Yes, it’s that time of year again! It’s resolution time. However, in a counter-intuitive move, I am not going to slam the concept of New Year’s resolutions. I know that it’s in vogue to say that they are a useless tradition, given how often we eventually give them up. To me, this feels slightly cynical, and more importantly, I think it completely misses the potential role that resolutions can play.
Then again, maybe I feel this way because I still like and do New Year’s resolutions.
I would suggest that the following is the wrong way to think about a New Year’s resolution:
Resolution: I am going to lose weight!
The plan: I don’t really have a plan, but I am definitely going to do some kind of horrible self-loathing ritual. Perhaps a two week sewage water cleanse could give me the jump start I need! After that, I am going to be “good”.
What happens: I drink sewage water, get cholera and die. Or I actually survive the cleanse for five days, and I then quickly return to my old life where nothing changes.
If we do the above, yes, resolutions would be quite stupid indeed. But does it really have to be this way?
First, let me make the case for the value of a good New Year’s resolution. The answer (for me anyway), lies in the reason we do our resolutions in the New Year. Is it because it is a new year? Maybe. Is it because I was a foul and unhealthy person for the past two weeks? Yes! There is nothing like waking up from an excess-fueled daze to give me all the reason in the world to want to snap back into shape. The fact that I am back at work and in my routine with lots of time between now and the small clothes of summer is the perfect time to get back to work on my health and my body. Said differently, a New Years resolution can be used as a useful Trigger.
However, it’s important to view the resolution in the broader context of a successful behavior change:
- The first trick with a behavior change effort is to recognize that it starts with a trigger, but that this is only the beginning. This is where the New Year’s resolution comes into play.
- The second trick to a successful behavior change is to focus on something that is not so huge and all-encompassing that we get quickly overwhelmed. It’s much better to set an achievable small goal rather than a horrifically daunting one.
- The final trick is to have an actionable plan through which we can keep track of whether we are sticking with the resolution
In this context, we can use a New Year’s resolution as the beginning of something achievable, and ultimately something great. The big opportunity in undertaking small and manageable changes is 1) they give us a victory, which builds confidence and 2) they often “infect” other parts of our lives. The more we adopt small healthy changes, the more we become mindful of the fact that we are becoming healthier. This in turn makes us want to bring other changes to our daily lives. In this sense, small changes become viral, but in a healthy way.
So with this in mind, I re-started myself on the program after getting back from a week of vacation in Los Angeles. It was a great week with wife and daughters, and we had a ton of fun. We also ate out for EVERY meal. I tried not to go completely off the deep end, but I might have dipped my toe or torso in it more than a few times. That said, no permanent damage was done.
Now that we have the all-new fancy pants Weight Watchers 360 program, I am jumping into the new Routines part of the program. I’ve chosen three, but I’m focusing on two:
- Eat breakfast every day (OK, fine. I already do this. Like I said, I needed a win!)
- Put your fork down and sip water between bites. I’m really focusing on this one. You might ask why this Routine matters. Here is my answer: when I put my fork down it significantly slows my rate of consumption, which allows my stomach more time to gather a sense of fulness and tell my brain to stop demanding more. Perhaps more importantly, the act of consciously putting my fork down forces me to become much more award of the fact that I am actually eating. It makes me MUCH more mindful rather than my usual state of a drug-addled crack fiend-like food eating frenzy.
- Eat all your meals at a table. I haven’t started this one yet. I still eat my breakfast standing at the kitchen counter (kind of a table). I eat lunch at my desk, and I have been known to eat dinner on a coffee table with the TV on. What’s wrong with this? It makes the act of eating a secondary experience to whatever else I’m doing. Again, it promotes mindlessness.
You get the themes of these. In 2013, I am trying to become more much mindful when I eat. The upshot is less consumption, more awareness and frankly more enjoyment.
The trick to making these stick will be simply noting once a day whether I’ve done the routines or not. I can do this on my app or on the website (more likely both).
Wish me luck!
What do you have going for the new year??