The New Year offers a fresh start after the disorder and overindulgence of the holidays. This the proverbial time to get back on that diet, lose those extra pounds. Studies tell us that nearly half of those who resolve will still be at it six months later. But what of the 25% who falter after just a week? Or just two days, as it happens for some?
Often New Year's resolutions take a broad, sweeping approach that involves some degree of magical, or at least unrealistic, thinking. If you've stumbled in your efforts to eat differently before, why would you not stumble now? Change that follows a resolution still requires the thought and preparation that any successful change entails. Consider two cases that represent opposite extremes on the likely-to-succeed spectrum: first, there's Liza. Her New Year's resolution is to "lose weight". She can't really tell you where she needs to cut down, specifically. She hasn't talked to her husband or her sons, who like their big meat-and-potatoes meals and have resisted her efforts to change in the past.
Then there's Yolanda, who has tried unsuccessfully to lose her excess weight for years. She's resolved to do it again this year. However, she realizes that she's got to stop her decades-old habit of grazing on sweets when stressed. Self-help strategies haven't stuck. This year she's especially concerned, as she's been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She's gotten another self-help book, yes. But for the first time, she's also made appointments with a nutritionist and a therapist. She's begun writing down what she eats in preparation.
So Yolanda's resolution of course seems more likely to survive those first weeks. You can note the differences. She's sought help in outlining a good approach for weight loss and in tackling the problems that have troubled her past efforts.
Here's Tina, though, who had been doing well on a new lower-carb regime prior to the holidays. She'd lost a few of the several pounds she'd been carrying. Then she got back to old habits, particularly with the baked goods, during the holiday season. She'd thought, "I'll get back on track after the New Year." Her resolve died on day 2, though, then again on days 4 and 5. Extremely frustrated with herself, she couldn't see past the stuckness to her old resolve. Checking in with the therapist she'd seen before, though, she examined more thoroughly the snacking's role in her emotional life. She began to do some journaling. The bumpy start not withstanding, then, she found her way back to the hoped-for direction.
Beyond preparing and anticipating problems, then, resolutions also call for fine-tuning, adjustment, and relapse recovery. Again, this mirrors what any successful change project requires. After all, changing something as rooted in our physical, emotional, and social life as diet isn't simple. You've got to identify the best diet for you-itself not a simple matter in this advice-glutted realm. Then you've got to meet and dismantle the inevitable obstacles as they obstruct your course. These take different forms for different people but invariably do appear-otherwise we wouldn't need to make resolutions in the first place.
We can take heart with the imperfect resolution statistics, I think. Even if you struggle with your resolve, you can use the opportunity to learn and better prepare yourself for ultimate success. In fact, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, experts on how change occurs, stress the importance of preparation. This means mental rehearsal, practice, trial-and-error, and occasional fallings-down.
So, if your resolve seems shaky, or if you're worrying about its ultimate survival, maybe an added resolution makes sense now. That is, resolve to figure out how to stick with your resolution, or revive it, as needed this year. It's what you'll need to do whether you start in January or July.
Dr. Katz’ workbook, Eat Sanely: Get off the Diet Roller Coaster for Good, is available in paperback, or as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, or ipad: www.eatsanely.com/order-the-eat-sanely-weight-loss-workbook