New Year’s Resolutions? What New Year’s Resolutions?
So it’s been almost a month now. Have you been faithfully adhering to your New Year’s resolutions? Me neither. But let’s not give up. Here are some strategies that may help:
1. Have Smaller Goals
For any goal you set, achievability is key. In this way, there are many opportunities for success, each one of which provides incentive toward reaching the next goal.
Define success for yourself. I think it’s just lovely that other people can climb 20 flights of stairs and lift small cars. Good for them — but that has nothing to do with me. I just want to push myself to hike a little farther, walk up a hill a little faster, and do a few more reps with my hand-weights. For me, that’s success.
2. Have Measurable Goals
You don’t want to have some vague desire of 50-pound weight loss the way a beauty contestant has a vague desire for world peace. Be specific. Maybe you will set a goal of doing 30 minutes of exercise 4 days a week. Maybe your goal will be to have only fruit for dessert unless you’re going out. It’s up to you.
In general, while it’s common, I don’t think it’s a great idea to have a goal like losing a pound a week. Why not? Because if your diet consists of eating two doughnuts with diet soda chasers, you may lose weight, but to what end? Truly, it makes more sense to set goals that involve eating and moving in a healthy way – the weight loss will follow.
3. Give Yourself Credit
It’s hard to maintain new habits that are less comfortable or delicious. Acknowledging each success can provide incentive to keep going. To this end, every single time you make a healthy decision — fruit instead of cookies, going to the gym instead of to the mall — thank yourself and congratulate yourself.
4. Expect Relapses
Old coping strategies die hard, and slip-ups are inevitable. Of course, you want to prevent them as much as possible, but sometimes you can’t — or just don’t. The important thing is not to submit to “discipline fatigue” and abandon your healthy goals. One candy bar doesn’t “ruin” the day. The people who are the most successful at staying on track are those who continue to focus on their positive progress (1), who feel a greater sense of self-worth (2), and who continue to develop strategies for avoiding future lapses (3).
Don’t let a mistake derail you. It’s not failure. Learn from it – think about what might be the problem – chips in the house, a gym that’s too far away – and see what you can do about a remedy.
But please, don’t stress about it or heap on the self-criticism. Promise yourself that if you won’t respond to a slip-up with ugly thoughts and words that you would never hurl at another human being in the world. If the same thing happened to your friend, you’d be kind, supportive, and encouraging. Give yourself the same courtesy.
What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive.
(1) Testa RJ, Brown RT. Self-regulatory theory and weight-loss maintenance. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 2015; 22:54-63.
(2) Kozica S et al. Initiating and continuing behaviour change within a weight gain prevention trial: a qualitative investigation. Plos One/DOI 2015: 1-14.
(3) Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. Med Clin N Am 2018; 102:183–97.