"Change is a process, not an event. It involves a series of steps that gradually lead to a particular result, and understanding this process is key to achieving lasting health."
- Dr. James O. Prochaska
Did you know that over 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by the second week of February? It's a startling statistic that reveals a troubling truth about our annual quest for transformation. As the New Year approaches, we're once again surrounded by promises of a 'New Year, New You,' focusing heavily on health and wellness — especially relevant after the festive season's indulgences. But why do so many of us fall short of our aspirations, and how can we break the cycle this year?"
If you're one of the many setting health and wellness goals for 2024, let me start by saying congratulations — recognizing the need for change is a significant first step! But as we embark on this journey together, let's shift our perspective from fleeting fads to lasting lifestyle changes. Proper health isn't about a temporary fix; it's about embracing a lifestyle that supports you year-round. The 'fresh start effect' of the New Year can be a powerful motivator, but without the right strategies, it's just another date on the calendar. Let's explore how to make your health and wellness dream a continuous, rewarding journey, transforming the 'New Year, New You' mantra from a fleeting moment into a lasting, joyful way of life.
As you consider the changes you intend to make, let me offer some food for thought to nourish your journey.
There's no perfect date to start, so why wait? You can begin your next meal by eating slower and putting your fork down between bites. Maybe introduce an extra serving of non-starchy vegetables at dinner. Your 'fresh start' doesn't need an official kickoff; it begins when you decide to commit and take action on change.
When setting goals, the first step is to consider what motivates change. Understanding the “why” is crucial. People fail not because of a lack of effort but due to shaky foundations. You may not realize it, but if your motivation is built on negativity, you will not succeed. Here’s what I mean:
Social Pressure: You may feel compelled to lose weight because someone commented about your appearance or there is a “biggest loser” office competition. But your heart isn’t in the process or the goal, meaning you will feel angry, sad, and most likely give up when the challenge ends, returning to your old ways.
Comparisonitis: I see this a lot in practice. People compare themselves to other family members or friends. The grass is not always greener, and your story is yours.
Detox Delusions: The holidays are not a free pass to do and eat whatever you want because you are “starting new” in January. As people with all levels of metabolic dysfunction, this is not a luxury we can afford. Plus, setting yourself up for a cycle of extremes rarely leads to sustainable change and can do more harm than good.
And what about goals that are too lofty? It’s about being honest with your expectations of what you can achieve and in what time frame. Aiming too high leads to disappointment, shame, and feeling worse than when you started. Some experts suggest a link between overly ambitious New Year’s goals and decreased well-being (3). Unrealistic goals can lead to erratic blood sugar levels, throwing your body and emotions on a roller coaster ride.
FUN FACT: Out of all of the personal goals that people make New Year’s resolutions about, two out of every three revolve around eating habits, physical health, and weight loss (1).
PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE:
So, how do you set goals that stick? Here is a recipe for success.
You are more likely to succeed when you make smaller, more sustainable changes. Research suggests that certain types of goals contribute more to well-being. Here are some strategies, backed by science, to help you make better health goals at any time of the year.
Have More Flexible Goals:
A 2021 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that individuals with flexible New Year’s resolutions reported greater well-being over time than those with rigid goals. Flexibility means viewing setbacks calmly and adjusting your goals as needed. This adaptability can help maintain focus when you’re hit with a curveball, providing a sense of control over your future. (3).
The same study indicated that persistent pursuit of goals, regardless of obstacles, only sometimes supports success. Rigidity can do more harm than good. Excessiveness may hinder necessary adjustments and lead to an 'all-or-nothing' mindset, which, when coupled with perfectionism, can contribute to depression and anxiety. (3)
Focus on Positive Outcomes:
A 2020 study published in PLoS One highlighted that approach-oriented goals (focused on achieving positive outcomes) are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals (aimed at adversative results). (1,4) For example, aiming to become fitter and stronger is a more powerful, effective, and positive stance than simply trying to avoid diabetes.
We live in the information age, where you can find almost anything online except genuine human, guided support. The PLoS One study also found that social support enhances the chances of achieving your goals. (4) Having a friend or family member, coach, or group along for the ride with you can make a significant difference.
BLOOD SUGAR SAVVY STRATEGIES
We’ve covered a lot, and now it’s time to focus on where you can start to build your foundation for change with savvy sugar strategies. Here are a few flexible health goals that can become sustainable over the long term.
SNACK SMARTER: Blood sugar balance isn’t cut and dry. While you probably don’t need a snack on others most days, you do. You can make your own trail mix instead of buying pre-packaged snacks. And if you want to go for chocolate, try this delicious blood sugar friendly mousse.
HYDRATE: Water is your friend, no matter what goal you set for yourself. It offers many benefits, from easing joint pain helping your body detoxify, preventing dehydration, and more.
MINDFULNESS MATTERS: Let’s reframe this to intent. Focus on aromas, tastes, and textures of your food. Sit at a table when you can, not in front of electronics, and enjoy eating. This can prevent overeating and allow your brain to take a much-needed break.
LISTEN: The cues your body sends are one of the most overlooked strategies and one of the most important. Do you feel fullness coming on but want that one last bite? Does your mouth feel dry because you haven’t had enough water? Are your joints aching because you’ve been sitting for too long? Appreciate your body; it’s the only one you have.
You are the person who can feel gratitude and appreciate yourself every day of the year—whether you reach your goals or not. Don’t be hard on yourself. You haven’t failed, and you don’t have to give up. Keep listening to your body and being kind, no matter what (5,6).
The Cliff Notes:
Choosing and building upon our wellness goals dramatically affects how well we stick with them and how successful we are. It’s not due to a lack of willpower or desire; it's planning and support.
Challenges will come up, and being flexible is how you stay on track. Look for the positive; as hard as that may seem at the time, every little bit is a win. Enlisting support can highlight strategies you didn’t think of and give you the boost you need to keep going. This can start any day of the year, and I’d love to be a part of your journey.
If you want your own personal cheerleader in your corner, book an appointment with me today to see if the Meisner Method can help you.
(1) Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one, 15(12), e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097
(2) Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, January). Re-thinking your New Year’s resolutions. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2013/12/20/re-thinking-your-new-years-resolutions/
(3) Dickson, J. M., Moberly, N. J., Preece, D., Dodd, A., & Huntley, C. D. (2021). Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 3084. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063084
(4) Pychyl, T. (2009, February 8). Approaching Success, Avoiding the Undesired: Does Goal Type Matter? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/dont-delay/200902/approaching-success-avoiding-the-undesired-does-goal-type-matter
(5) Canadian Mental Health Association. (2022, December 7). Rethinking your New Year’s resolutions. https://cmha.ca/news/rethinking-resolutions/
(6) Bradley, G. (n.d.). 7 New Year's Resolutions That Will Actually Make You Feel Good. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/7-new-years-resolutions-will-actually-make-you-feel-good