The New Year’s Resolution Trap

It is that time of year when most people are thinking about “New Year’s resolutions.” Often these commitments involve health related goals such as weight loss, exercise or avoiding some evil food or beverage. While sincere in their desire to make these changes, most people fall short of achieving these goals and maintaining them. Changing habits is difficult, and sustaining changes is even more so. How can you make a New Year’s resolution that will actually stick?

New Year’s resolutions are no different than any other attempt at behavior change. People often set goals that are too ambitious and too long term. It is like trying to throw a long pass in football. If you connect on the pass the reward is great, but the chance of success is small. Instead, it may be better to move the ball down the field in smaller chunks. In other words, try setting small, short term goals and then build on your success. Consider the example of increasing exercise. An initial goal of exercising five times per week may be too ambitious. Instead, try to start with a goal of exercising two times per week over the next two weeks. If you are able to achieve this, then go ahead and increased the frequency to three times. If you are not successful at the initial goal, continue working toward it until you achieve twice a week. Remaining focused on a smaller, short term goal to start, may decrease frustration and disillusionment. It is easier to build on small successes than overcome the psychological consequences of failure.

You may set a goal to lose weight, and you may have a number in mind. However, making a resolution to lose weight without a clear plan to achieve this is unlikely to lead to success. While you keep the weigh t goal in mind, try to focus on simple changes you can make in your food and/or beverage intake that will help you achieve your goal. Stick to one change at a time in order to increase your chance of success. If you decrease or eliminate intake of a food or beverage, be sure that it is not replaced with other items of similar calorie content. Replace sweetened beverages with water, black coffee or unsweetened tea. Replace processed snacks such as chips or cookies with vegetables or fruits. Replace fast food meals with meals prepared at home. These changes should help to reduce your overall calorie intake. As with exercise, begin with one small change and build on your success, by adding new changes as you progress toward your goal.

New Year is traditionally a time of unfulfilled personal promises. Make this year different. Set your sights on small achievable changes- goals that you can achieve in a few weeks. Move through the process of change one step at a time. Keep looking forward and avoid focusing on past failures.
Have a happy New Year and good luck with all of your New Year’s resolutions.

Fred Stichel MS,RD,LDN

Fred is available at OFD to help you work toward your New Year’s resolutions or any of your health and wellness goals. Call 828.252.2511 option 1 to arrange for an appointment.