It's easy enough to make a New Year's resolution. All you have to do is say it right? "I will not eat sweets." "I will go to the gym five days a week." "I will lose 20 pounds." Even if you say it and don't exactly do it for more than a few days, weeks or months, then there's always next year right?
You can tell yourself all of this and more, of course, but it probably doesn't feel great when you bail on that promise or resolution for yet another year. What begins with good intentions, though, becomes a matter of keeping yourself accountable and that can be a challenge as the year goes on and responsibilities pile up on top of errands. You can say, "I'm not going to eat any sweets," but if you break down and indulge, who is there to stop you or make you feel better or remind you that tomorrow is a new day?"
If this sounds familiar, perhaps it's time to up the stakes and incentivize. If the idea of a health and fitness challenge resonates well with you, there are several ways to spur your goals on with a little friendly competition, either with yourself, strangers, friends, family or even co-workers. Are you ready for a new New Year's resolution solution?
SparkPeople has a variety of challenges to get you started on the right path to a healthy lifestyle. Each is designed by our team of experts to help you challenge yourself and keep you accountable while connecting with other members.
New to SparkPeople? Try the 21-Day New Member Challenge.
The 28-Day Home Workout Challenge is great when you are short on time and don't belong to a gym.
Have you been working out regularly but aren't seeing results? Try the 30-Day Plateau-Busting Challenge.
If you've always wanted to walk or run a 5K, now's your chance with either the 5K Your Way Walk/Jog Challenge or the 5K Your Way Running Challenge.
For a complete list of challenges that will change your body and your mind, visit Challenge Central.
If you want to lose weight, try:
DietBet. With DietBet, the premise is simple. Join an ongoing bet (or create your own with friends and family) that challenges you to lose a percentage of your weight over a period of time. To enter a bet, you pay a fee. If you lose the weight, you receive a payout. If you don't, you lose your money. Since everyone's starting weight will differ, the bets are based on a percentage of body weight lost, ranging from four percent (a one-month bet) to 10 percent (a six-month bet), depending on which game you join. Your starting and ending weights are verified by the DietBet team using photos and a secret word (so they know it's you).
If you just want to get to the gym, try:
PACT. Similar to DietBet's betting system, with PACT you'll win money for going to the gym, paid by those who do not. Choose from three different PACTs—going to the gym, eating your veggies or tracking your food. You can commit to one or all three. You'll submit pictures of your veggies, a log of your workouts or enter your meals and snacks to go toward your PACT.
You'll be rewarded for the number of days you committed to and completed. Rewards can vary from 30 cents to $5 a week, depending on how many activities you've chosen to log.
If you have other health and fitness goals, try:
Stickk. With Stickk, you'll enter a commitment contract with yourself, that helps you define your goals and what it will take to accomplish them. That, plus the knowledge that you have money on the line can help your goals, well, stick.
The great thing about Stickk is you can set it up for any goal you want to achieve, such as giving up smoking, saving for a vacation or losing weight. Signing a commitment contract with yourself is free; however, if you want to up the Stickk stakes, you can try a financial commitment with payouts based on your commitment goals. You can also choose to assign a referee, such as a spouse or friend, to keep you on track or supporters who can virtually cheer you along on your journey toward your goals.
If you want to organize a challenge on your own terms, try:
A closed Facebook group. Invite who you want, and set the challenge parameters to what you need for your challenge group. The rules are up to you, too. Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events has been part of a weight-loss group on Facebook for more than three years. "There are folks all over the country participating. We have a moderator and a treasurer [and] the competition round lasts nine weeks," she explains. "At the start and end you send in photos of your feet on the scale with a secret word (to prove photo timeliness) and a full-body picture to the moderator. For the weeks in between, we use a Google form for weight tracking. It is $20 to join the group—sent via PayPal to the treasurer. At the end of nine weeks, if you have lost five percent or more, you split the pot with anyone else who did so as well."
