The problem with New Year’s resolutions

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According to the Oxford dictionary, a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something, the quality of being determined or resolute, the action of solving a problem”.  It is traditional to set resolutions at New Year’s, and usually focuses on starting or stopping some behavior to improve life in some way.  Popular resolutions include weight loss, smoking cessation, eat better, eat healthier, exercise more, and get out of debt.


The problem with New Year’s resolutions

Setting New Year’s Resolutions that are not tied to a bigger vision of what you want are like building a straw house – the second the wind blows, your house will fall down. Making empty promises to yourself are unlikely to be sustained, resulting in broken resolutions. Broken resolutions do not breed good feelings about your ability to change and can invite negative self-talk (“I cannot do this”, “I am a failure”), which create further barriers to sustained change.

It takes more than a proclamation of a New Year’s Resolution to change. It takes motivation, self-awareness, understanding of habits, understanding of barriers to change, preparation, planning, confidence, self-compassion, a growth mindset, and support from those around you. Most resolutions do not consider these foundational components.


So how do you get started with change?

Start with a vision for yourself. Your vision is a statement of who you are and the health-promoting, life-giving behaviours you want to do consistently.

Your vision identifies what you WANT, rather than what you don’t want and builds on your current success. Your vision taps into your own special talents (yes, you do have them!) and your strengths.

From there, you set goals designed to help move you toward your vision, one bite at a time. Identifying a vision for yourself contributes “motivational energy” that will help move you forward through the different stages of change. Only YOU know what it will take in your life for your vision to become a reality.

Think of the analogy of building a house. What kind of house do you want to build? A rustic cottage? A bungalow? A modern two-story house? Or maybe you want to do a renovation of your current house. The kind of house you want to build will determine which tools, equipment, supplies, stores and consultants you need to build it.

Similarly, think about what kind of lifestyle you want to build. Take some time away from your computer, your phone or other gadgets – find a quiet area and spend some time reflecting on your life and lifestyle.


Your vision: Questions to get you started

  • What do you want less of in your life? What do you want more of in your life?
  • What gives you energy? What excites you?
  • If you picture yourself 1 year from now, what does your health and wellness look like? What are you wearing? How does your body move? What are you doing for your wellness? What are you feeling about your wellness? What are you thinking?
  • Imagine in a year, you have achieved your goals. What would your life be like? What does it feel like? What is different in your life? How did you get there? Describe your health now.
  • When do you feel your best?
  • When was your lifestyle less of a problem; what were you doing? When you were doing those things, how did you feel? What benefits did you have?
  • When was a time you felt you were living well? When was a time you were eating well?
  • What is working well now? What isn’t working well?
  • Why do you want to work toward a particular goal?
  • What do you feel most passionate about?
  • Investing time to reflect on these questions can help you identify what you want might want to (and not want to) work toward. Investing time in this way can help enhance your movement toward your goal.


Bottom line:

There is preparatory work that needs to happen before behavior change occurs, otherwise, the changes made are not likely to be sustainable.

Health and wellness is a lifestyle – it is not a fad, it is not a cleanse, it is not a detox. Health is a way of living – it is what you do and how you live 80% of the time. It is something that you can see yourself sustaining.  If you want things to be different, you need to act differently. And the only way to get started… is to get started with a vision of what you want.


Interested in other timely posts about diet and lifestyle change?

Skip the resolutions by Calgary dietitian Richelle Tabelon

Cleanse and detox diets: do they live up to the hype? by Toronto dietitian Nishta Saxena

5 Steps to setting up your kitchen for dietary change by Calgary dietitian and nutritionist Kristyn Hall

Did that detox diet just detoxify you? What trendy diets CAN do for you by Calgary dietitian and nutritionist Krisytn Hall

11 Reasons why losing weight in midlife is hard by Calgary dietitian and nutritionist Kristyn Hall


Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Calgary, AB.

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