The months from October to December are invariably the most difficult for you and your patients to maintain a healthy diet.
From that first mini Hershey bar that you sneak from Halloween candy bowl to that last glass of champagne to ring in the New Year, there are endless opportunities to overindulge in fattening foods and calorie-laden drinks.
By the time the holidays are done, you are ready to start over with a clean slate and a bunch of New Year’s resolutions to get back on track with your healthy lifestyle. However, it seems as though you make the same resolutions every year, and they always fall by the wayside within a few months.
How can you make this year’s fitness resolutions attainable, rather than overwhelming?
Can you maintain it?
Your first thought might be to get an annual gym membership and start working out every day. Your local gym seems to be offering great deals for membership, complete with free classes and trainer sessions.
Well, before you shell out all that money for an annual membership, consider that gyms count on January as their biggest sales month because everyone has the same thought as you.2 By March, however, most people have abandoned their plans to work out at the gym.
The lesson here is to make a resolution that you actually plan to keep up. Don’t pay for an expensive gym membership if it will just be abandoned a few months later. Either opt for a pay-as-you-go option (which is cheaper the more you go1) or get your exercise elsewhere, such as walking during your lunch break or taking your bike out on weekends.
One resolution at a time
Trying to work on too many resolutions all at the same time is an almost guaranteed way not to keep any of them. You have a limited amount of time and resources to focus on getting your health back on track.
Trying to juggle a long list of resolutions can simply be too much on top of that. Instead, work on each resolution in small bites. For example, set a goal of working out a certain number of days a week. Once you have that down as a regular routine, add in reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. Once both of those are standard habits, add in another healthy resolution. This prevents you from trying to tackle every single resolution at once.
Set up a buddy system
If you try to tackle your health-related New Year’s resolutions by yourself, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated, which eventually causes you to simply abandon your resolutions entirely.
Rather than trying to succeed all on your own, a buddy system may be a better way to do. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed that subjects who teamed up into pairs for regular exercise showed better planning, monitoring, and overall results than those who exercised by themselves.3
Those subjects who did not have a partner found it more difficult to maintain their exercise schedule and motivate themselves. These results clearly show that mutual reinforcement from having somebody else working on the same set of New Year’s resolutions will help both of you stick to your healthy goals.
Go ahead and set your health-related New Year’s resolutions again for this year, but remember to keep them manageable and simple, and team up with friends who have similar goals so that you can all motivate each other.
Once you see your own success at keeping your resolutions, you can then encourage your patients to do the same!
- DellaVigna S, Malmendier U. (2006). Paying not to go to the gym. American Economic Review, 96(3), 694-719.
- What your new gym doesn’t want you to know. Washington Post. Accessed Dec. 10. 2017.
- Rackow P, Scholz U, Hornung, R. (2015), Received social support and exercising: An intervention study to test the enabling hypothesis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20, 763-776.