What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Is it to lose weight or begin an exercise program? If you’re like most of us, a fit, healthy body is something you may want to work towards this year.
In fact, it’s probably something you wanted to work towards last year as well as the year before. So here’s a question. Why is it that we start the New Year with the best of intentions, just to fall short within the first few weeks?
One reason is due to the fact that almost ninety percent of what we do each day is the result of ritualistic habit. From the way we brush our teeth to which shoe we put on first is something we barely need to think about. We’ve done it a certain way for so long, it’s deeply ingrained within us and minimal effort is required to get the job done. To test this, just start your day by putting on the other shoe first and you’ll see how different it feels!
Well, eating and exercise habits work the same way. The way we eat, the reasons why we eat, the food choices we make are all habits, which have been formed over time. Some of those habits may have lead to an unhealthy relationship with food where we’re eating to combat boredom, fatigue, anger, sadness or loneliness. For some of us, the portion sizes we take or the degree of fullness we leave the table with are habits we’ve formed as well. For others, the way we handle weekends, parties or holidays are the result of habit. Finally for others, the tastes we prefer are the result of habit as well. For example, we may have gotten used to the flavor of foods which are highly sweetened, which leads us to crave and expect that type of flavor.
While many of these habits lead to weight gain and frustration, we stay with these behaviours because they’re so familiar. They may not serve us well but because we barely need to think about it the behaviour continues. So, what can you do if you want to finally make a New Year’s Resolution that lasts?
The first plan of action is taking a look at your eating behaviours. Figure out how the weight gain happened in the first place. Do you eat emotionally, mindlessly or have binge type behavior? Are your food choices or portions causing the problem? Are you having trouble because of a lack of preplanning or having healthy foods available to you?
The more you understand why you do what you do, the better position you’re in to change what doesn’t work. Once you’ve identified where the problem is, the next step is to make one simple gradual change. One change headed in the right direction will make a much greater impact than a complete overhaul, which lasts only a short period of time. For example, if you struggle with portion control, making the decision to leave over three bites every time you eat dinner may not seem so difficult. Believe it or not, those three bites each night over time add up and you will slowly replace your larger portion with a portion that’s more moderate. This type of change is likely to last because it’s a minor change that doesn’t require too much effort and is easy to incorporate into your eating plan.
Once you’ve gotten used to eating smaller portions for dinner, you are more likely to attempt a new change such as replacing an unhealthy snack with a healthier one. You see that you were able to gain control over your portions at dinner, you feel good about the change and your ability to achieve a mini goal and the confidence you’ve gained encourages you to continue making another tweak in your eating habits. Also, the first habit is easily reinforced while the new habit is implemented.
This type of behaviour leads to true, lasting weight loss because you’re slowly replacing old destructive habits with new healthy habits. No change is so drastic that it becomes too difficult to continue so there’s no reason to revert back to your old ways. Before you know it, you have a series of new healthy habits in place, which have firmly replaced the old ones.
This New Year, the only resolution you need to make is to stop making the same frustrating resolutions that you’ve made in the past. This year, commit to making new healthy habits slowly and steadily.