Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, something, to be honest, I have mixed emotions about.
On the positive side, it’s nice to view the coming year as a new beginning, which can include renewed efforts to eat healthier, be more religious with your exercise regimen, or simply make more time for yourself.
My unscientific guess is that more New Year’s resolutions are made about health-related goals than anything else, which may make it easier to find an exercise buddy, or someone to start a weight management program with you.
That’s why many gyms and weight loss programs experience a noticeable bump in membership after January 1st. In the words of the owner of my gym, “At least there is a yearly reminder to get people to move on that goal to exercise more.”
He also notes that many of those New Year’s sign-ups don’t stick around long, evidence that real readiness for change is not necessarily calendar-specific.
While I am a fan of any time, event or call to action to eat better or exercise more, my beef with New Year’s resolutions is more about what often proceeds that January 1st kick-off.
For many of us, vowing to be better after New Years can translate into a license to go overboard from Thanksgiving through December 31st – kind of like a prolonged version of the “Last Supper” eating many of us do the weekend before our Monday launch into a weight loss program.
Studies tell us the average person gains about a pound over the holidays (which means some gain less, and some more), with a high likelihood of never losing that pound. That means an easy 10 pounds over 10 years, even for those not prone to gaining weight easily.
Bottom line: readiness to change occurs at different times for different people, but for those teeter tottering on ready-to-go, New Years can present an opportunity to get serious about your health goals.
Here are a few suggestions to help make your diet and exercise goals more likely to stick around beyond the end of January:
• When deciding on your health goals for January 1st, include an intention to use the time between Thanksgiving and New Years to start practicing habits you want to enact more consistently after the holidays. Basically, allow yourself to experiment with new habits and routines during this time, with a goal of at least trying to maintain your weight as opposed to actively losing yet.
• Be realistic about your goals. Instead of aiming for an all-out overhaul of your diet and exercise routine, be resolute about maybe one doable diet and exercise goal to get started, with a longer term plan to adopt new changes once you’ve mastered your initial goals.
• Don’t view New Year’s resolutions as “all or nothing.” Real change comes from setting a series of goals, anticipating you’ll trip and fall a little along the way. Research on those who lose weight and keep it off shows that ultimate success comes from being forgiving of lapses, which “successful losers” come to view as opportunities to learn, not evidence of weakness or failure. If you lapse on your resolution – for a day, a week, or even a month – just dust yourself off and get back in the saddle as soon as possible. Even the best laid plans, or most well thought out resolutions, need buffing up at times.
Happy New Year!
ABOUT HILLARY WRIGHT
After 12 years as a nutrition-based educator for Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates (HVMA), Hillary transitioned to a part-time position at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She is also the founder of New Vision Nutrition in Arlington, Massachusetts — a private nutrition consulting practice that includes nutrition counseling, public speaking, and teaching nutrition to colleges and institutions.
She is a contributing editor and regular writer for the newsletter “Environmental Nutrition” and is currently working with the Arlington Public Schools on grant-funded programs designed to increase nutrition, education and physical activity in the community. Hillary’s clinical interests include women’s health and nutritional management of polycycstic overy syndrome (PCOS).