Categorized | Sondra's Musings, Features

Resolutions: Baby steps required for success

Shapiro

By Sondra L. Shapiro

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to breaking New Year’s resolutions.

It usually takes a few months to begin slacking off. By the end of the year, exercise and diet take a back seat to holiday gluttony. Those parties featuring fat laden foods and cocktails are too enticing to resist and the busy schedule leaves little time for the treadmill.

A Lifetime of Resolutions

You would think a person who has lived through 62 year’s worth of resolutions should know better. I admit when it comes to exerting the willpower to resist the sumptuous holiday cookies and candies left outside our door — gifts from well-meaning friends and neighbors — age offers no defense. If anything, what age has taught me is to be polite and let nothing go to waste.

I feel a sense of camaraderie in the debasing of my body, as a friend confides she has let herself “go to pot” this past year.

Sondra ShapiroLooking tired and pale from a month of holiday reveling, she blames her weight gain on the post-menopausal slowing of her metabolism. Neither of us is fooled since this discussion is taking place during a calorie-rich dinner out.

She confides she is going to pay attention to her health in 2016. In between bites of foie gras on buttery toast points, she recites a list of wills — get more sleep, exercise, have a better diet, work less and possess a better attitude. I think I have heard her say this before, but I am too polite and complicit to remind her.

We are both slaves to and victims of the national pastime: the making of New Year’s resolutions — a blessing and curse that is sure to ultimately humble the most resolute among us.

If we are honest with ourselves we will discover that resolutions often set us up for failure because the challenge we usually set for ourselves is too overreaching to accomplish. Then there’s added disappointment and feelings of failure when we realize we aren’t able to fulfill the promise we made to ourselves.

When I think about it, my best successes have been when I set small goals that lead up to a major one — I want to lose weight so I’ll start with a 10-day green smoothie diet. After that diet, I will assess progress, then make changes if needed, rather than making a declaration to lose weight by dieting and exercise. I think this applies to New Year’s resolutions as well.

From research I have gathered, I learned that failure is more likely when there’s too much time between the decision to act, and the initiation of action. A monumental goal like losing weight does not offer a workable blueprint so we keep putting the goal off.

Consider that life is a continual process of change. Each day offers new challenges, so why let old ones pile up to the point where they become overwhelming? Once that happens, it’s easier to put issues on the back burner rather than deal with them.

Resolutions Forgotten by Valentine’s Day

As one researcher believes, many resolutions are often forgotten by Valentine’s Day. Nancy Rudner, George Washington University School of Nursing adjunct professor and an expert on workplace health and stages of change, offers ways to stick to those resolutions throughout the year.

“Change comes in phases. You have to resolve your ambivalence, such as, ‘I want to lose weight and I love dessert,’ ” Rudner said. “Once you resolve that you want to make the change you need a realistic plan to make it happen.

“Everyone tries to keep resolutions, but it’s hard to stick with them. Preparation, guidance and a plan for accountability helps people stay on track. People need guidance on how to make these changes permanent.”

Way to Success

To help prepare for any lifestyle change, Rudner offers these tips:

Make resolutions a routine part of your life. Instead of getting to the gym when you have free time, schedule it for three days a week at the same time.

Plan how to make the changes. Mapping out how you will make these changes will help you keep on track, especially on days where you’re tempted to revert back to your old ways. If you are walking, you need a rainy day strategy. Or when your friend invites you for a drink, you can be prepared to have seltzer with a lime — if you think about the potential pitfalls.

♦ Make the experience fun and enjoyable. Get yourself some fun workout clothes, add a book on tape to your routine, walk with friends or make your healthy meal special with a pretty placemat and candles.

 Hold yourself accountable: write down the resolutions. It’s one thing to think them and another to see them written out. Write out your resolutions and put them somewhere you will see every day as a reminder of what you are doing. Some people find a personal tracker keeps them accountable.

 Be sure to reward yourself. Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and use it for something else you enjoy, such as a nice dinner or a weekend away. Each day you don’t smoke, you can put your tobacco money in the jar with a picture of your reward.

While the changes may be difficult to keep up in the beginning, Rudner suggests committing to the resolutions for six weeks.

“If you do it for six weeks, you are likely to own it and make it part of your life. If you slip up, no big deal, you can get back on track because you are in charge,” Rudner said.

I would like to add my two cent’s worth — I have achieved success with minor alterations rather than a sweeping behavior change. Starting small increases the likelihood of success. Find a form of exercise that you love, make nutritional changes such as packing a lunch or cooking dinner at home. Get digital reinforcements by using tracking systems and apps such as those offered by the American Heart Association, www.Smokefree.gov and the United States Department of Agriculture. Or in my case, beginning that green smoothie cleanse.

Also, consider modifications to the plan. If the new behavior has lost its luster, switch things up. Variety is the key to life and can keep you from getting burned out. Spice things up by changing your normal exercise routine, finding new healthy recipes online or joining a new class.

About half of the most popular resolutions made each year are health-related, according to a U.S. government pamphlet. In addition to losing weight and quitting smoking other common resolutions include: eating healthier foods, getting fit, managing stress and drinking less alcohol, volunteering, getting a better job, saving money, managing debt, taking a trip and re-using and recycling.

Whatever that resolution is, the goal is to make us feel better about ourselves, not worse because our goals are too far-reaching to accomplish.

So, my first resolution is to cut myself some slack when I interrupt my 10-day green smoothie cleanse with a nice, big juicy cheeseburger.

Sondra Shapiro is the publisher of Fifty Plus Life. She can be reached at sshapiro@thefiftypluslife.com. Read more at thefiftypluslife.com.

 

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