I love this time of year. Food, wine, friends, fires, shopping, Santa — all of it! But what’s even more fun to me than celebrating the holidays is looking forward to a brand new year.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I adore the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I love the feeling of being able to start all over again with a clean slate and finally get it right. But as alluring as this is, it rarely happens.
Why is that? Well, New Year’s resolutions are a lot like diets, which is why they don’t work. You resolve to make too many changes, all at once.
I’m going to work out for an hour a day, quit smoking, stop eating red meat, quit drinking, and lose 15 pounds. It’s overwhelming, requires tremendous willpower, and you’re only able to sustain all your new routines for a few weeks at the most. Then you give up, quit, and go right back to what you were doing.
You’re much better off slowly changing your habits over time. It doesn’t give you immediate results — but it does give you permanent results. It also gives you small wins over time that build your confidence, and it relieves you of the pressure of constantly trying “not” to do things you’ve trained yourself to do automatically.
Most people try to change a habit by simply quitting one and starting a whole new one. This rarely works. What does work is incrementally modifying a bad habit so that it eventually becomes a good habit. This is the approach I use.
For example, instead of saying that you’re going to quit eating red meat, you can gradually modify the amount you eat. You can eat chicken or fish instead of red meat once a week, or you can decrease the amount you have at a given meal. You can order a steak and eat half, or you can get an appetizer that has red meat and have that as your meal.
Eventually you may get to the point where you’ve successfully substituted tuna for red meat, or maybe you become a full-on vegetarian. Either way, you never have to suffer the feeling of trying not to do something you’ve probably been doing for years.
So during this last week of the year, instead of making a bunch of hard-to-keep resolutions, pick three to five habits that you could work on changing over the first few months of 2019. Habits that, if changed, would change everything for you. Then resolve to slowly, incrementally modify them.
If you need help coming up with a specific plan, I would love to help you! I’m developing a non-diet weight-loss program that shows people exactly how to change their thoughts and habits around food and eating, and I need testers to perfect it before I launch it in the spring of 2019. Email me at email@example.com if you’re interested or know someone who would be!
Don’t forget to also sit down and think about the progress you made in 2018. It’s so important to focus on the positive changes you’ve made. Even if it looks like nothing changed or you feel like you went in reverse, you are always making new distinctions and learning something you can use to go forward.
I hope you have an amazing holiday! Enjoy yourself this week, and try not to be too hard on yourself. I’m going to force myself to relax (lol) and also try not to beat myself up that my kids are in the next room zoned out on their phones eating cookies while I type this.
If your resolution for the last 10 years has been to lose weight, resolve this year to stop trying to lose it. Enjoy your life instead while you slowly improve it — and you will lose weight without trying. Happy Holidays!