CalorieKing’s Keys to Successful New Year’s Resolutions
Every year as the clock counts down to a new year we look back at the old and ponder what we want to change in the new. Resolutions seem to be as much a part of the holidays as the celebrations.
So once you’ve decided to make changes how do you make them a part of your every day life and not just a goal you put on paper but end up breaking by mid-year? You are off to a good start – acknowledging there is something you want to change is a big first step.
How do you make sure you make those resolutions stick? The difference between those who persist and those who throw in the towel is that “stickers” are better prepared for what’s in store and don’t expect to simply change overnight. They know a resolution is not some magic incantation that produces automatic behavioral change, but is a process of change that lasts a lifetime.
Resolutions Are a Process – Not Snap Changes
At New Year’s it’s all too easy to ride on the hype of the season and assume once you’ve made the dramatic announcement that you’re going to make it a reality and instantly drop four clothes sizes. It’s not. The declaration of your goal is simply the first (and easiest) stage of a long process. If you think of any resolution in terms of a process, instead of a snap change, you will be far more likely to stick with it.
Approaching behavioral change as an ongoing process instead of a decision made in a moment is a successful method used by many psychologists. This transtheoretical model (TTM), as it is referred to, is one of the most important things to keep in mind when making and pursuing your New Year’s resolutions.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with a few CalorieKing tips to help you embrace the process of change:
Keep It Real – Think about your resolution as a goal, but bigger and more intention-packed. Make your intentions realistic and achievable. Consider your lifestyle and how realistic your resolutions are in that context. Is it reasonable to lose 20 lbs. in two months? Is it practical to exercise two hours a day? Remember you can approach change in steady steps.
Be Specific, Not Vague – “I will lose weight” is really not a resolution, it’s a wish. In order for your brain to act on a resolution, it needs specific information. Think about what is realistic and set your goal. “I resolve to hit 135 lbs. by June 30, 2012″ is definite, while “I will lose weight this year” is unclear.
Change the Stage – If you want to have a successful performance, adjust your surroundings. Simply stated, if you resolve to eat healthily, get rid of the junk food in the house. Want to cut out fast food? Adjust your drive home so you don’t pass the drive thrus.
Gear Up – Think like a boy scout and always be prepared! If exercising three times a week is your resolution, don’t leave home without your sneakers. If you’ve resolved to stop eating fast-food lunches, prepare a healthy lunchbox at home to take to work.
Anticipate and Learn From Setbacks – Setbacks are an intrinsic part of behavior change. Don’t get despondent if you encounter them; see them as an opportunity to learn about yourself instead. Keep a journal of your activity and how you are feeling – reviewing that journal will help you get to know yourself, what triggers your habits and enable you to better plan. Take your enhanced self-knowledge with you towards your next step on the path to success.
Reward Yourself – Develop a system of non-food rewards for behaviors that support your resolutions. Don’t wait until you’ve pulled off the final feat; set milestones, and reward yourself as you go. This is an important, but often neglected step of this process of self-change.
The Final Key
The final key to successfully sticking to your resolutions is much quoted by behavioral therapists – learn to accept your mistakes and then move on.
So many people fail at their New Year’s resolutions precisely because they don’t allow themselves moments of failure.
Witness the story of Ms. X who, after eating healthily and exercising for five weeks, gives into the temptation of her favorite ice cream. After a second helping, which would have only put her about 300 calories over her daily goal, she believes she has completely blown her resolution and so finishes off the tub. Then she feels like even more of a failure and slides towards abandoning her goals altogether.
This “all or nothing” approach helps no-one. Ms. X needs to learn the art of accepting her own mistakes as just that – mistakes, not final judgments that condemn her to a lifetime of failure. She needs to put down the tub, walk away from the ice cream, say “Oops” and go for a brisk walk. She should journal about it later – why she felt the need to splurge, how she felt when she did and acknowledge the behavior. This puts it in the past and arms her with some knowledge on moving forward.
When you make a mistake, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Remember that behavioral change is one of the hardest things a person can ever do. You are attempting to change your “self” and, if you’re like most people, you’re probably quite attached to yourself!
Take it easy, keep it real, and remember your resolutions are an ongoing process, not an overnight transformation!