend. Lift weights with your teen at the gym. Play with your grandkids at the park. Go dancing.
Each time you set a goal with an action plan, ask these questions: Is this reasonable? realistic? flexible?
Monitor your behavior. If the plan works, continue. If not, revise!
As an added bonus, many health-care plans give reimbursements for healthy lifestyle monitoring. Check with your health-care provider.
Diligent plans lead to abundant results!