We are already a week into 2013 – how many New Year’s resolutions have already been tossed? Making a resolution to ring in a new year is often poo-pooed as a waste of time with nothing but inevitable failure, particularly those involving weight loss… but we disagree. Sure, some resolutions have red flags all over them; it’s a matter of making a well-thought out resolution with clear, achievable objectives and being ready, willing and able to make change happen.
Here are some of our tips for making your New Year’s resolution stick this year!
We all know that weight loss goals skyrocket at certain times of year – generally just before beach season and at New Year’s! Markey and Markey (1) looked to the internet for proof of this phenomenon… and they found it. When looking at keyword searches on Google, those related to weight loss – such as “diet”, “Weight Watchers”, etc. – showed a significant annual trend. Diet-related keyword searches rose nearly 30% from mid-December to the end of January, and then dropped and continued to drop with each successive month. So, why is it that New Year’s resolution fizzle so quickly? And what can you do to avoid the same fate?
“To know where you are going”… A great first step before you commit to a resolution is to take a look at where you are starting from and think about what has worked or hasn’t worked for you in the past. If you have been discouraged by yearly unsuccessful weight loss attempts and have been progressively gaining weight instead, perhaps weight maintenance is a more appropriate, and likely to be successful, goal than weight loss. So, how do you tell where you are at? We like the The Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change) (2):
- Precontemplation: not considering any change in the next 6 months and see no reason to do so
- Contemplation: recognize need to change but unsure how to proceed; often a lot of “I should …” statements
- Preparation: getting ready to make changes; brain-storming strategies with “I could …” statements
- Action: currently engaged in making changes
- Maintenance: successful attainment and maintenance of changes for at least 6 months
While results from a recent Cochrane Review regarding the use of Stages of Change in weight loss interventions was equivocal (3), the model is particularly useful in assessing readiness to change. For example, if you are in the contemplation stage, buying a gym membership might not be terribly helpful; your time might be better spent developing a realistic goal that works for you and a step-wise plan to achieve that goal. If you know how ready you are, you will be better able to move forward with success rather than spinning your wheels!
Set “SMAART” goals. People often underestimate how crucial the phrasing of a goal is. While it’s all well and good to say you are going to “eat better” or “get fit”, what exactly does that mean? How do you even know that you have been successful? Instead, the SMAART goal provides a framework for goal-setting:
- Specific – clear and unambiguous objective
- Measurable – concrete criteria for assessing progress
- Actionable – change should be within your personal control
- Adjustable – allows some flexibility
- Realistic – should be a challenge, but not impossible
- Time-sensitive – has a timeframe for completion
Here’s an example: “I will eat more vegetables” vs. “I will eat at least 3 servings of vegetables a minimum of 5 days per week over the next 3 months”.
No Baloney’s advice? Look to where you have been first and foremost. Think about times you have been successful and times you have failed – what has worked for you and what hasn’t? What barriers got in the way? If the same issues, whether work, time or commitment, continue to get in the way year after year, set a new resolution to remove or cope with your persistent barriers and put the long-term goal on the backburner for the time-being.
When it comes to weight loss, there are common “mistakes” that many people make that can sabotage even the most realistic of goals. We recently read a commentary from Jessica Bartfield, MD, from the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care regarding the most common reasons diets fail:
- Underestimating calories consumed
- Overestimating activity and calories burned
- Poor timing of meals
- Inadequate sleep
The beauty of SMAART goals is that they easily lend themselves to tracking your progress, which can help you avoid the above pitfalls. Keeping a food record, exercise log, and/or sleep journal can be a great strategy! You can keep things low-tech pen and paper or try some of the great apps out there!
- CBC News: Top 10 apps for health, fitness and nutrition
- Today’s Dietitian: Smartphone apps for heart-healthy living
- Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: Consumer and lifestyle app reviews
- Huffington Post: Best fitness apps of 2012
- Markey PM, Markey CN. Annual Variation in Internet Keyword Searches: Linking Dieting Interest to Obesity and Negative Health Outcomes. J Health Psychol 2012; [epub ahead of print]
- Tuah NA, Amiel C, Qureshi S, Car J, Kaur B, Majeed A. Transtheoretical model for dietary and physical exercise modification in weight loss management for overweight and obese adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; CD008066.
- Velicer WF, Hughes SL, Fava JL, Prochaska JO, DiClemente CC. An empirical typology of subjects within stage of change. Addict Behav 1995; 20:299-320.