New Years Resolutions Explained
At one point or another, it’s likely that you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, one full of lofty goals you thought you’d be able to meet. Despite your best intentions, the goal was more likely to fall short of your expectations than you had hoped. That’s the case for most of us, but the question is whether there is a better way. Is it your resolution, or your carrying out of it that’s the issue? Knowing that can often be the difference between success and something less than that!
Let’s use a pretty common example, the “I’m going to get more active and lose ‘x’ amount of weight.” It sounds simple enough. If you want to lose, say, 10 lbs, you can go online and look up the amount of calories that are contained in 10 lbs of fat. Simple Google searches for “calories in 10 lbs of fat” will show you this quote from the well-respected Mayo Clinic:
“Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So, in general, if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you'd lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).”
That sounds simple enough…at 3500 calories per pound, if you trim 3500 calories from your diet, taking out 500 calories per day, that works out to 70 days. Start January 1, and the math tells you by the time you pay your taxes, you’ll have reached your goal!
Except, it never seems to work out that way, does it? Well, the first step is to read deeper into the information you find, and to realize that 500 calories per day is something that’s pretty tough to change, especially if you’re already an active person going to work out regularly, and keeping track of the things you eat. Note the word “tough,” rather than “impossible!” When looking at the “simple” numbers, that 500 calories is easy, but how will you feel taking that much less food into your system daily? Can you reach the discipline? Are you sure you can spread the change out over every day, consistently? Is your math really the issue, or your goal, or both?!?
In the sports and fitness world, as well as in all walks of life, setting goals that are challenging, yet attainable, is often the first, and best step, toward making substantive change in our lives. So, with “10 lbs” or “500 calories/day” being your goal, the issue is that it’s an outcome rather than a process. In other words, it’s an endpoint. In setting an effective and attainable goal, it’s better in this example to say to yourself something like, “ok, what steps will I realistically take to be able to affect the changes in my daily life, that will ultimately add up to me being able to lose weight, and aim for 10 lbs as my number?”
Taking some combination of diet and activity changes to total 500 calories day in and day out is a daunting task unless you’ve prepared yourself for the daily changes it’s going to take. If you plan out how to make that 500 calorie change on your typical Monday, and your typical Tuesday, and so on, that’s more realistic and attainable. That’s because “500 calories” is just a pair of words, instead of an actionable step you can plan to take before your day starts. So, it might mean taking your coffee black instead of as a latte (200-400 calories or more saved!), and having an apple as a late night snack (50 calories, but filling) rather than your go-to popcorn (another 100-300 calories or more saved!).
Those kind of small, incremental changes are far more realistically attainable, regardless of the specific goal you have in mind. You’d rarely plot your PhD graduation ceremony and request for better pay before prepping for the requisite board test, registering for classes and so on. It’s the same kind of process that works for lifestyle goals, especially the ones we make at New Year’s!! So, go ahead and make resolutions, and congratulate yourself for making one. Be proud of yourself for committing to make a change you want to make. Then, plot it out, and think of daily, even hourly, steps you can make, each of which you construct are realistic, reachable and reasonable for you and your lifestyle. Little by little, those changes will add up, and you can celebrate each daily victory. Every time you feel well about a change you’ve made, regardless of how small it is in the big picture of your overall desired outcome, it sets you on a path that pushes you closer and closer to that outcome. Then, having several days of meeting your daily goals puts that cheat meal we all inevitably have in its proper perspective. And that is when your goal is something you’re on the way to meeting.
Happy holidays to all of you!