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Losing weight, getting in shape and eating healthier on your list of resolutions for the new year? You’re not alone. Those very goals along with quit smoking, improve finances, get out of debt and spend more quality time with loved ones rounds off the top New Year’s resolutions.

Like many, you may have tried and failed at health related New Year’s resolutions in the past and are determined that this year, things will be different. Again, you’re not alone. Yet this year, instead of retiring your new workout outfits and new blender right around January 15th before you’ve had a chance to really get your money’s worth, let’s set you up for success from the onset shall we?

You’ve already identified that you want or need to lose weight and eat better, which is great. What you probably haven’t identified are the reasons why you’re overweight and living on a diet of takeout and bagged, boxed, canned or frozen processed foods. This is where you have to be completely honest with yourself – what are the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that got you to where you are right now, are they working for you, and is this a comfortable place for you for the rest of your life?

Wanting to look great naked or to be someone who is always beach body ready are definitely good motivators to get you moving and eating better, but are they the real reason behind your current habits and lifestyle? Probably not.

Obesity is the number one epidemic in our nation and for a great number of those who teeter on the obese side of the scale, many of the eating and weight problems obese people face are rooted in an emotional issue. Loneliness, depression, feelings of inadequacy, low self worth, abandonment, fear – these are all painful emotional triggers that can be soothed with food as comfort and even companionship. These may not be your emotional triggers as to why you are where you are in your life right now, but there is a trigger. In order for you to make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get healthy that will actually stick, you and you alone have to be bold enough to identify that trigger and be willing and ready to change it. Here are some things you can do to put you on a path to success:

Topping the list of resolutions that are believed to improve one’s life are: lose weight, get  in better shape, eat a more nutritious diet, quit smoking, improve finances, get out of debt and spend more quality time with loved ones. These are all worthy goals that will most definitely enhance the quality of life if they are seen through to completion. However sadly, studies show that most people abandon their resolutions and fall back into old habits before the month of February is well under way.

Researcher John Norcross and a group of colleagues have been conducting the success and failure rates of New Year’s resolutions for the past 30 years and have published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. They found that on average 50% of the population start off the new year with resolutions. In one study conducted over a six month period, they found that 71 percent stayed on course for two weeks, 64 percent for one month and 46 percent for six months. So while the numbers did significantly drop, a fair amount of people still stayed the course to what they started at the beginning of the year. But what’s interesting to look at here is not why some people failed, but what were the ingredients that caused others to succeed.

Typically, people enter into the new year with a lot of passion for steering their lives in a different course than the previous year. They are determined to look sexier, eat healthier, be wealthier and an overall happier person. They dive in ready to take on this new persona and lifestyle of sexier, healthier, wealthier, happier, but with no real sense of direction or course of action.

Sure, they know that to be sexier and healthier they must cut out junk food, dump the beer and cigarettes and get off the couch, or to be wealthier they need to eliminate their debt and bring in more money. To reach these goals, they employ what is usually a short list of things they plan to do. Here’s an example:

  • Go on a diet
  • Join the gym
  • Hire personal trainer
  • Pay off credit cards

The problem with this short list example is that the goals are too broad and not very specific. Most people will overwhelm themselves by trying to do everything at once and when they realize they haven’t a clue how to make it all happen, they quit.

For example, single mom of three, Tasha who also works a full-time job, plans to join the gym and hire a personal trainer without figuring out when she’ll have time to make it to the gym and where the funds to finance those endeavors are going to come from. She also plans to pay off her credit cards but fails to first look at her current expenses to determine which ones she can realistically eliminate and take that money that would’ve gone to those old expenses and apply them to her lowest balanced credit card so the account is paid off faster. Instead, she moves full speed ahead into her well-intentioned but poorly thought out resolutions and by January 20th she’s stopped going to the gym – paying monthly for a one year contract membership she doesn’t use which has actually put her deeper into debt – and she’s no closer to paying off any of her credit cards because with her new gym expenses, she has no extra money to go towards beefed up payments. What happened to Tasha? She wasn’t specific in setting her goals which at the onset made them lofty and feel unattainable.

Instead of trying to accomplish everything in one huge chunk starting January 1st, it would’ve been better for Tasha had she broken down her big list of goals into smaller bite-sized steps. So with the example of “Go on a diet”, Tasha could’ve set a simple two-week goal for herself to stop drinking soda and consuming more water. Once she hit that first two-week milestone, she would add another two-week goal to eat five or more raw, fresh fruits and vegetables daily. After each milestone, Tasha would begin to feel more empowered to continue the progress she’d made and her belief level in her ability to successfully reach goals would be through the roof.

So getting back to the point we covered earlier about looking at the ingredients that cause people to succeed, before any type of new years resolution or goal big or small is going to be successfully implemented, what really needs to happen first is a change in behavior which begins with a shift in mindset.

Intending to lose weight, eat healthier and get out of debt mean nothing if you are not willing to first dig deep to understand what got you to the point of being overweight, living off of fast food and financially stretched beyond your means. Once you can be honest with yourself about what attitudes/mindset and behaviors got you to where you are, you then need to decide if those things are best serving you and if you are happy with the way things are. If not, you need to make a conscious decision that you want something different and are willing to take action to make it happen. No excuses. This is where your mindset shifts and resolutions broken down into smaller attainable goals come front and center. This is where you have the opportunity to join the ranks of the 46 percent who are still going strong six months into implementing New Year’s resolutions.

So if you’re one of the 50% contemplating New Year’s resolutions, here are some initial steps to take to start you off on the right track:

  1. Determine what you’d like to change in the coming year.
  2. Ask yourself honest questions about why you’re looking for a change and if what you’ve done up to this point is working for you and if you’re comfortable with things staying the same going forward.
  3. Write Out your New Year’s resolutions making the list realistic without listing too many things that will become overwhelming.
  4. Break Down your resolutions into smaller, attainable goals and assign time lines – two weeks, 30 days, 90 days, etc.
  5. Seek accountability. Share your resolutions and goals with someone who you know will support you and who will follow up with you to make sure you stay on track.
  6. Celebrate your successes. With each smaller milestone you hit, reward yourself with a special treat – a new piece of clothing, lunch at a favorite restaurant, a manicure or a matinee with small popcorn.

There’s nothing wrong with making New Year’s resolutions, and for some they are fun and successful traditions. What puts such a sting around resolutions is that they seem to fade into the wind about as quickly as they were declared. This year, and in the years that follow, you can turn the tables on the popularly taboo topic of declaring New Year’s resolutions, and possibly even garnering more favorable results for yourself than past years attempts by following the above guidelines to ensure you declare resolutions that will truly stick. Happy New Year!

Kitara R. Wilson