Be a Fifteen Percenter

Okay, it’s March — time to run a quick health and wellness resolution mental checklist: One, I’m getting to the gym every other day, or walking 20 minutes a day when I don’t get to the gym. Two, on the nutrition front, I’m reducing my sugar and sweets intake, limiting anything made with white flour, cutting back on salt, and eating way less yummy fats and fried foods. Three, going easy on the alcohol, soda, caffeine and fruit juices, and drinking lots more water. Four, meditating in the morning to reduce stress before I go to work or school or face the day. Five, based on all of the above, well on my way to my goal of losing 10 to 15 pounds before bathing suit season arrives.

Feel free to add items six through 10 here, whether it’s reducing television and social media distractions, calling friends and family more regularly, putting on a few pounds, kicking your nicotine habit, reading more books, writing that children’s book, spending more time with your own kids . . . it doesn’t really matter. What does matter this March is taking the time to see if you’re doing any of the things you said you’d start doing back in January!

If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Best intentions aside, every personal health and wellness plan needs measurement, adjustment and readjustment. And now, before the weather gets warm and the days get longer, is the perfect time to do just that.

Millions of Americans make “wishful thinking” resolutions around the holidays or at the beginning of the year. Surveys have found that by springtime, 68 percent of Americans who made a New Year’s resolution have broken it. After one year, only 15 percent claim success. Still, more than half of us make resolutions, which is why membership in health and fitness clubs, diet programs and smoking-cessation clinics soar in January.

But don’t despair. The secret to self-improvement is persistence, not perfection. Spring is a great opportunity to renew resolutions, or to make new ones. The chaos of the holidays is past, the weather is starting to improve, days are getting longer, and we know that, before too long, coats will be off and bodies won’t be hidden under bulky clothes anymore.

The first step, of course, is to ensure you have a plan — without a roadmap, you’re going to struggle. The key is to ensure that you’ve set achievable goals and that real action steps are created. That requires commitment, communication, time, measurement, and rewards.

Forget about getting to the gym every day – how about every other day? Sweet tooth hounding you? Look into sugar-free alternatives. Try eating bread and foods made with whole grains instead of white flour. Carry around a water bottle and skip the soda at lunch or dinner, or that cocktail after work.

Tell a friend or associate about your goals, and see if you can get someone to share his or her action plan with you, as well. This way, you create a buddy system – even if you can’t exercise or eat together, you can encourage one another, and then come together to celebrate each small success.

Establish a realistic timeframe. What will you try to accomplish today, and this week, and then this month? Instead of losing 15 pounds, what has to happen to lose one or two pounds in the next several days? Each choice we make matters – it may be skipping the Oreos or ice cream while watching television at night, forcing ourselves to go to the gym before work, even for half an hour, or switching from wine to club soda when you meet your friends tonight.

Consider keeping a journal with your goals and progress. And treating yourself for reaching milestones is a well-earned reward – if you’ve managed to skip the pizza, French fries and chocolate cake throughout the week, a little taste on the weekend isn’t so bad.

Change doesn’t have to be dramatic, it just has to be ongoing and realistic. The trick is to constantly renew and focus on our goals, and to keep at it, modifying our strategy until we achieve them. With a little effort and dedication, you can become part of the 15 percent of people who achieve their health and wellness goals. So, give it a try this week, before we blink and it’s June — what do you have to lose?


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!