By Michelle May, M.D.
On January 1st, millions of people will resolve to lose weight. Don’t be one of them.
You may be thinking, “What?!!! Don’t resolve to lose weight? But it’s a tradition; I do it every year!”
But losing weight is not a resolution, it is a RESULT. It is the result of making specific changes in the way you eat, move, and live. So this year, instead of setting a goal to lose an arbitrary number of pounds, inches, or clothing sizes, resolve to think differently about eating, physical activity, and living.
Let me give you an example. Leah said she just HAD to lose weight because she didn’t like the way she looked or felt. She admitted that she had tried many times in the past to lose weight but she always reverted back to her old habits as soon as her resolve wore thin.
She was a busy mom with two kids and a successful career. She typically skipped breakfast or grabbed a donut at work. She was starving by lunch time so she would pick up fast food to eat at her desk while doing paperwork. Dinner was either fast food again between her kids’ soccer practice and dance classes or a quick-to-fix meal like mac ‘n cheese before homework. After the kids were in bed and the house was finally picked up, she would snack until she went to bed.
It would have been easy to focus on what she should or shouldn’t be eating but we both knew that her weight was really just a result of the choices she made at the many decision points throughout her busy days.
Once she really understood what was really going on, she focused on what was most meaningful to her: spending time with her family and having the energy to be successful at her job. With this focus, we laid out a plan to make one change at a time.
First, she started getting up 10 minutes earlier for a bowl of cereal and some quiet time before anyone else was up. She quickly found that she felt calmer and had more energy throughout the morning. Her next step was to start bringing her lunch at least several times a week and give herself at least 20 minutes to eat without working. She enjoyed her meals more and felt more recharged by taking a break.
With these positive experiences to fuel her along, she took her next step: walking for 10 minutes twice during her work day. She wasn’t perfect but it felt great so she did the best she could to be consistent.
Next, she asked her husband to help their family plan ahead for dinner by throwing beans or chicken into the crock pot or having the ingredients on hand for a main dish salad. On the occasions they still went out for fast food, she tried to make healthier choices and stopped up-sizing her meal. Not only were they spending less money, but the kids were eating healthier too.
She then turned to her night time snack habit. She realized that most of the time she wasn’t hungry but was rewarding herself for getting through the day. She promised herself that she could eat her favorite foods without feeling guilty but she wanted to try rewarding herself in more nurturing ways. Her favorites became hot baths, reading, and scrap booking. She was feeling so much better that started a dance class while her daughter was in ballet twice a week.
Looking back, Leah realized that if she had just started another diet or joined a gym like every other year, she might have had some quick but temporary results. This time she knew that weight loss was only one of many great results she got from the small changes she made.
This year when you sit down with pen and paper to write your goals for 2007, focus on the small stuff instead of monster goals. By making one sustainable change at a time, you can get the results you want from your resolutions too.