By April Hussar, SELF magazine
Did you set a weight-loss goal for the new year? Have you told everyone about it? You should! That is, if you want to succeed...
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It can be tempting to keep your goals a secret, whether they're diet and fitness-related or not. Why? Maybe you're afraid of failing in public, or "jinxing" your dream. If that sounds familiar, you're not alone -- almost one-quarter of respondents in a Self.com poll say they keep their New Year's goals on the down low.
But according to University of Scranton Psychology Professor John C. Norcross, PhD, co-author of Changing for Good, keeping your plans a secret is a bad idea. "Public commitments are more effective that private declarations," he says.
You should share your diet goals -- and any of your other New Year's resolutions! According to Norcross, decades of research have shown that making your goal public increases your chances of success because it puts you out there: "You feel more pressure, more accountably and, we hope, more support," he explains.
Of course, telling everyone you know that you plan to shrink down several jeans sizes can be daunting. "It's a double-edged sword," says Norcross, "because it does increase the risk of embarrassment or shame if you should falter."
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So what's his advice if you're worried about failing and making a fool of yourself? "Make the public commitment," says Norcross, "but be careful to be realistic about the goal."
Ah yes -- realism. Being practical about your goal-setting is important in general, as the more specific and realistic you are, the greater your chances of success. Instead of saying, 'I'm going to lose 40 pounds,' Norcross says it's better to declare 'I'm going to lose 20 pounds and keep them off.'"
To this end, Norcross recommends dividing your big goals up into smaller objectives, and when you're making your public declaration, be sure to distinguish between the ultimate goal and your sub-goals. For example, tell people your big goal is to lose 30 pounds or run a half-marathon, but that you're publicly committing to running three times a week for the month of January.
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Sharing your goals will keep you on track long after the initial excitement and motivation you had on Jan. 1 wears off. "Our research shows that people can maintain a behavior change for the first week or so," says Norcross, "but after that, you really need that social support."
And that social support can definitely come from -- you guessed it -- your social networks. According to Norcross, your Facebook friends, Twitter followers or online support groups like running groups can all provide you with the positive feedback, rewards and reminders you need to keep going.
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By April Hussar, SELF magazine
What big event do you usually lose weight for?