The end of the year is a time to review and take stock. The news media recounts the major events of the last 12 months, and makes lists of the public figures who have died. And we, as individuals, think about our own lives. What happened to us over the last year? What went right? What went wrong? What can we do to make next year better?
Even after good years there is always a little sadness because the passage of time reminds us we are mortal. So resolutions for the new year inevitably involve renewed commitment to healthy habits: quit smoking, exercise more, lose weight. Unsurprisingly, given that the new year comes after a month of heavy holiday eating, a commitment to lose weight is the most common new year resolution of all.
For most people, the commitment doesn’t last. Good intentions translate into a burst of short-term effort followed by discouragement, self-recrimination, and finally giving up. You stop even trying, for a while, anyway.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
Here are the secrets to turning your new year resolutions into your new reality:
- Put your efforts in the right direction. Don’t waste time on another diet. Fix the underlying problem – the compulsion to eat when you’re not hungry. If 90% of your eating involves moderate amounts of nutritious food, you will be your normal weight. Everyone knows what this means. You eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and eat mainly fresh, unprocessed food. If you know what to do and you’re not doing it, the problem is compulsion, and this is not solved by a diet.
- Approach the problem with the right attitude. The fix is not going to be quick or easy, and anyone who promises that it will be is lying. Emotional eating is a very difficult problem to fix. If it weren’t, you’d have solved it already. Overeating makes you miserable and you’ve been trying for years to stop. So don’t expect to instantly shed your compulsion, and lose at the rate of a pound a day. It sounds extreme when I put it that way, but people really do weigh themselves every morning and feel despair if another pound isn’t gone!
- Believe that you can do this, because you can. The solution isn’t quick or easy, but it’s achievable, and not just for others. You can do this. As long as you believe this core truth, you will keep trying until you reach your goal. The only way you can fail is if you stop trying. One common reason for discouragement is the unrealistic expectation of a quick and easy fix. Another is the habit of not believing in yourself – something that the Normal Eating method addresses directly.
- Have patience; learn to take pride in small steps forward. I can’t tell you how many people have joined the Normal Eating Support Group and expect to be able to eat when hungry and stop when full on the first day – or at least by the end of the first week. It doesn’t work that way! That’s where you get at the end of the process, it’s not where you start. Recovery is a journey. Learn to enjoy each step along the way. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
- Use every tool available to you, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Compulsive eating is a hard problem – a very hard problem. One interesting result of the Emotional Eating Test I posted last month was the answer to this question: “I feel like I should be able to solve my weight problem without help.” Three-quarters of both men and women answered “yes” to this question! I’ve observed many times over the years that those who post the most in the Normal Eating Support Group tend to make the fastest progress. This is because they’re willing to ask for help.
If you’re an emotional eater, 2010 probably isn’t the first year you’ve promised yourself to lose weight and get in shape once and for all. But it can be the first year you keep this promise. You can achieve the goal of looking your best, and finally feeling comfortable in your own body.
Something to Try…
Psychologists have done studies comparing high achievers to low achievers, trying to divine the secrets to the high achievers’ success. One consistent difference is that high achievers set goals that are just slightly beyond where they are now. The goals are a stretch, but clearly within reach. Low achievers, in contrast, tend to set stratospheric goals. For example, a high achieving college student might have as a career goal a good paying job in her field of study. For a low achieving student, the goal might be wealth and fame.
Setting achievable goals is the key to success. With that in mind, what are your goals – your resolutions – for the next month, the next 6 months, and the next year? Make three lists, and then imagine yourself doing what it takes to reach your goals. Are your goals realistic? Can you visualize yourself doing what it takes to get there? Are you willing to put in the work? If so, you can turn your resolutions into reality.
Please share your lists and post your thoughts here!