Every year we do it. We tell ourselves we won’t. But we do. We make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, eat better, exercise more or live healthier and then we break it. In fact according to a recent poll, about half of all American adults (40-45%) say they will make at least one New Year's resolution. And of those that do, only 64% are likely to stay steadfast after a month. The problem is, we tend to make these grandiose proclamations at 11:30pm on New Year’s Eve feeling invincible. Then reality hits. We falter and break our resolutions just a few weeks later causing us to feel like a failure for the rest of the year.
But this year can be different. This year, you can stay resolute with your New Year’s Resolutions!
First things first, understand that there is nothing magical about January 1. There’s no reason you can’t start implementing your resolutions on January 10th or February 16th or April 5th. The purpose of a resolution is to change behavior for the long term. So why worry about when you start? Just focus on starting. And, staying committed to working towards your goal(s).
Telling yourself that you resolve to lose “all the weight” you need to Feb 1 probably isn’t realistic. But if you set realistic, achievable goals such as “lose ~2lb a week” you will be much more likely to be successful. Further, research shows that setting very specific goals are the most motivating. For example, instead of saying “I am going to work out more” change your thinking to something more tangible such as “I am going to go to the gym and use the elliptical for 30 minutes three times a week.” The specific goal helps focus your efforts and emphasizes exactly what you need to do to be successful.
Importance of journaling, writing down what you ate, how you felt when you ate, what kind of exercise you did, etc. cannot be overlooked. Journaling helps you keep track of all successes, holds you accountable for slip ups and allows you to gain insights from a different perspective. Whether it’s a paper and pen endeavor or an online app, journaling will help you stay true to your resolutions.
Another trick to staying determined and focused on your resolutions is to understand that willpower is like a muscle. It needs to be challenged and exercised to get stronger. So just like lifting weights to build arm or leg muscles, challenging your willpower with small, achievable goals, allowing yourself a sense of accomplishment and success can give you the strength to take on bigger challenges. Being successful with a resolution is a lot like running a marathon as opposed to a sprint (to use another sport analogy): slow and steady and strong over the long haul.
Social support is critical to changing all kinds of behavior; just knowing that you don’t have to go at it alone is very empowering. Studies showed that people trying to make life changes, such as losing weight, were more likely to succeed if they told someone what they were doing. It can be as simple as letting a few friends know, to joining a support group, to participating in an online discussion such as those on Diet-to-Go's Facebook page. Social support can make a big difference in keeping your resolve.
Be proud of your accomplishments and reward yourself accordingly. Celebrate your success by treating yourself to something that you enjoy that does not contradict your resolution. So for example, if you've been sticking to your promise to eat healthier, your reward could be going to a movie with a friend. Or if your resolution was to walk every day before work, you could reward yourself with a new pair of shoes. And you don't have to wait until you've reached a specific milestone, remember a lifestyle change is a journey. So even baby steps forward are still steps in the right direction and deserve recognition.
If your resolution has totally run out of steam, don't despair. Start over again! Just like there's no magic to starting on January 1, there's no magic to restarting at any time. Living a healthy lifestyle isn't always easy, and there most likely will be set backs along the way, but it's doable. And to "borrow" a phrase, you're worth it!
Author: Sue Ridgeway