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Resolutions: Easy to make, tough to keep

Posted: February 16, 2016 3:10 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2016 3:10 a.m.
Allana Kerr/

Over the past month, individuals have put their New Year’s resolutions to the test, often focusing on lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise to achieve weight loss. How successful are these resolutions and will the intentions continue yearlong

Although it’s difficult to foresee what the new year may bring, January has been quite predictable in some respects: fitness facilities are crowded, weight loss products are flying off the shelves and the office is buzzing with the latest and greatest in diet trends.

What accounts for this sudden and drastic increase in people’s obsession with health? The reason lies in three simple words: New Year’s resolutions. Over the past month, individuals have put their New Year’s resolutions to the test, often focusing on lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise to achieve weight loss. How successful are these resolutions and will the intentions continue yearlong?

Based on worldwide trends of Google searches since 2004, sustained interest in weight loss resolutions seems unlikely.

If you’ve been unsuccessful in your resolution attempts, you are not alone. Instead of wallowing in remorse, it’s time to take a closer look as to why the resolution may have failed you and where to go from here.

1. Setting an unattainable goal: Were you setting yourself up for an unreachable ideology? Let’s say Sally didn’t exercise in 2015 but her 2016 resolution is to workout at the gym every day. Soon enough she misses a day at the gym when her friend visits from out-of-town and the following day she’s just too tired after a hectic day at the office.

After missing a few gym sessions, she starts to question if it’s worth the effort. Sound familiar? Instead of blaming yourself for the fact that life happened, your problem may lie in the resolution itself. Solution: Start small. Sally sets a new resolution to work out twice per week, something that is less daunting and easier to fit into her busy schedule. Once this goal develops into a new habit, she can add a small step to her resolution, such as incorporating another weekly workout. Setting a goal that has flexibility and potential for success will bring reward in the end.

2. Setting an impersonal goal: Have you embarked on the resolution journey because “everyone else” is doing it? For example, Jim signs up for the “Biggest Loser Challenge” at work after succumbing to peer pressure from his co-workers, despite never considering weight loss before. By setting a goal based on external pressure from coworkers rather than internal motivation, it will be more difficult for Jim to stay committed. According to a study published in the April 2002 Journal of Clinical Psychology (Vol. 58, No. 4), Norcross discovered that your willingness to change and put new behavior into action is the No. 1 predictor of success with New Year’s resolutions. Solution: Think about what you desire and the motivation will fall into place. Jim has been contemplating smoking cessation for months and feels ready to put it into action. Based on his internal motivation, he makes a new resolution to quit smoking and puts weight loss on the back burner. Keep in mind that you can always re-evaluate your resolutions throughout the year as your needs and desires change.

3. Setting a goal without preparation: More often than not, a resolution will be “easier said than done.” Brianne sets a resolution to start eating breakfast in hopes of improving her alertness at work. However, a week goes by and she still hasn’t found the time to have a morning meal. Developing a new habit will be difficult without preparing for anticipated barriers such as time constraints. Solution: A resolution can go a long way with a little planning. Rather than becoming discouraged, Brianne takes time to plan for her goal. She makes a list of go-to breakfast items to have for the week and sets her alarm 15 minutes earlier. Now she feels prepared to incorporate breakfast into her day without adding more urgency to an already busy morning.

Remember, resolutions should be empowering rather than disparaging. If you find yourself stuck in a resolution, then reflect on your ultimate motive — such as seeking acceptance or gaining confidence — and consider alternative ways to meet your true needs. Pursuing lifestyle changes will be gratifying once the right path emerges.

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