why New Year’s resolutions don’t work? find 5 steps that help you to start and stick to your resolutions

Old habits die hard.” – I read this sentence in the article on the National Institutes of Health website and immediately Bruce Willis jumped up in my head. Changing your eating habits is a great goal but it’s also a process. Sometimes it takes a while before changes become new habits. And you may face obstacles along the way. So if you feel like you’ve been terrorised by your old bad habits, be like John McClane and make your old habits die. By the end of this post you will have a plan how to say “Yippee-ki-yay!” to your old eating habits.

How many times you have told yourself that with a New Year you will start being more healthy, exercise more or change your bad habits? Lot of us make New Year’s resolutions and most of us fail after couple weeks. The data speaks clearly: 80 percent of people fail to follow through on their New Year’s resolutions by February. Why? Mostly because we get overexcited about new beginnings. Before New Year we feel motivated and almost cannot wait to start fresh. But then when our routine and day to day life comes back, when we feel tired and alone with our goals (like John McClane in that skyscraper) here comes Hans with his terrorising-old-habits-crew. There’s couple reasons why does it happens.

First, we often want to change our whole life overnight. Our resolutions are too vague, too general. Like: “I want to eat more healthy”, “I want to be more active”. Usually we do not create a plan or specify the time in which we would like to achieve our goal. Soon our great resolutions become a source of suffering instead of enjoyment. We start doubting ourselves, and because we have a fear of fail we don’t even tell anyone about our resolutions. As a result we don’t get any support from people around us. That’s how by February we are usually back on the bottom of old habits pothole.

And if you think I got my all shit together and my life is all sorted, I have to inform you that while writing this post I ate almost whole bar of chocolate. My only excuse is that I didn’t buy it myself – I got it for Christmas.

So with this quite long introduction I would like to start with the clue of this post: 5 steps you can take to help you start and stick to your New Year’s resolution.

Step 1 – give yourself a “WHY”

Uncover the purpose of your goal – why do you want this goal to become a reality? How will your life change as a result? Think about the goal more as a commitment, like a promise you give to yourself. Think about the joy you’ll feel when you achieve your results. Be specific about the things you want to achieve. Instead of promising yourself you’ll eat healthy, promise yourself you won’t eat sweets, or you will cook from scratch a healthy meal 5 times a week, or you won’t eat instant soups or you will make yourself a portion of smoothie every single day. Also think about obstacles and roadblocks you might find along the way and how you will overcome them.

Step 2 – do your research

You’ve made up your mind and you want to take an action. As I’ve mentioned above it’s good to be very specific about what you want, but also how you’re going to achieve it. For example if you want to change your diet (that’s a goal very close to my heart at the moment so I will use it as an example) think what do you exactly mean by that? If you want to change you diet you need to know what to exclude from it, what to include etc. There’s hundreds of diets you can follow, so if you have something specific in mind it’s good to make a research and learn as much as you can. If you want to go keto, vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, paleo (that’s me) or you want to eat seasonal – do your research and find all the informations you need to know. It’s a great start because it will give you a good vision of how your new habits will need to look like, what changes you will need to make to fit the diet plan. And if it will fit your lifestyle and preferences. Let say you’ve heard that keto diet is great for loosing weight, you have a plan to start with New Year but you actually have no clue what is this all about. By doing your research you might find out that it’s not for you. That you hate eggs, avocados and meat and you won’t be able to force yourself to eat them every single day. But you love fruits and legumes, so maybe going vegetarian is your thing?

Step 3 – organise and plan

OK, you’ve done your research, you know what you want to achieve, now it’s time to plan and organise all your knowledge. We will stick with an example of turning to a new diet.

  • make a list of the foods that you will eat in your new diet plan. You can write them down on a sheet of paper or print them out and stick it on your fridge or other place in your kitchen so it’s visible for you. Put every food you will be able to eat on that list – this way you won’t feel very restricted and your brain won’t try to trick you – you’ve got nothing to eat,
  • make a shopping list according to the list of the foods you want to eat and do your shopping with that list,
  • find recipes you will use to prepare your meals. At the beginning it might feel overwhelming, especially with diets that are quite restricting like keto, paleo or vegan. So it’s good to have several recipes on hand, to follow at the beginning of your journey. Cover all the meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper and/or snacks. So you will not put yourself in a situation that you need to eat something and you have no idea what to prepare,
  • make a weekly plan – it might seem boring but it’s actually really helpful. Plan all your weekly meals or at least your dinners or lunches if you take a lunch to work. It will save you time and money – you will be able to use all food items you have in your fridge and nothing will get wasted.

Step 4 – make a new routine

If you want the new habits to stick with you for longer they need to become your habits. It will need time but eventually you’ll get there. If you need to use post-it notes, set an alarm on your phone or write down your daily plan do it. Everything that will help you to stick with your plan is fine as long as it doesn’t harm you or others 😉 Also don’t be afraid to review your plan. If something doesn’t work think how to change the plan so it will work for you. At this stage you will need some discipline. Your brain will try to trick you multiple times so don’t let it misguide you. Remind yourself your “WHY”.

Step 5 – be your own best friend

You will have your ups and downs, there will be days when you fail with your plan or things won’t go as expected. Be prepared for setbacks because no one is perfect and your environment can throw some shit in your way. So plan ahead how you will overcome them. But first thing first – try not to be hard on yourself if you fail. If you’ve managed to stick to your plan for couple weeks and you failed once for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean that this couple weeks is wasted. There’s always another day and a chance to improve. Get back on track as soon as you can and keep going. Don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work. Plan the reward ahead (obviously your reward cannot be breaking your rules – if your goal is not eating sweets your reward should not be a box of chocolate). Allow yourself a non food reward like going to the cinema or for a concert, buy yourself a book or other small thing that will make you feel rewarded. Give yourself a high-five in the mirror.

Also don’t hold back and tell your friends and family or your work colleagues about your plan. It will not only let them give you some support you need, but also won’t give the opportunity for going off track. If you tell them that you don’t want to eat sweets or you don’t drink alcohol, they will know not to treat you with any or won’t persuade you to go for a drink. Choose wisely, so that people can support and cheer you up, not demotivate you.

Hope it was somehow helpful for you. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I will be happy if you share them in the comments.

I will keep my fingers crossed for your resolutions (and for mine as well) so you can say “Yippee-ki-yay Old habits!”

Source of knowledge:

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-point/201912/7-reasons-why-new-years-resolutions-dont-work

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