“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.
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.
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