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This year could be different | Gustafson
What is it with New Year's resolutions that makes them so prone to failure, it's almost ludicrous to think of making another one?
You know how it goes: This year, it will be different. I can change. I will stick to my plans and see them through, no matter what. No more excuses. And then, a few weeks later (if that long), things fall apart again and everything is back to "normal."
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. Just one week into the new year, a quarter of resolutionists will have given up, according to Tom Connellan, author or the "1 Percent Solution – How to Make Your Next 30 Days the Best Ever."
In his estimation, about 90 percent of all the promises people make to themselves are forgotten as time moves on.
So, let's be honest: New Year's resolutions might be a time-honored tradition, but you shouldn't take them too seriously. Old habits don't break easily. Stop beating yourself up and face reality. It's not going to be different this time – or will it?
One of the main reasons why our best intentions often fail is that we rely too much on our own resolve, says Connellan. People falsely believe that they can make big changes if they are sufficiently motivated. But nothing could be further from the truth.
"People only think in large terms that are often unrealistic – like losing lots of weight or making a major life change. (They) don't realize that even positive change is uncomfortable," he says.
The trick is not to overestimate your abilities but to accept your limitations and to begin by taking small steps in the right directions. That doesn't mean you're giving up on your ambitions or lose sight of your larger goals. It just means you have to find better ways to go about them.
Be aware that there is no such thing as a clean slate or a brand new start when it comes to lifestyle changes. You are who you are. Everyone brings baggage. What matters most is not to let negative experiences of the past get in your way as you move forward.
People should not expect to become a "better person" by doing this, that or the other differently, say Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, dietitians, real-life sisters and bestselling coauthors of the "Diet Surviver's Handbook" and "Beyond a Shadow of a Diet." "Instead of making resolutions, a better way to go is, every day, cultivate healthy practices in your life that enhance your overall being physically, emotionally and spiritually."
In other words, don't compartmentalize. If your goal is to lose some weight, you should also look at the larger picture. You don't just want to get rid of a few pounds, you want to be more healthy, fit and energetic. Healthy eating and exercise will get you there, but you also need a mindset that is conducive to an all-around healthy lifestyle.
So instead of going on another dreaded diet regimen, come up with realistic resolutions this year. Forget your futile attempts and failures of the past. They only make you apprehensive and fearful of more failures.
"Visualize success," advises Shirley Archer, a fitness and wellness instructor. "How would you look and feel and what would you be able to do if you enjoyed your ideal fitness?"
"Don't be too vague or too large," she advises, when you set out your goals.
While anyone can start a diet or fitness program at any time, in her experience, it takes approximately two months for a person to change his or her mindset and make new habits stick. A few weeks of dieting and exercising may let you lose some weight, but you need a larger scope to become a healthy person, she says.
This year could be different if you take the right approach. You can choose to become the person you envision as your ideal and make the necessary changes. Or you can try once again to patch up things the way you did before, hoping for a different outcome. This is as good a time as any to decide which way you want to go. Happy New Year.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a clinical dietitian and author of the book "The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun"®, which is available on her blog, "Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D." (www.timigustafson.com), and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter.