New Years resolutions don’t work for weight loss and only lead you down the path of self-loathing and despair.
There, I said it. (Mic drop).
How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions, setting out with the best of intentions, only to end up at the doorstep of February 1st feeling like a complete failure? Based on statistics, I’m going to guess your answer is “every single year.” The hard truth is that 9 out of 10 people don’t stick with their New Year’s resolutions longer than the month of January.
Why is there such a steep attrition rate? Contrary to what you might believe, it isn’t a lack of resolve. It isn’t that you aren’t mentally strong enough to succeed. And it isn’t that you lack will power or self-control. No. We fail because we go about goal-setting in a completely unachievable way. We try to climb the mountain before learning to walk, and we focus on appearance and performance instead of building new habits slowly over time.
Unless you shift your mindset, you will not create sustainable, long-term change for yourself, and will only continue the cycle of yo-yo diets and self-shaming. Let’s not start the new year out like this. Instead, follow these seven tips to reach your health goals with dignity and self-love.
- Start small to build your confidence.
Your resolutions are TOO BIG! Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’m not talking about portion control. I’m talking about creating small, achievable changes in behavior that snowball into longer-term success. Goal setting doesn’t work. Resetting habits does.
The most common New Year’s resolutions are: “Lose Weight,” “Eat Healthier,” and “Exercise More.” What do these even mean? These resolutions are simply too vague and quite frankly, daunting as hell.
Instead of proclaiming that you want to lose 30 pounds by summer, try something you know you can achieve like: “Incorporate vegetables into every meal,” or “drink water before snacking.” Doesn’t that feel more achievable?
Don’t do what so many resolution-setters do and go gangbusters on January 1, committing to a juicing cleanse, or limiting your calories to the required daily recommendation for a small pigeon. You will feel deprived, and you will wreck your metabolism and confidence in the process. Build your self-confidence by setting and achieving small behavior changes. It will build trust in yourself, and after all, self-confidence is the mainstay of all personal growth.
Believing in your ability to achieve is a powerful motivator. “I do what I say I will,” becomes your new mantra, instead of, “I can’t stick with anything. I suck.” Which feels better?
2. Add on to an already existing habit.
We already have hundreds of existing habits. We brush our teeth twice a day. We have our cup of coffee each morning. We hang our car keys on the rack by the backdoor. Those are all habits. Try working with exiting habits to improve your health. Stand on one leg while you brush your teeth to improve core strength and balance. Walk to the park for your Saturday morning playdate with the kids instead of driving.
Simple shifts in behavior are the key to sustainable, longterm change. And contrary to popular belief, habits take longer than 21 days to form. So stick with it.
3) Don’t restrict. Instead, crowd out.
Let’s play a game. You can’t have chocolate. No chocolate for you. Chocolate is the devil. You shouldn’t eat that delicious chocolate. I don’t know about you, but now I want some chocolate. I want it just because I told myself I shouldn’t have it.
Depriving yourself never works. It is human psychology. That is why diets and resolutions combust. Instead, crowd out. What does this mean? It’s simple. Add good foods in, and the foods you are trying to avoid will organically take a backseat. Do you drink a lot of soda and you want to cut back? Crowd out by drinking a glass of water before you reach for a soda. You might find your thirst is quenched and you don’t even want the soda. Or maybe you still do, but you drink less of it because you are full from the water. Are you in the habit of eating dessert before bed? Eat a protein-rich snack first and see if you still want that bowl of ice cream. Maybe the greek yogurt with berries took the edge off after all.
4) Don’t fixate on LOSING something. Focus on the GAIN.
Resolutions too often are a form of repentance to compensate for your guilt-riddled holiday excess. Resolutions should never serve as punishment. They must focus around possibility. When setting your intentions, focus your resolutions around what you will GAIN. Sure, eating vegetables at every meal will help you lose weight, but what have you gained by eating vegetables at each meal? Is it vitality, a better quality of life, energy to chase your kids, confidence, or improved health?
With my nutrition clients I call this the “focusing on the why.” When I meet with clients, they inevitably say, “I want to lose weight.” But WHY? When I get to the bottom of it, the answer is often that they want more energy, more confidence, or better health. They want to gain something.
Focus on getting fit and feeling good, not on losing weight. Any goal set with the intention of making yourself smaller and taking up less space in this world is never the answer anyway.
5) Change your self-narrative.
Much of resolution setting is based around doing what we think we should do. I should eat healthier. I should lose weight. I should go to the gym. No. No. No. You are the author of your story. Decide the person you want to be. Become that person by setting and achieving those small habit shifts that build your belief in your ability to become that person. If you tell yourself you aren’t athletic…guess what? You won’t exercise. If you tell yourself that you have a sweet tooth…guess what? You are going to eat more sweets. Rewrite your story.
After you successfully make a healthy, positive choice…stop…and ask yourself how you feel? You probably feel good. Your energy is boosted, and you feel confident in your ability to succeed. Let those small successes carry you.
6) Create habits built with love and joy.
Make your new habit not only achievable, but fun. If you set the goal of eating vegetables at every meal, perhaps commit to trying one new vegetable recipe a week so you don’t get bored. Perhaps you incorporate your kids into the mix and add more exercise by playing a 15-minute game of tag twice a week. (Take it from me…that is some seriously good exercise). Want to get stronger? Set a fun challenge for yourself. Start with five push-ups the first week. The next week, can you do 10? Be your biggest cheerleader as you push yourself to do new things.
Healthy choices need to feel right, not like hard work and deprivation.
7) Forgive yourself often.
Know that you will hit stumbling blocks, and also know that you will learn from them. Just because you ate that third piece of pizza doesn’t mean you failed. There will be times when you don’t make the ideal choice. Own it. Sit in it. And move on. You are perfectly human.
Building habits isn’t an all or nothing game. It is a process.
So here’s to a happy and healthy new year. May you grow and prosper and love yourself gently.