Beginning the new year off successfully: The resolution reunion
It’s that time of year again, time to reacquaint ourselves with old health resolutions, sitting around the fire of passion and chatting with those ambitious companions: our bold plans. Far too often these exciting acquaintances fade quickly and we have to wait patiently for next year’s reunion. These are unfortunate and frustrating relationships.
There is an alternative of which I am reminded nearly every time I closely observe the actions and attitudes of someone about twice my age, those who have lived long enough (or well enough) to realize the untapped potential of slow growth. Starting painfully small and recognizing small successes, unimpressive as this may seem, is the way to remain long-term friends with behavior change.
The American College of Sport Medicine, after reviewing all the best research to date, states in their position paper on Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes,
“One of the most consistent predictors of greater levels of [physical] activity has been higher levels of self-efficacy, which [means the patient’s] confidence in [his] ability to exercise.”
The strongest predictor for success in a person trying to make any health change is a belief within that person that he is able to make the change. Such confidence stems from reachable goals, fueled by previous successes.
This is exactly what the old guys have come to know; bold accomplishments are simply an accumulation of hundreds of small, simple steps persistently taken.
So think twice about the temptation to resolve to lose in six months the amount of weight it has taken the last 30 years to gain. Try shooting for a loss of 3 percent of your current weight at a rate of no more than one or two pounds per week. Get familiar with your current blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels if you haven’t been to the doctor in a while. Then choose to make one or two small adjustments in your lifestyle to help meet your goal, like cutting back on soda, parking farther from all building entrances, adding a vegetable at dinner if you usually don’t, or decreasing portion sizes. Whatever the changes are, make sure they are not disruptive to the current flow of your activities and ones that you are willing to continue for the rest of your life.
There are multiple opportunities for success with this. You could achieve the realistic weight loss, form a new habit, or see a lab value improve. When any one of these things happens, you’ve just verified that you can succeed and you’ve created motivation to try some more.
But the improvements are too small, you might say. You need something more substantial in order to really be successful. Real success is keeping you and your health resolutions comfortably together well into the New Year and beyond. The old guys know and science is proving that this is most likely achieved if you start small and build.
Debbie Coblentz is a registered dietitian, Your comments in response to this article are welcome and send them to email@example.com.