By the time you read this, thousands—maybe millions—of people have made, attempted, and then broken a New Year's resolution. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who didn't start the new year with promises you knew deep down you wouldn't keep.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't make resolutions—just make good ones. Here are five resolutions that can help you succeed at improving your fitness, your physique, and maybe even your life.
Resolution 1: Be consistent
Most people fail, not because they don't have the perfect plan, but because they simply don't stick with the plan they have. That's often because they start with completely unsustainable goals.
Can you follow some fad diet and lose a bunch of weight? Yes. But your long-term goal should be to maintain good physical condition, and that isn't something you accomplish in a few months and then forget about. It's all about staying fit, and that means getting exercise and eating well day in and day out; month in and month out—even when you don't feel like it.
Resolution 2: Speaking of trying fad diets... Don't
Self-proclaimed diet experts have, at one time or another, told people to remove everything from carbs to coffee from their diets, only to change their minds a year later and recommend adding it all back in.
No matter what kind of fad diet you're on, odds are that at some point, you'll go back to what you ate before. Then what? Research shows that 95 percent of people who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it all back within three years.
If you can't see yourself following a diet for a considerable length of time (think months and years), then think again, because it's not going to work in the long run.
Resolution 3: Stop yo-yo dieting
We all know that person (or celebrity) who gains and loses the same 10-20 pounds over and over again. In addition to taking your heart down one rocky road after another, yo-yo dieting has another really bad effect.
With each of these diet cycles, you lose not just fat but muscle mass. When you're between diets and regain that weight, most of it comes back as fat. Over time, even as you pat yourself on the back for returning to your pre-diet weight, you're actually becoming fatter. And unlike building muscle, which can increase your metabolism, adding fat slows down your metabolism, making it even harder to trim down.
Resolution 4: Keep track of your workouts
When you're losing weight in a sustainable, long-term way, it can be hard to see the progress you're making. One effective way to deal with this is by keeping careful records of your workouts.
Tracking each workout helps you see that you're lifting more weight or doing more reps than you did the week before—that your hard work is paying off even if the scale says otherwise.
Even if you're not losing weight over time (and maybe even gaining it), it may very well be because that new weight is added muscle mass, and that's a good thing.
Resolution 5: Celebrate your milestones
As they say in Spain, "paso de paso": step by step. If you focus only on reaching your ultimate goal, you can easily feel overwhelmed by the enormity of that path before you. But if you give yourself smaller goals along the way—and then celebrate them—your path will be easier to follow.
Nutrition professionals say losing 1-2 percent of your body weight each week is a reasonable goal. If you weigh 120 pounds, that's 1.2-2.4 pounds a week. If you weigh 200 pounds, it works out to 2-4 pounds each week.
When you attain your reasonable milestones, do something nice for yourself—something that doesn't involve pigging out. Go to a movie, or buy a little piece of workout gear. That's the kind of resolution you can keep.