New Years resolutions are standard for most people in January - a pledge to 'be better' if you will, whether it's losing weight, giving up smoking or getting a new job. However the challenge with a lot of resolutions is that by February, the resolution has been forgotten and you're back at square one and hugely frustrated with yourself. So why is it you can't make a resolution and stick to it?
The reason is that as humans, we are always attempting to move away from pain and towards pleasure and comfort. Resolutions happen because to some extent, we are feeling pain. For example you're feeling podgy and less attractive than you used to be. In order to feel less 'podgy' you pledge to diet eating only 1200 calories per day and working out five times a week and you ensure you do this throughout January to get away from the emotional pain of feeling overweight. You stick to your plan, and sure enough you lose weight and feel pleasure! Well done you! Then because you have achieved your goal, you feel less pressure to diet and workout because you're already at your goal, so you let yourself have that piece of chocolate cake or miss a couple of gym sessions because you are no longer in so much pain. The pounds then start to creep up again slowly and before you know it you're back where you started.
So what's the key to long-lasting weight loss and health? The answer is to create and associate more PLEASURE with doing the things that are good for you such as eating healthier and moving more. If a diet and exercise regime feels painful to you - like you are depriving yourself - you will almost definitely go back to you old behavior once the initial pain has subsided, so the key to achieving your goals is to make smaller, more maintainable lifestyle changes in January, that you can then continue to build upon throughout the year.
OLD RESOLUTION: To Be Thin and Happy!
LIFESTYLE CHANGE: To Have More Control Over My Behavior by Discovering Why I Eat.
Most people who want to lose weight associate being thinner with being 'happier', however happiness is something that needs to come from within. When you find true contentment and happiness, all of a sudden you want to look after yourself better so you eat healthier and move more and sure enough the weight drops off. So rather than pledging this year to be 'thin' why not go on a journey to discover why you eat / drink the things you do - what are you trying to get from them? Comfort? Pleasure? Confidence (alcohol)? Relaxation? When you can work out what emotion you are trying to gain from eating / drinking things that are bad for you, then try to come up with three other ways you could experience that feeling and next time you are tempted by that chocolate or glass of wine, replace it with something else that gives you a pleasurable feeling.
The key to changing any behavior lies firstly in understanding WHY we do the things we do. Nail that and you're on a roll!
OLD RESOLUTION: To Diet!
LIFESTYLE CHANGE: To Eat More Nutrient Dense Foods.
It's a fact - often dieting feels like total deprivation! You feel hungry, irritable and sometimes all you can think about is the food you're not meant to be having! Instead try to start off by just making better choices about what you put in your body and add more nutrient dense foods (foods that have more good stuff in them!). For example, if you have a bowl of cereal in the morning, start adding some fresh berries on the top or some shelled hemp seeds. If you have a cheese sandwich at lunch time, add some salad. Just by beginning to get more good stuff in you, you will begin to feel better and then can eventually start to replace the bad stuff with more good stuff. For example, your cheese sandwich then transforms in to a wholemeal pitta filled with salad and a light grating of cheese. Before you know it, you're feeling healthier and eating less calories, fat, sugar and salt.
If your addiction is ready meals, start reading the ingredients every time you eat a meal (whilst your eating it). The packaging will have a list of 'ingredients' that aren't even classed as food (just chemicals) that poison your system which will hopefully reinforce emotionally that what you are eating is toxic. As well as this, start adding fresh vegetables or salad with your ready-meals and then start to try and wean yourself off them. If you start to associate enough bad things with processed food and enough pleasure (feeling energised and healthy) with the good stuff, soon enough you won't even want the processed nasties anymore.
OLD RESOLUTION: To Workout Five Times a Week
LIFESTYLE CHANGE: To Move More Every Day and Make It Fun!
This one's a little easier. It's simple. Start moving more every day. Walk the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the dog / baby in a pram for a walk and try and extend the length of the walk each day.Then start trying to beat your time. Use a fitness app on your phone to track your progress such as the Nike Running App which shows distance walked / ran, calories burned, pace etc. Other suggestions include tidying your house rather than watching TV, getting off the bus / train one stop early and walking the rest of the way. Joining a class that you love such as dance, netball, swimming etc that gets you moving and having fun. You'll be surprised how quickly your fitness levels (and energy levels) will soar!
If it feels like a chore to move, do things to make it more enjoyable. Add music and visualise yourself as a healthy, toned, strong, confident version of yourself. Look at pictures of healthy people that inspire you or make a board on Pinterest of weight loss inspiration and look through it whilst you're on the exercise bike. JUST MOVE!!!!
OLD RESOLUTION: To Give Up Chocolate / Alcohol / Cheese / Caffeine etc.
LIFESTYLE CHANGE: Everything in Moderation.
Again going back to deprivation - this is not enjoyable. I don't know about you, but if I tell myself I can't have something, I become obsessed with having it. For example to give up chocolate for a month, you may just then binge on your fave choccies the day you complete your goal. This isn't helpful. Again try to replace your addiction / craving with something else. For example if you like chocolate, try to replace it with one or two squares of dark chocolate which is richer so you want to eat less. Replace one of your tea / coffees each day with herbal tea. Start small and build up - this way you aren't saying you CAN'T have it, just that you will replace it with something else, just for today to make a healthier choice.
OLD RESOLUTION: To Fit In To My Old Skinny Jeans.
LIFESTYLE CHANGE: To Reward and Congratulate Myself When I Achieve My Goals.
Many women keep hold of old clothes and obsess about getting back in to them when they lose weight. For some it is a motivation and works to keep them on track for weight loss, but this is in the minority. The challenge here is that you are living in the past - you aren't the woman any more that used to wear those skinny jeans - you are a new, healthier, fitter version of yourself each and every day with the small progresses you are making. Therefore instead set small goals in your weight loss / fitness and then pledge to treat yourself to a new pair of jeans or dress when you reach them. I have found it is a far more exciting motivation to treat yourself to a day of shopping and feeling great about yourself in a brand new outfit! Make it a fun journey of reinventing yourself! Even hire a personal shopper to help you when you reach your ultimate goal - it's such a fun and rewarding thing to do after all your hard work and will keep you on track to a healthier future.