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Why It’s a Mistake to Make Weight Loss a New Year’s Resolution

Have you ever passed by a gym during the first two weeks of January? The gym is filled to capacity with people on treadmills and elliptical machines, their faces grim and their bottles of vitamin water at their sides. They’re determined to keep their (annual) resolution to lose weight and to get in shape. But by February, two thirds of those machines are empty, and the vitamin water has been replaced by — well, other drinks.

Why is this? I think the answer is two-fold and explains why most people who lose weight gain it back: 

  1. We humans are hard-wired to struggle against the experience of deprivation. If avoiding certain foods feels like deprivation, then eventually the food wins.

  2. If a resolution is generated from a place of contempt for one’s lack of “will-power,” it’s bound to fail eventually. For one thing, will-power is a finite resource. When that will-power runs out and you eat a doughnut or three, you become angry with yourself, and then you want to comfort yourself, which leads you to the fourth doughnut – the Comfort Food Circle of Hell. 

Nonetheless, I think New Year’s resolutions are a great idea. They offer a chance to reflect and reboot in order to set new achievable goals The key, though, is achievable. I will never again resolve to be a size six or to be a nice person. I want something that’s actually possible.

How’s this for a resolution? Every day, you will make one good decision and act on it.

That’s it. At least one. Every single day. By “good decision,” I mean something that has a positive impact on your mental or physical health — hopefully, both. One good decision.

Here are my resolutions this year:

  1. I will do 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.

  2. I won’t keep sugary, processed foods at home.

  3. I will not argue with Trump supporters.

That’s it. I think these resolutions are sustainable. Oh, and I also resolve to not beat myself up if (when) I backslide. Hey, chocolate happens, no?

Happy New Year!