Carnevale likes that you can offer support, recipes and encouragement, or just vent about weight-loss challenges through the closed group. In addition, she says that, "The moderator posts the results in percentage form on a weekly basis. Results are not posted in the seventh and eighth weeks to keep the suspense of how many are in the running for the cash."
With Friends or Family
If you want to make a game out of weight loss, try:
Playing bingo. Bella McCrudden, nutritional adviser, wellness coach and founder of NutriBelle, uses a bingo board with her clients to encourage healthy habits while having fun. "I love the idea of including healthy habits that don't just revolve around weight loss, but that help to build in habits that will last to keep the weight off," she says "By using a healthy habits bingo card every week for a month, and having that extra bit of challenge and motivation from your friends, you and your friends get to embed healthy habits for life, but also get that satisfaction of losing the holiday muffin top!"
How to play:
Hiring a third-party professional. "One of the best ways to organize a weight-loss challenge is to have a third-party coach or professional to lead the challenge," April Dearden, certified nutritionist and corporate wellness coach at New Normal Lifestyle, Inc., says.
"Having an expert to answer questions and keep the group motivated is important. If no one in the group can help overcome some of the obstacles that arise, you will usually end up with friends not following through to the end. It's also good to have a third-party professional help with individual personal issues you may not want to share with your friends," she adds.
Dearden also points out that the expert can take a lot of the guesswork out of where to start and how to implement a plan that works for everyone. Once the expert meets with the group of friends, he or she can understand the dynamics and goals of the group to better implement a plan that everyone can follow.
If you want a friendly non-monetary wager, try:
Betting chores or tasks. Nick D'Urso, a health coach and co-founder of The Nutritional Source, says. "One thing I encourage my clients to do is wager something of importance to build accountability. It doesn't necessarily have to be money, but it's important to set small goals to achieve the larger goal at hand. [For example], the first person to lose five pounds has to drive the other's children to school for the week."
You can then increase the wager for the next 10 pounds and so on. The loser buys the winner a healthy dinner, or takes them out to the movies—really anything that makes you push to achieve.
"This really works great with all types of people. I have seen sporting event tickets wagered, carpools, house cleaning, et cetera. It's fun and rewarding," D'Urso says.
At the Office
If you want to lose weight with your co-workers, try:
Your interoffice messenger. Stay motivated with a weight-loss specific group chat on your office's messaging system. Those who want to participate join the group and set the parameters.
For April Jimenez, the director of digital marketing at Huemor Designs, her office's eight-week weight-loss challenge consisted of, "A $20 buy in, [wherein] anytime someone gained a pound or more [thereafter] they needed to stick a dollar for each pound in the money jar (we're up to about $200 now)," she says.
In addition, her company, "stayed motivated by having a weight-challenge-specific chat on our interoffice messenger where I would post the week's results after the weigh-in. We also added some decent competition motivators and some good-natured trash talk and sabotage [also] made it fun."
A points system. Create a points system for common goals among coworkers. As the points add up, so do your chances of winning.
"We have three categories: workout, booze and sweets, Eric Brantner, co-founder of Scribblrs, explains. "Each day you can earn up to three points; one point for working out, one point for foregoing the booze and one for abstaining from dessert or sugary drinks like soda. We have a shared Google spreadsheet where we tally points at the end of the day and the goal is to accumulate the most points by the end of the contest."
He believes this points system has been successful because he and his coworkers aren't constantly weighing themselves and freaking out over a number that naturally fluctuates. Also, with three categories from which to choose, it makes things a bit more fair as there is sure to be a category that is easier for some than others.
For instance, one coworker might be able to easily hit five workouts a week, but has difficulty not drinking soda. Another might not eat a lot of sweets, but enjoys having a couple of beers in the evening, so in that way, everyone can focus on both strengths and weaknesses.
"I've worked out seven of the last eight days. Super proud of myself and my points!" he adds.
Do you have any other fun challenge suggestions? Tell us in the comments!
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