Christmas is over, your relatives and friends have gone back home and you’re finally getting your house back in order. As you tidy up the tree, throw away the final scraps of wrapping paper, and help yourself to the last of the leftovers from the fridge you may be wondering what’s next. According to the Washington Post (1), roughly 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions; so if you’re pulling up your holiday sweatpants and promising yourself that 2019 is the year you’re gonna squeeze back into your favorite pair of jeans you are most certainly not alone.
One survey (2) suggests that the most popular new year's resolutions are all about saving more money with 53% of participants promising to tighten up their purse strings in the new year. Fitness and weight-related resolutions are a close second, with 45% of respondents wanting to lose weight, or get in shape. 25% of people would like to spice up their intimate lives and have more sex in 2019, and 24% of people would love to travel more.
The new year is certainly an exciting time, and while we all know that the digits on the calendar are only numbers, there’s something about January 1st that feels like a clean slate. Many people begin the new year by drawing a line under their past mistakes and forging ahead into the future with strengthened resolve, willpower, and positivity. We love the optimism of a fresh start, but unfortunately, as the months go by and the momentum of the new year gives way to routine, it gets harder and harder to stick to the promises we’ve made to ourselves. According to U.S. News (3), about 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.
Evidence suggests that if we start a new habit with intensity, we are more likely to continue that habit for longer. A study (4) by the University of Chicago paid ⅓ of participants $175 to hit the gym 8 times for a month. The other 2/3rds of participants were paid for attending an information session and having their gym attendance tracked, some with a minimum of 1 gym visit in order to pick up their check. It’s no surprise that the group who were paid for 8 visits ended up exercising more often, however, what is surprising is that the group who exercised most intensely during the study also continued to exercise at a much higher rate than the other groups after the study was over.
These results show that repetition may help us to build new habits. Take advantage of the motivation you feel at the beginning of a new year to load up on workouts, food tracking, meal prep and whatever else will help you reach your health goals. Even if it’s unlikely that you can continue all year at the same intensity, it’s important to utilize that initial burst of energy to ingrain a new habit into your routine. If you’re just getting started, focus on exercising often, instead of on the length of your workouts. This repetition will help you establish a routine, and avoid overuse and injury. Once your routine is stable, you can start to push yourself a little more in each session to reach your fitness goals.
Set Realistic, Easily Trackable Goals
As any good New Year’s resolution maker knows, motivation is the key to making sustainable change. If we felt as motivated to lose weight and exercise on December 25th as we do on January 1st, we’d all be at our goal weight by now.
Unfortunately, however, motivation is not a constant state of mind. Instead, motivation tends to descend upon us in surges and those surges lead to slips. The trick to lasting change is to set a series of realistic, easily trackable goals that satisfy your motivation, and give you the thrill of accomplishment every now and again. Feeling a sense of achievement as you head towards your ultimate goal, is much more motivating than delaying gratification till the end result, which could be months or years away.
Instead of setting one huge goal of losing 50lb this year, start with something a little more achievable. Focus on losing your first pound or two, and allow yourself to feel the satisfaction of that achievement. It doesn’t take long for the pounds to add up, and before you know it, you can focus on losing the first 10.
The same thing goes for exercise and fitness. Instead of setting one final goal of running a marathon, focus on your first 5k. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to feel the thrill of the crowd as you cross the finish line either. Search for 5k races in your area, and sign up for one a few months away. This will give you a realistic and easily trackable goal to work towards, and the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you smash your first goal will sustain you as you continue to train towards your ultimate destination.
Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep and change takes time. Whatever your health resolutions are for the new year, be sure to get a support system in place that can help you stay on track. This could be as simple as joining a class at your local gym, enlisting a trusted friend to check in with you each week, or joining a fitness or weight loss message board online.
If your resolution is to move more, see if you can tempt your partner or friends to join you in an evening walk each night. If you’re trying to lose weight, see if there’s someone you know who can trade meal prep tips with you, or go with you to check out a new health food restaurant. Having support and like-minded people around you as you make healthy changes to your lifestyle will help to keep you accountable and on track when your motivation fails you.
Expect Setbacks & Avoid Perfectionist Thinking
Wouldn’t it be great if you exercised every day of the new year and never felt tempted by fatty and sugary foods again? Often, when we begin a new exercise routine or kick off our New Year's resolution we are so optimistic about the changes we want to see in ourselves, that we forget to leave room for error. Even if you try your absolute hardest to work out for an hour every day before work, life will inevitably get in the way. Perhaps you’ll be working late to a tight deadline and oversleep, or maybe the kids will keep you up all night, or you might get a bad case of the flu that keeps you out of the gym for a week.
It’s important to remember that change happens when we spend most of our time eating well or keeping fit. One day off, or one slice of cake every now and again won’t derail your progress. Give yourself a pass to enjoy a decadent meal out on a special occasion, or a day off if you’re not feeling well. Avoid the kind of perfectionist thinking that can make lasting change very hard to sustain and create a realistic plan that you can stick to for the long haul.
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to do something that you don’t enjoy if it’s paired with something that you love? For instance, cleaning the house is so much more fun with your favorite feel-good album playing on the stereo, folding laundry goes so much faster if you’re watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones and going to the doctor is a little less stressful if you’re looking forward to a lunch date with a friend afterwards. This is called temptation bundling and it’s the practice of pairing an activity that you don’t enjoy, with a temptation that you crave.
This can be a great trick for health and weight loss, and it’s something you may already be doing without even knowing it. If you find it hard to get up for your morning run, save your favorite album, or the latest episode of your favorite podcast and make it a rule that you can only listen while you exercise. Dread getting on the treadmill? Bring an iPad to the gym loaded with your favorite series and don’t allow yourself to watch it anywhere else. Can’t bear the thought of spending your Sunday meal prepping? Invite a friend over to share a glass of wine as you chop and saute, and make them lunch as part of the deal.
Get creative and make temptation bundling a part of your daily routine, before you know it you’ll be counting down the hours till your morning workout date with your favorite show.
One of the great things about setting realistic and attainable goals is the sense of accomplishment and achievement when you see the results of your hard work. Positive rewards are a great way to stay on track and having celebrations to look forward to can keep your motivation burning.
Plan to celebrate when you lose that first 5lb, when your cholesterol comes down a few points or when you hit a milestone at the gym. These celebrations can be anything you’d like, treat yourself to a massage, or a bubble bath, or tell your partner to take you out for a night on the town. Buy that new pair of jeans you’ve been longing for, or go to the new restaurant you’ve been dying to try. Celebrations don’t have to cost money either, take yourself out for a sunny afternoon stroll with absolutely nothing on your agenda but pleasing yourself, visit a local art gallery or go for a drive. Whatever you decide to do, make it something you genuinely enjoy and take the time to pat yourself on the back for the hard work that got you to your goal.
Pure Vitality a natural supplement company based in an isolated village nestled against the snow-capped Southern Alps of New Zealand. We research health conditions thoroughly to discover the underlying root causes, find the most effective natural remedies, target the root causes rather than use a Band-Aid approach, use a multi-prong approach to fix the root causes from many directions and use high potency ingredients at scientifically supported amounts.
(1) (4) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/01/01/the-science-of-keeping-your-new-years-resolution/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.858c22881948