Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why New Years Resolutions Fail!!

The holidays are passed and we look forward to that one last party to say goodbye to 2011 and welcome in 2012.  The typical American adds several pounds over the holiday season thanks in part to the excessive holiday parties and holiday treats.  The New Year also brings forth that wonderful tradition of New Year's Resolutions!  Hope springs eternal, especially at the start of a New Year, this will be the year that I lose that 30lbs. or this year I will quit smoking or drinking.  And off we go, to the gym or out to start jogging only to see our resolution slowly (sometimes very quickly) disappear.

 In the book "Nudge" the authors compare humans to a person riding an elephant.  If you have ever seen someone riding an elephant you realize that the control of the elephant is merely based on training and if the elephant decided to no longer follow instruction then the person would be helpless.  The 'rider' represents our analytical side and the 'elephant' our emotional side.  Thus, if the 'rider' decides that the 'elephant' is going to go down a new path but fails to prepare the path he is set up for failure.  The first time the elephant (our emotional side) decides to turn around and go back or wander off the path the man has limited ability to redirect the elephant.  Why is this important?  It is exactly the reason that 98% of diets and New Year's Resolutions fail!  We are all creatures of habit and we have just spent the last 30+ days letting our elephants roam free, doing as they pleased.  Now we decide it is time to reign in the elephant and have him walk on a strange new path that he has never had to walk on.  Then, we are surprised when the elephant decides that he doesn't like the new path and wants to return to roaming freely.  Our 'rider' tries to force the elephant to stay on the new path but soon runs out of energy trying to fight the beast and gives in.  But, wanting to save face the 'rider' soon starts to rationalize the situation..."well, it really wasn't that important"  or "OK, I'll only have one cookie, how much harm can that do" and on and on.

So, do we stand any hope of reeling in our out of control 'elephant' and making the changes we realize that we really must make?  The first step is an interview with the 'rider' face to face (in a mirror).  You must have full awareness of the situation at hand and a completely honest assessment of where you are and where you really need to be. What is the specific goal of what you want to accomplish?  General goals are easy to change, specific ones pin point down a specific outcome on a specific date.  If you need help, then go to your MD and get a physical, those are real numbers you can't avoid or ask a trusted friend or loved one. Now the rider knows exactly where they are going.    Next, what is the emotion behind the change? What is it that you are missing in your life that you could accomplish if we were to meet the goal you set?  What pain is caused by your current situation?  What are you afraid of losing if don't make a change? Again specifics are crucial, not lose weight so 'I feel better' but lose 35 lbs and decrease my cholesterol to be healthy enough to go hiking with my children.  You see this is all part of prepping the 'elephant' for the trip, let him know where you are going and why. 

The next step is to clear the path for the 'elephant' by removing any obstacles in the path.  The more obstacles you clear the better chance of keeping the 'elephant' moving forward down the path.  This can be anything and everything that could cause an issue.  Is there someone else who can help you clear the path?  Is there someone else who wants to take their 'elephant' down the same path?  Is there someone who is putting obstacles in your path?  Take a serious inventory of the "reasons" (excuses, stories, justifications) that you have used in the past to not continue and start removing them.  If you don't know where you're workout clothes are, put them next to your bed.  If you don't have the right food in the house, go get it.  If the idea of working out for an hour is too much then start with a 5 minute walk.  The point is that you have to get things moving, even if it is small steps at first. 

Making a real change in our lives is not an easy thing to accomplish but remember we are all creatures of habit and the only way to make a change sustainable is to replace one habit with another one.  If you can replace an unhealthy habit with a healthy one then our 'elephant' is actually working with us and not against us.  This year instead of a  New Year's Resolution, plan out a New Year's Solution and if it includes losing weight or getting healthier then sign up for our 5 Ton Challenge and commit to completing the challenge and we'll help clear the path for your 'elephant'