It’s that time of year again: that sparkly, new season when we feel like we can hit the reset button and start over with a clean slate. Many of us make resolutions for the year with the end goal of improving our careers, our relationships, and of course, our figures. Every year, it seems like the number one resolution we make is to lose weight, to fit into those old jeans, and to finally hit our target weight. We promise to work out. We promise to eat better. But what happens to that motivation throughout the year? Why is it that we are so obsessed with making New Year’s Resolutions focused on our figure, and why are they so hard to keep?
The truth is, we tend to treat our bodies like garbage disposals those last few months of the year: Halloween candy in October, that Thanksgiving feast in November, holiday parties (and all of those Christmas cookies) in December, all leading up to that huge party on New Year’s Eve. Our waistlines don’t stand a chance! But once the clock strikes midnight on that final day of the year, we refuse to turn back into that big, round pumpkin we were the year before. The “working-towards-my-summer-body” season begins, and fitness clubs offer all kinds of discounts that make it easy to get swept away in the trend. Within a few months, we envision ourselves slimmer, happier, and able to exercise the perfect amount of self-control around food. We enter the New Year with a huge helping of expectation and think that we can stomach it all within a very short time. But are we putting too much on our plates? Is a New Year’s Resolution truly enough to help us make permanent changes to our lifestyle?
The problem with New Year’s Resolutions revolving around diet is that they are typically way too extreme. We cut out sweets. We go vegan. We swear off alcohol. We feel the only way to make any kind of change is to make a drastic change. The desire for that “new self” compromises the reality that we’re still human: we’re still surrounded by fast food, cheap snacks, and cravings that we will inevitably give in to. Once this happens, we can either throw the ‘new diet’ out the window and go back to our old ways or take a moment and enjoy something in moderation.
We hear it all the time; “Moderation is key.” However, it can be very difficult to practice moderation when there is an entire pint of ice cream calling our name. Going out for drinks and “just having one” is much more difficult after actually having “just one” drink. Having eggs or butter on toast after swearing to go vegan makes us feel like a failure. Even dinner at a restaurant can feel like a challenge when our favorite dish is anything but healthy. Because we feel so restricted, giving in to these cravings seriously challenges our concept of moderation. Then we splurge - and splurge big - and beat ourselves up for it over the next few days as we go back to an incredibly restrictive diet. Moderation may be key, but it certainly isn’t easy.
While some people thrive on making massive changes with an “all-or-nothing” approach and others swear by the concept of “everything in moderation”, the majority of us just want a way to implement lifelong changes in a manageable, realistic way. The easiest way to avoid extremes or restricting ourselves to the breaking point is to simply implement small changes over time. Make it a goal to only have ice cream once a week, then gradually once a month. Try to cut back on the amount of meat and dairy you consume rather than going vegan cold turkey (no pun intended). Order that favorite meal at a restaurant but order a side of steamed vegetables instead of French fries. Once or twice a week, take the stairs to the office or hit an exercise class with a friend. As we integrate these small changes into our daily lives, they become part of our new ‘daily norm’. It is much easier to fully adjust and continue to implement more changes over time when they happen slowly rather than all at once. Strive for progress, not perfection. New Year’s Resolutions aren’t New Month’s Resolutions, after all. They don’t have to come to fruition in January!
Share your New Year’s Resolutions with friends or family members. Discuss the small changes you want to make. Even commit to working out together or cooking healthy meals together once per week. Thinking about the resolutions we want to make can be daunting. But with the right mindset, a gradual approach and a strong support system, they are 100% attainable. 2019 can be the year you take great strides towards your health and wellness goals and implement changes that will last for years to come.