Passing on New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I mean, think about it. What could possibly happen on January 1 that doesn’t exist on December 31 that makes it possible to make a change that has been on your mind for months? Yet many magazines, TV personalities and the like will be talking about how to stick to these supposed resolutions.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they lack process. Most New Year’s resolutions are about the desired result (“I want to lose 25 pounds”), but not about how to get there (“I want to take time every evening to make a wholesome lunch to take to work”). The all too common outcome is that we don’t stick to our resolutions, leaving us feeling like we can’t succeed. The good news for the magazines and others is that they have more headlines for their April issue, which is usually something related to how you haven’t followed through and now the pressure is on because summer is a mere eight weeks away.

I would like to propose something else this year. Let’s commit to not making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, let’s truly tackle our goals with a plan.

Step #1: Set a reasonable goal.

Despite what you’ve read, you can’t lose 20 pounds in two weeks–not safely at least. I realize that you may have big goals, but the key is to set smaller goals that you can meet sooner rather than later. This leads to a feeling of success and empowerment that encourages you to continue. For example, your goal may be to go to the gym every morning before work. That is a great goal, which likely requires smaller goals to be met related to getting organized and going to bed earlier in order to be successful.

Step #2: Consider what is truly possible.

Back to that gym example: I am a big fan of morning workouts (before the work day gets longer than expected or the school nurse calls to say your child is sick). It is essential, however, to review your weekly schedule and carve out the days when it is really possible. For example, if you are always out very late on Wednesday evenings, then you aren’t likely to make it on Thursday mornings. If you have a very early commitment at work on Monday, that isn’t likely a good day either. The point is that if you know that two days aren’t going to work, you can make the other three a higher priority and find yourself at the gym more consistently.

Step #3: If it hasn’t worked in the past, don’t try it again.

Maybe you have tried a no-carbohydrate diet or some other commercial program that sounds great and initially seems to be working, even if it requires you to eat boxed food every evening. After a few weeks, you find that you’ve had enough (you’re not alone). Use your own past experiences to guide your future plan. Most people are successful when they follow a diet that is flavorful, rich in colors and textures and complete with favorite foods and even a few splurges. Remember that in many cases it isn’t what you eat, but how much you eat.

Step #4: Put yourself out of your comfort zone.

There is probably nothing you have achieved (that was really worth it) without putting forth some effort and resulting in a bit of discomfort. To be successful, you may have to pass on some dinners out–especially to restaurants with unhealthful menus, or explain to your friend that your calorie-laced coffee time now interferes with spinning class. And when you get to the gym, make it worth it…by working yourself a little harder, which may involve a bit of discomfort too. Just keep thinking of the end results and push right on through!

Let’s make this the year that we truly commit to making change. The kind of change that is slow, progressive and lasting. Remember that there are many resources available to you. Check out our recipe section for healthful, delicious recipes, or our Food Finder to look up the star ratings of your favorite foods. Regardless of the date on the calendar, you can live a healthier and more positive life. Go for it today–there’s no reason to wait for tomorrow.

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