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Research shows that for the vast majority of us, making a New Year’s resolution is in vain. Polls show that by “fail Friday” – the 3rd Friday in January, most of us will have given up, with a little as 3% keeping a resolution up all year long. In this DDW special, we look at why they fail, and how to keep your new year’s resolution.
1 – Pick a better time of year. Although the calendar says it’s a new year, it’s actually not a good time to make lifestyle changes. We have just come out of a holiday, and a holiday that is filled with parties, celebrations and general debauchery, both on the eating and drinking front. Coming back to normality is hard enough; coming back to a harsh new regime is even harder.
On top of that it’s the depth of winter. Days are short, the weather’s poor, so getting out is harder. The cold and darkness also make our “inner chimp” crave high calorie, sweet and starchy foods, just in case winter might co-incide with a famine. So what time is a good time? That’s a really individual question. Choose a time when things are reasonably settled in your life. But as the weather and light improve so do your chances of success. We propose the return of British Summer Time should be the start of your resolution. So make a note in your diary that resolutions start on the 27th of March.
2 – Be specific, not vague. If you have vowed to “lose weight” or “drink less” good luck. These are vague, hard to measure goals that you won’t keep. Instead, go for small, specific goals with a specific time frame. So “lose weight” becomes “lose 4 lb by the end of January”. “Eat better” becomes “I’m going to eat really well for 3 days of the week until Valentine’s day”. “Drink less” becomes “I’m only going to drink on Friday and Saturday nights for 4 weeks”. Once you have set these smaller, more specific goals, reset, go again! If you fail, jot down why, make more reasonable goals, go again. Like team GB cycling, it’s all about marginal gains. Take care of the little things, the big picture will sort itself out.
3 – Go small, not big. As above, resolving to start marathon training might just be a bit ambitious. Instead make a small, achievable challenge. Aim to go out and walk/run for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. The amazing things that happen to your body will then encourage you to do more. Ariane de Bonvoisin writes in her book “The First 30 Days” that it takes 30 days to replace a bad habit with a good one (but many people fail at around two weeks). That’s why it’s so important to make it to mid-February.
4 – Be sympathetic, not perfect. As experienced personal trainers, we know know that not everyone does well all the time, even us! So an expectation of small failures is important. Allow leeway for stumbling. If you hit the kebab shop one Friday night just accept it, move on, and make a better choice the next time. One bad meal won’t ruin your efforts. Perfection is the obstacle to change.
5 – Blip vs trend. In weight loss we see this all the time – the blip. Clients will have eaten well during a given week, but not seen this reflected in the scales. Likely as not another good week of eating sees that weight loss come plus a bit more from the second week. Be prepared for blips. They are not failure. Keep at it, win enough small battles, you will win the war. If after a month you have not seen much progress then it’s time to think why. That’s a trend. Trends need addressing. Blips need dismissing.
6 – Get tech savvy. Luckily we live in the computer age. There are thousands of apps, gadgets, bands, websites and companies that can help you count calories, spend less, worry less and be happier. Do some research. Get an app!
7 – Get accountable. Tell everyone about your goals. That way you are not just letting yourself down if you give up. Go on Facebook, do a blog, get accountable. Not only is exercise more fun with a friend, but you won’t skip a workout if that means letting someone down.
8 – Get professional help. Would you change the timing belt on your car yourself? Then what makes you think that something as complex as getting fit is a DIY job too? All top athletes (or piano players, or accountants) had lessons from someone qualified to help. Got phobias? See a hypo-therapist. Need to eat better? See a dietitian. Really want to address your eating and fitness? Get a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be forever, but just some knowledge and a kick start could be all that you need.