Health Lifestyle

Resolving to Do Better and Feel Happier This Year

January 28, 2020

New Year’s resolutions

We want to live life to the fullest. Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, intending to form new habits, achieve goals, and spark positive change. According to several polls, some top resolutions (can you relate?) include:

  • Lose weight
  • Eat healthier
  • Exercise
  • Improve a relationship
  • Read more
  • Improve finances
  • Travel more
  • Learn a new skill
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Get organized

Those seem like valuable aims, don’t they? So why the recent backlash against resolutions?

Are resolutions doomed?

Some articles say to ditch resolutions and focus on “intentions” or “themes” for the year. The author’s reasoning was that less than half of people succeed at resolutions, so we should scrap them.

I love intentions. But what these “ditch the resolutions” articles often fail to mention is that those folks who DO set resolutions are MUCH more likely to achieve an aim such as obtaining a healthy weight than those who wish the same but make NO resolution.

In other words, resolutions are a step in the right direction.

Resolutions are a good move.

The same research that shows that 46% of resolution makers succeed also indicates that only 4% of non-resolution setters achieve the same aims. This means that setting a resolution can make you more than ten times more likely to succeed in upgrading your life.

I agree that setting a resolution, in other words, deciding to achieve something, isn’t enough. Using cognitive-behavioral processes makes us much more likely to succeed!

Improve your chances

As a life coach, I teach people to work WITH their brains to achieve their aims. Some ways to do this include the one I mentioned, so start there:

1. Resolve (decide) to do something.

Want to improve your chance of success? A resolution is even more powerful if you write it down.

2. Write down your goal.

When it comes to what you are writing down, check to see that it is something you can control. One way to do this is to make the resolution about your routines. Which leads us to…

3. Focus on habits, not outcomes.

While you cannot control the outcome (the weight on the scale, for example), choosing to adhere to certain eating principles IS something within your control.

Another thing you can control is how you feel. Imagine how you will feel when you achieve your goal and practice this feeling now.

4. Make sure you have the right habit or tool for the job.

There are many ways to achieve an outcome like weight loss – for example, either a low fat or a low carb diet. The key is to find a way that works for you and make sure you understand the method.

5. Practice feeling the way you want to, now.

Celebrate feeling successful with every good choice. Imagine zipping up pants, and they feel loose, and you feel confident and comfortable. Embody triumph.

Be smarter than SMART goals.

Although I am all for SMART goals (ones that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Timed), making a SMART goal weight of 15 lbs less in 15 weeks is outcome-based. You’ll notice that tip #3 above recommended habits and not outcome-based goals.

Outcome-based goals, like “losing 50 lbs” or “finishing a marathon”, are hard to succeed at and don’t feel great along the way, only at completion, months in the future.

Instead, make a SMART goal, but make the process of how you will get there the goal.

Something like “get at least 28 grams of fiber daily” or “run at 60% capacity for 15 minutes four days per week”. This way, you celebrate DAILY or WEEKLY as you celebrate your behavior.

Benefits of process goals over outcome goals.

You can celebrate every time you catch yourself practicing the habits that help you achieve weight loss. Every time you consume the right macros, sleep well or move your body, you reinforce the feelings of success and accomplishment you want.

The frequency of this positive reinforcement is powerful. You start to think of yourself as a person who makes good choices. You begin to identify as a healthy person, an active person. Unlike an outcome goal, which disappears once you hit it, process goals transform you for life.

Why did things not work or did not last before…

If you tried a keto lifestyle to lose weight, for example, you might have had initial success, then plateaued, and since gone on and off. Overall, you may have lost steam on a diet. “Not being there yet” means that you experience negative feelings.  You may have thoughts of how you “should” do more.

Even though you have learned new skills, are more fat-adapted, and made headway, with the type of goal setting where you strive for a certain outcome unless you hit that exact target, you may feel bad even if you make it most of the way. Punishing yourself with these thoughts is not motivating, which is why diets often fail! You can lose motivation because you defer feeling accomplished and celebrating until the weight goal is achieved.

… and how they can.

Your NEW process goal may be to stay fully compliant with a ketogenic way of eating six days per week for 12 weeks. You can celebrate every day that you stay below 50 grams of net carbohydrates per day, AND every time you go for six consecutive days per week, AND when you have done this for 12 weeks.

Over the holidays, a lot of people come off the diet because it is much easier to enjoy that time with friends and family when they do not follow keto. So, another process goal may be to choose activity-based social gatherings over food-based social gatherings, for 12 weeks. You can celebrate that every time you try a movie or sport-based get-together.

Positive reinforcement.

When you celebrate practicing the habits of goal attainment, you are acting as your own cheerleader. As you practice routines that help and serve you, you embody the feeling you want – say, a sense of accomplishment, pride, and happiness – right away.

What this means is, you feel accomplished. You feel like a success. Tell yourself you are a success and your mind helps you to create more of the same. This makes it much easier to evaluate your behavior.

A clear conscience lets us see more clearly.

When we feel bad and guilty, looking at our actions feels uncomfortable, and we can mislead ourselves. If you have ever found yourself standing at a kitchen counter “just trimming” a piece of cake until the edges were neat, you know what I mean.

Ketogenic diets are extremely effective for getting lean because you train the body to use fat as its primary fuel in the absence of carbs. Yet the top causes of fat-loss plateaus all start with too much protein, hidden carbs, and not enough good fat – in other words, they result from poor tracking.

When we measure progress and acknowledge that we are doing our best, it becomes possible to track our actions with honesty. Once you are resolved, you have written down the desired outcome, it is time to pick the habits and activities you will use and to schedule times to check-in to quantify.

Make sure you are picking the right habits.

Make sure the tool fits the system. For example, peanut butter may work in a bodybuilder’s diet but is too high carb for keto and too high fat for low fat, and making it a habit to read food labels will not help you if you eat out all the time.

If you are re-committing to keto, remember that many typical diet foods like skinless chicken breast and canned tuna are too low fat/high protein to eat on a keto diet. Likewise, the meal-replacement shakes meant for low-calorie diets have both too many carbs and too much protein.

Routines are for winners.

If the aim is to break a weight loss plateau and restart your metabolism, you can focus on the habits you’ll use to get there. You can resolve to use your tracking app daily, you can build your shopping routine and your cooking routine around the right items.

If you are restarting keto, you can resolve to track your macros, to get 50% of your total daily calories from fat, keep protein at 30%–40%, and make up the rest with leafy veggies and cauliflower. Make it a habit to add fat to smoothies and veggie dishes. Have sauce, dip and dressing recipes at your fingertips.

Swap dark meat and oily fish and nuts, like salmon or mackerel, and Brazil or macadamia nuts into your recipes and shopping lists. Stock up on MCT oil to keep your ketones up, sources of essential fatty acids like omega 3+6+9 blends, and culinary oils for variety.

In summary

When goals are always off in the distance, it can kill motivation. It has been shown over and over that the best thing to do is to resolve to behave a certain way, not decide to achieve a certain outcome. This allows you to feel great right away – you’ll celebrate sooner and more often. When you celebrate the process, you can honestly track your behavior, fine-tune as required, and hit your goals.

Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.

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