Most of us have been there, done that—with high hopes and relentless optimism, we set the bar of good health for ourselves, and commit this New Year’s resolution to get into shape, from head to toe. Sure, we aren’t quite prepared to switch out the comfort foods for wholesome, whole grains, and we don’t know how we’ll make the time to work out three times a week with our demanding work schedules, but we dream (and daydream) about toned legs, lean arms and a flat stomach so often it’s become part of us.

So how can you turn your dream of a fit and toned body into a reality?

Your First and Most Important New Year’s Resolution

2012 was pretty good, but 2013 will be even better. Why? Because this year isn’t just the year you finally get back into your size 6 jeans, or can tuck in your blouse without feeling insecure about your belly. It’s the year you set your intention on long term weight loss goals, get a healthy, protein rich meal plan on track and pump those endorphins through fun and effective exercise!

Getting Knocked Down Before We Begin

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is while we romanticize that perfect, zero-fat body we aspire to have, we stay focused on the end result – not the many achievements we will first need to accomplish before earning that fit and toned body. And because many of us are fighting slow metabolisms passed on from our ancestors (thanks Grandma Ada or Great-Grandfather Joseph), our weight does not melt off within a few days’ time. How can you expect to shed the belly fat by mid-January when your body needs an adequate amount of time to digest nutrients in, to sweat those calories out?

Begin a new resolution approach that is just as functional as those New Year’s sparklers you light up when the ball drops. Here’s how:

  • Don’t just write down the goal as an end result. Most of the time, we don’t meet our goals because we are focused on the end result, and since we can’t have a fit and all-over toned body in two weeks, resolution setting is all about intention, and following through with the weekly changes and improvements we make along the way. Make a detailed list of your big goal (such as, “I want to lose 25 lbs. by June of 2013,” but also write down the specifics – what losing 25 lbs. will look like, and make your feel like. Why do you want to lose 25 lbs.? Is it for you, or for someone else?
  • Establish weekly mini-goals, and reward yourself for each goal accomplished. Also known as the goal to the big goal, mini-goals are just as important to establish as the end result. Set up daily or weekly mini-goals for yourself, such as “I will substitute my morning coffee for ice water (which revs up the metabolism) and a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter.” When you stick to each goal, reward yourself. Give yourself some ‘me time’ at the end of the day. Buy that magazine you’ve been eyeing at the grocery store. Give yourself a weekly treat to motivate yourself to keep up the good work!
  • Write down a realistic weekly exercise and eating plan. As good as your New Year’s resolution intentions may be, they often fail because they are unrealistic. And when your goals set you up for failure from the get-go, you give up and fall back into the same eating and exercise habits as before. Focus on the results you want, but achievable ones with a weekly schedule to support your plan, instead of discouraging you from goals not met. If you want to improve your nutrition, research protein and fiber rich foods that will enhance your workouts and busy lifestyle. Write out your weekly goals, and place them somewhere as a daily reminder of your hard work and dedication.

If you want to up your cardio, write out how many times a week, and how long you will run, walk at an incline or climb stairs for. Stay on track, keep yourself accountable, and if you skip a workout, get right back on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Above all, remember this: 2013 is your year. This is your workout. This is your moment. Make the most of it, and feel the burn, to earn that body!