Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The January Bump & the Resolution Shuffle

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
~~ Thomas Edison

I just got home from the gym and it's in full swing: the January gym bump. The annual influx of New Year's resolutioners who this year really are going to lose those extra pounds and get in shape.

I don't mean to sound cynical. I actually like seeing so many new people making the effort to get healthy. It is just sad knowing that by mid-February, most of those new faces will be gone from the gym, their resolutions left in the junk drawer along with their membership cards.

That's the way of it though, isn't it? Everyone breaks their New Year's resolutions, don't they?
It's become so common that it seems like there is practically no stigma attached to abandoning your resolution. In fact, it's pretty much expected.
I just read a friend's blog post today about how they are making changes to the way they eat in accordance with their resolution. Then, in the very next sentence, they say that odds are they will revert back to old habits by mid-February. I'm no psychologist, but I have to think that entering into your resolution with a defeatist attitude like that is a recipe for failure.
Can you say self-fulfilling prophesy?

It's easy to see why we fall into this pattern though. The holidays have just ended, and many of us have spent the last several weeks celebrating and consuming more than usual. Plus, all the partying and general hectic bustle of the holidays have left us no time to exercise.
Now it's January, the holiday treats are gone, the social events are done and I'm so over partying and just want to calm down and get back to normal.
Suddenly, we've got all that time we were spending shopping and socializing to devote getting rid of those extra pounds. We've got the resolve, we have the opportunity, and we're going to seize it!

The problem is that the January slow down only lasts so long. Sooner or later, life starts getting interesting again; social events and other activities start popping up and the next thing you know, the lighter diet and exercise program get left on the side of the road as we drive off towards Spring.

As a Chef, I have seen this pattern reflected in the restaurant and catering business my whole career. The holiday season is crazy time, often the busiest time of the year. Then right after New Year's, the rooms full of customers eating & drinking abruptly vanish and in one day, you've gone from the busiest time of the year to the slowest. Things stay slow through January, and as we head into February, the customers and catering events start to return. By the time Spring is in bloom, the business has often returned to normal levels.

Since I have been serving healthy food for those looking to lose weight and get in shape, I have a reversed business pattern. During the holiday season, my business declines as many of my clients choose to give in to the lure of the festive season and let their diets run wild. In January I get a sharp increase in business, not only from returning clients but new ones looking to make good on those resolutions. I do fairly well keeping clients on track but still, by late winter a percentage of them have gone off our program.

So what's the solution to the resolution/de-resolution dilemma? How do you keep from de-rezzing?
Yep, I just made a Tron reference. :)

If you are really looking to make meaningful changes to your body, maybe what you need is a plan. A plan instead of a resolution is a good idea. A plan to help you achieve your resolution is an even better idea. However, I think the best approach is having a resolution that is a step to help you carry out your plan.

What's the distinction I'm drawing between a resolution and a plan? A resolution is a singular adjustment, one change to how you do things. However, to live a healthier lifestyle, just about all of us will need to make a number of changes to how we eat (most of the time) and stay active. If you can make small changes, little course corrections to your life, you may be surprised how quickly good habits get made and the results begin to add up. That's where the plan comes in.
This post is already getting rather wordy, so we'll talk plan in later entries.

If you are still working out your resolution, there are a few guidelines that might help you keep it.

First off, make it specific. Vague resolutions like “losing weight” or “eating better” are more likely to be broken. A better option would be to swear off eating from any place that has a drive-thru or eat nothing that comes in a plastic wrapper. It's far too easy to abandon a resolution if there is nothing concrete to continue.

At the same time, be careful to not set overly lofty goals for yourself. In fact, it's best not to make a goal your resolution. Better to make your resolution a part of the process.
How about dusting off that bathroom scale & resolving to weigh yourself every morning? That can be a great way to keep yourself on track.
Or if you take frequent, short elevator trips, you can adopt the 2 up/3 down rule. You'll take the stairs if you are going up two floors or fewer, down three floors or fewer: even if the elevator door is open and waiting when you walk by.
That would literally be a little course correction, eh?

Sometimes is helps to tell someone, tell many someones, about your resolution. It might give you a bit more motivation to stick with it if you garnish the resolution with a little social pressure.

There are a number of little tricks to help you keep your resolution. Just remember to start with something you can keep going and transform into a long term habit. Of course to know what works for you, you first have to know yourself, and knowing yourself is the first step in making your plan.
But that's a topic for another blog entry.

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