Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Preparation, motivation, support the keys to reaching goals

UW Health Family Medicine physician Dr. Jacqueline GerhartMadison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that appears Tuesdays on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.


Dear Dr. Gerhart,


I’ve made New Year’s Resolutions every year to lose 20 pounds. I do well for a couple of months, and then end up paying money for a gym I don’t use, and having a pile of protein bars that taste gross.  Why can’t I stick with it?  

Dear Reader, 


Thousands of people feel your frustration. There are many reasons people are unable to keep their resolutions, but I will focus on three common themes:  Faulty preparation, wavering motivation, and lack of support. I’ll explain each:  


Preparation: Set goals and dedicate time. People are often more successful if they set short term goals in addition to long term goals, and if the goals are measurable and attainable. First, make a timeline for your goal, such as “I will lose 20 pounds in one year.”  Then break it into parts such as, “Each day this month I will exchange a processed snack (like chips, soda, or candy) with a healthy snack (like fruit or veggies) and by doing this I plan to lose two pounds this month.” Notice this is a small, measurable and attainable goal. You are more likely to stay motivated if you see small victories along the way. Also, determine how important this resolution is to you. Can you rearrange your schedule to allow time for cooking and exercising without overly compromising your other commitments?  Determine what in your daily routine can be flexible to make your health consistently a priority.  


Motivation: Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10. How motivated are you to achieve your goals?  How confident are you that you can do this?   What will keep you motivated and confident?  Look back on high school:  Did you do afterschool sports?  What kept you interested and motivated to complete the season? Perhaps the exercise was fun, social, or it involved competition. Try recreating this environment. If football is your thing, consider joining a touch football league, or an ultimate frisbee team. Into gymnastics or ballet? Consider yoga. Overweight or scared about arthritis or joint pain? Try water aerobics, or an adapted fitness class. Ask your doctor about physical therapy or athletic training to help rehab injuries. Not a sports fan? Join a walking group at a mall, take a healthy cooking class, or start a cooking group where each member rotates cooking a healthy meal.  


Support: Involve other people. Making a lifestyle change isn’t only about you, it is about those who are involved in your life. Your changes may affect them, and their support will help you. For your sake and theirs, involve your friends and family in your resolution. Instead of having a goal weight, consider having a goal of spending time each week on your family’s health. You could cook with your spouse, introducing a new healthy recipe each week. You could sign the kids up for swimming class, making a point of working out at the same facility while they swim.   Or you could join your co-workers for weekly tennis or golf. These resolutions have built-in socialization and accountability. For added accountability, tell your healthcare provider your goals. We can help track your progress, give you metrics, such as your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.  


Good luck! 


This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.


Date Published: 01/03/2012

News tag(s):  jacqueline l gerhart

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