I remember stepping on the scale Jan. 1, 2001, only a few weeks after delivering my first child. I had gained over 55 pounds and knew that weighing myself probably wasn’t the best way to ring in the new year, but my irrational, hormonal self didn’t care. As my poor husband tried to counsel me amidst all my sobs and swearing, I resolutely declared to lose the weight quickly and to return to my pre-pregnancy clothes within a month. I can honestly say without any exaggeration that my resolution was a complete bust, and my husband is still traumatized by that meltdown 16 years later.
They say that most New Year’s resolutions are broken by Jan. 20, which challenges us with the question, why do we drop the ball after the ball drops? For most (myself included), it begins with the resolution part, more specifically, the word, “resolution.” It’s harsh and unforgiving and it sets us up for failure. A resolution indicates a promise, a firm or determined course of action. Nevertheless, what happens if you’re not feeling so firm or determined one day, or your hormones lead you on a four-day cookie bender? Does that mean your resolution is blown?
While it may sound counterintuitive, I encourage those I work with to use the phrase, “work-in- progress,” in lieu of resolution, and in my experience, people are more receptive to this shift in attitude. Moreover, they have enjoyed far better results in their health and fitness journeys because the concept of being a work-in-progress is a more realistic notion. It allows us to fully celebrate life’s joys or deal with its letdowns without guilt, or feeling like failures. Of course, like anything else, change takes time. However, habits can take as little as 30-60 days to form and if started now, you could be in far better shape, both physically and emotionally, as the new year approaches.
Jan. 1 is an artificial timeline for most. In fact, I have seen people use this hyped-up deadline as carte blanche to overindulge so much throughout the holiday season, that by the time the ball drops, they are dealing with an extra 5-10 pounds. Next, they peter out after approximately two weeks by either overexerting themselves in the gym to the point of pain, or resentfully restricting their diets too much. Does this sound familiar?
Here’s how to begin. First, remove that looming, Jan. 1 target date from your calendar and start creating a work-in-progress list to replace your resolution line-up. The goal is to focus on action and accountability all throughout the year as opposed to a deadline as your launching point. As you shift your mental focus and embrace the work-in-progress approach, you will find it is far easier to overcome unforeseen circumstances that may derail your health and fitness goals before, during and after the ball drops.
Below is a work-in-progress sample. While the chart may appear a bit over simplified, it nonetheless demonstrates unattainable resolutions versus work-in-progress goals. The act of successfully accomplishing our goals is rooted in our language, focus and attitude, so carefully compare those three components below. If the goal is impractical, then success will be too. Review your goals every two-weeks to tweak or re-adjust.
|I will work out 6 days-a-week-starting Jan.1 and hit the gym hard.||I will aim for 2 hours a week and include some strength training when I’m ready. If I miss a workout, I’ll try to do something active that day like walk the dog or play with my kids.|
|Lose 10 pounds in one month by restricting my diet.||I will start by eliminating some sweets and replace with fruit. I will aim for a 1-2-pound weight loss a week.|
|I will cut out all carbs for rapid weight loss.||I will start by swapping out some bad carbs for healthy carbs and adjust as I go along.|
|I have to eat more fibrous vegetables because they will fill me up and speed weight loss.||I will prepare an easy and enjoyable recipe for one
new vegetable this month.
|Cold turkey on wine!||I’m going to cut down wine to one time per week, and
enjoy it in moderation at special occasions.
|No more coffee.||Keep coffee, but cut from 3 cups to 1 cup (maybe start with two and see where it goes). Use one creamer instead of three.|
|If I mess up, I have to start all over again, and hit it even harder.||If I eat too much or miss too many workouts this week,
I will get back on track.
|Failure is not an option!||Progress is my only option.|
The work-in-progress method is a far better way to start off your new year, and it doesn’t have to stop with your nutrition or fitness goals either. In fact, it can be applied to any aspect of your professional or personal life. We can’t always be the perfect parent (I know I’m not), employee, boss, coach or spouse, and yet many of us struggle with the notion that we should be what I call “Pinterest Perfect.” When we fall into this trap, our lives are anything but utopian.
Lastly, the concept of being a work-in-progress doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do our best, rather, it allows us the mental space to understand that we are entitled to make mistakes, learn from them and continually evolve as individuals.
Rachel Ornstein Packer is a writer focusing on food allergies, nutrition and diet. She has written for many local newspapers and magazines along with multiple websites and blogs. She recently became a certified trainer with The Perfect Workout, a unique 20-minute slow-motion strength training method. You can contact her at [email protected] or her blogs