"I won't eat any more chocolate, crisps, ice cream or cake."
"I am going to eat fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch and boiled vegetables for dinner."
"I am going to run five miles every day (even though I haven't done any exercise for six months)."
These are all bad new years resolutions. Why?
1. They are drastic
2. They are unpleasant
3. They are (probably) not sustainable
And yet, many people's new year's resolutions sound a lot like that. They are setting themselves up for failure.
So let me give you some new year's resolutions that make more sense and are much more likely to lead to success.
1. I'm only going to cut out one particularly troublesome food.
Instead of cutting out every single "bad" food that you eat, concentrate on the worst food of all. This is the one that contributes the most to your waistline. This is the one that once you start eating it, you can't stop. This is your "danger food".
Focus on cutting back on your danger food, with a view to eliminating it completely. It's easier to concentrate on one type of food than cutting out all treats at once.
2. Instead of one drastic change now, I'm going to make small changes every week.
Drastic changes seem virtuous and make you feel like you are doing something worthwhile. But they are actually poison for your success. The more drastic and unpleasant you make your programme, the less likely you will stick to it. It's far better to make small changes each week that don't overwhelm you.
Smaller changes fit in with your lifestyle much easier and hence will be more likely to last.
3. I will only make changes that I know will last.
You want to achieve a healthy ideal weight and maintain it for life. This means that weight loss is not a short term goal. So you need to take an anti-diet approach and choose good long term strategies to lose weight.
A good rule of thumb that I like to use with my clients, is that whatever changes you make, you should be willing to do these for the rest of your life.
4. I will not tell everyone about my weight loss goals.
Although it would seem that telling everyone your goal is a good way to keep pressure on and stay motivated, the evidence is that it doesn't always work that way. Especially when the goal is something admirable like losing weight or running a marathon. Think about how impressed people get, when someone says they are simply planning to run a marathon. When your goal earns you kudos before you even start, it makes you less likely to act on it. In other words, if you tell others about your goal, you reduce your chances of achieving it.
5. I will set an inspiring ultimate goal, but keep my initial goal realistic.
If you need to lose a large amount of weight, for example 40 pounds (a little under 3 stone), you are much better off setting an initial goal that is smaller. This is because a large goal is intimidating and can be overwhelming. People often give up, when they notice that their progress is so small compared to their goal (e.g. "I've lost 1 pound, but I still have 39 pounds to go"). On the other hand, a realistic goal of 1 stone (14 pounds) is reachable and realistic. It's enough to keep motivated, but not too much to intimidate. Once you get there, you make a another goal. Rinse and repeat.
The new year is a wonderful time to set new goals and make a new beginning. But don't sabotage your chances of success by setting the wrong goals or going about them in the wrong way.