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Wednesday
Jan012014

What Do You Resolve to Do?

The new year is here - and with it the intentions to change or improve something in the months ahead. We resolve to take control. We resolve to step up. When you take apart the annual tradition itself, it implies we feel something is awry in a serious way. The problem is even formidable enough that it requires a collective cultural event to launch whatever “out with the old” actions we need to take. We want to capitalize on the energy surrounding the change in calendar - ride the coattails of societal enthusiasm. (Why not?) Unfortunately, the January fervor tends to fizzle all too soon (as anyone who’s observed gym attendance dwindle into February knows). By all means, every one of us should be inspired by the spirit of the New Year. Use it to your advantage. Psych yourself into a new vision with it. That said, there’s got to be more to the resolution story if we want to be successful in our aim a year from now. More is required for a successful outcome than temporary fervor. If we want our resolutions to be more than pipe dreams, we need to get clear and committed, and we need to revise the concept of resolution itself. Here’s how....

Avoid ambiguity. 

I’m going to come right out and say it: “lose weight” isn’t an effective resolution. (In fact, it’s not even a good goal.). “Lose twenty pounds of fat over the next fifty-two weeks” is a much better outcome goal, but it’s still not a resolution either. The ultimate point is this: a resolution should be defined by a course of actions rather than the outcome such actions produce. 

Resolve to take daily action (no matter how simplistic it is).

Some resolvers bite off more than they can (and should) chew and forget about what’s not within their direct control. Life is busy. Everyone has demands to meet. Responsibilities often prevent us from carrying out our grand intentions of turning our lifestyles on end. We often don’t have the luxury of dropping everything else to work out for an hour or more, sleep for eight hours, or perfectly portion our home-prepped meals. Sometimes this lack of control can make it feel like we’re destined to lose the war on weight when all we need to feel is we’ve won the daily battle. What if, instead, the daily action was so small you could absolutely fit it into your busiest and most hectic day without a doubt? Do five minutes of activity three times per day? Drink three liters of water throughout the day? Take ten deep breaths before going to sleep to calm your body and mind for a quality night of rest – no matter how much shorter than optimal? You get the idea. Instead of setting grand plans, resolve to string together 365 days of tiny battles won and see what happens. Chances are, if you’re constantly building up small wins each day, you’ll stay motivated and even find room to do more than the minimal effort you’d envisioned. 

Expect to fail sometimes.

If you follow the above guideline and keep things simple, occasional failure shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it should seem so stinking easy to get back on the right track that you almost have to laugh at yourself for falling off in the first place. This is a little coaching secret of mine that sort of flies in the face of common logic. Set behavior goals that appear easy but are effective enough to make progress even if you only hit the target eighty percent of the time. Missing one day of adherence shouldn’t ruin your desire to continue, especially if the miss is an expected part of the process.

Be accountable to everyday actions.

To be a true resolution, the change needs to be acted on and measurable every day of the year. Let’s take the “lose weight” resolution, for example. What does one do to lose weight every day? Yes, of course it’s possible to measure weight loss every day, but examining the daily difference can feel tedious and even self-defeating. The fact is, weight loss works as a result of healthy actions. These actions, technically, would be the better targeted resolution. The point is this: if you resolve to reach a certain weight outcome by next December 31st, your success will depend on how compliant you are with the daily tasks that will lead you to the result. If your compliance is what matters most, then measuring your accountability to your new behaviors each and every day is a must (no matter how small these actions may seem on the surface). 

Most people know they should change something about their lifestyles this time of year. Many of these people intend to do something about it but still drift off track and then beat themselves up about it. If you’re one who gets down on yourself when you can’t stick to your intentions, then you need to add to your support system. Think about joining a group or striking up a working relationship with a health and fitness professional who provides the right blend of motivation, direction, education, accountability, and celebration to see you through to your outcomes. Maintain that relationship throughout your process. Professional support can be a great jump-start tool, but it will motivate you to stick with your process over time to finish what you started. 

Measure progress, not perfection. 

This echoes the eighty percent message above but deserves its own discussion when it comes to resolutions. A year is a long time. Being better each year (and, by necessary extension, each month, each week, or each day) is about making progress, not achieving perfection. It’s about making small but simple changes to pave the way for more complex changes that with time seem just as easy to adopt. That’s why it’s imperative to observe your progress instead of grasping for perfection. The example above (lose twenty pounds of fat over the next fifty-two weeks) has built-in progress-markers. Average that out, and you can see it will only take 0.38 lbs of fat loss per week to reach that outcome! If you have a week when you only see a quarter pound of fat loss, surely you can make a few adjustments the next few weeks to maintain your pace without losing motivation! Let your ongoing progress and compliance measures fuel your transformation in the year to come, and you’ll protect yourself from any pressure to be perfect.

Take others with you on your course of action.

Resolutions were born from religious intentions to be better people – be more generous, more appreciative, more humble. We’d miss the point if we toiled away all year without bringing something positive into the lives of those around us and if we pushed away the help and support others can give. Using a group or partner approach is known to increase adherence to exercise habits and healthier eating, but it also makes the process more more enjoyable, more fun, (and maybe home life more friendly) with the shared intention. Not only can our resolutions foster better health and happiness in our individual lives, but they can inspire positive energy and change in others’ habits as well. 

As you begin 2014, what vision do you have for the year ahead? What do you resolve to do? Thanks for reading today, everyone, and Happy New Year!

Written by Paul Kriegler - Corporate Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

 

 

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