The Realistic Resolution Solution

by Martina M. Cartwright, PhD, RD on Dec 16, 2013

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” —Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Millions of Americans ring in the New Year with lofty intentions to lose weight and exercise more, so why is it that by March, most New Year’s resolutions have fizzled like stale champagne? Typically it’s because people start out with unrealistic goals, misjudging the difficulty of breaking deeply ingrained habits. Impractical goals lead to disappointments that undermine the willpower people need to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Use these tips to make a realistic resolution that you can achieve this year.

Change one habit. Changing too many habits at once can weaken willpower. Cultivating keystone habits has a ripple effect, improving other areas of life (Duhigg 2012; Hofmann et al. 2012).

Keep it simple. Weight loss and fitness resolutions should be within clients’ reach with small daily changes. Drastic resolutions like “I will never eat” or “I will always exercise every day” limit the likelihood of success. Instead, have clients try, “Today I’m going to . . . eat one more serving of vegetables, . . . walk a little farther, . . . take the stairs.”

Write it down. Self-monitoring strengthens strength control. Journaling and food-and-exercise logs boost willpower and encourage habit change. In a study of nearly 1,600 obese adults, food diaries resulted in significantly more weight loss (Hollis et al. 2008). Logs increase the odds of successful weight loss and maintenance of fitness goals (Lally, Chipperfield & Wardle 2008).

Get social. Social support improves adherence. Making resolutions known to friends and family helps garner support when temptation strikes (Gruber 2008).

Give it time. Positive habits require development of new neural pathways, a process that takes at least 3 weeks. Most resolution makers give up too early. Persistence is critical (Duhigg 2012).

Create positive rewards. Successful resolution makers visualize new routines and allow rewards (Duhigg 2012).

Be ready for relapses. New Year’s resolutions often meet their demise with the first relapse. Drastic changes and stressful life events decrease willpower. To stay on course, clients will need a prepared plan for dealing with stress (Duhigg 2012).

If you found this information useful, you may be interested in reading the full article from the December 2012 issue of IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips found here.

References

Duhigg, C. 2012. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House.

Gruber, K.J. 2008. Social support for exercise and dietary habits among college students. Adolescence, 43 (171), 557–75.

Hofmann, W., et al. 2012. Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102 (6), 1318–35.

Hollis, J.F., et al. 2008. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 35 (2), 118–26.

Lally, P., Chipperfield, A., & Wardle, J. 2008. Healthy habits: Efficacy of simple advice on weight control based on a habit-formation model. International Journal of Obesity, 32 (4), 700–707.

© 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Martina M. Cartwright, PhD, RD

Martina M. Cartwright, PhD, RD IDEA Author/Presenter

Martina Cartwright is a registered dietitian (R.D.) with a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science and Biomolecular Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has more than 20 years experience in me...

0 Comments

Trending Articles

How to Teach HIIT to Everyone

High-intensity interval training has been riding a wave of popularity, and it seems everyone wants to give it a try. However, intense interval training is nothing new. Group fitness instructors have b...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Can You Isolate the Lower Abs?

Most people find it difficult to add appreciable muscle to the lower abdominal region. While the upper abs generally respond rather easily t...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Nutrition Coaching: Scope of Practice

Historically, many fitness pros have avoided nutrition discussions for fear of straying beyond their scope of practice or have gone overboar...

Second-Chance Recess Workout

Do you remember being a kid? Before you could even pronounce “perceived exhaustion” or “cardiovascular exercise,” yo...

Show More