It’s that time of year again when we’re all run ragged by the events of the year gone by and are ready to kick up our feet and indulge in life’s sensory pleasures. It’s also the time of year when once we’ve enjoyed our decadence, we decide it’s time to get back into things, start fresh and maybe improve on the year before. This is the time of resolutions and the second and third week of January sees many people give up on resolutions as it becomes too hard.
In 2018, 4 out of 5 resolutions made by Australians were lifestyle related. These included resolutions such as improve fitness, eat better, quit smoking and quit drinking. In 2017 quit smoking, drink moderately, shed weight, have a healthy diet were also in the top 5 resolutions. Similar resolutions topped the list in 2016 and 2015 so it appears every year we are making the same promises to ourselves and every year we are failing to keep them.
Why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard to keep?
Depending on the source, you will find that anywhere from 80% to 92% of people will fail at keeping their new year’s resolutions. This is because New Year’s resolutions are about breaking habits and habit changing is hard. Once the old routine of work and everyday life has kicked back in, it’s easy to fall back into the old rhythm and the old, comfortable ways of being. Luckily for us we have very adaptable brains to the point where repetitive behaviour actually changes the physical structure of our brain. This is known as neuroplasticity, which is both the cause and cure for our bad habits.
The down side of our highly adaptable brains is that many of our formed habits are developed without much thought so changing these habits requires taking the time to pause and reflect on our actions and initiating self control. The prolonged exercise of self control can be painful and tiring in the same way that exercising a muscle can be painful and tiring.
So how do we overcome these habit breaking hurdles?
Be S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, Time
Here at Nutrition Force we are all about being SMART When it comes to our health and habit changing, we need to find ways to manage our goals in order to prevent becoming overwhelmed and mentally fatigued by the effort involved in reaching them.
Firstly we need to be Specific. When we say we want to eat better what does that actually mean? What we eat is based on hundreds of tiny little habits that all need to be changed and trying to change them all at once can become overwhelming and stressful. Changing our diet doesn’t just mean changing what we eat or how much, it can also involve changing things such as the way we do our food shopping, the way we cook, where we eat or who we eat with. If there are multiple aspects of our eating behaviour that we think need to change we need to be as specific as possible and choose which habit we think needs to change first.
Our goals should be Measurable. If we are trying to lose weight then we might measure this by weighing ourselves at regular intervals or if we’re trying to eat better we might use a food diary to measure our serves of fruit and vegetables. It’s important to be able to measure progress to make sure we are keeping on track.
Are our goals Achievable? If our new year’s resolution is to run a marathon, it’s best not to try and do it on the first day. While running a marathon might be the ultimate goal, setting smaller short term goals can make the long term goal much more achievable. The same can be done with diet, if we find our diet needs major over hall, and then it’s easier to break the process down into smaller goals by changing one habit at a time in order to achieve long term success.
We want the process to be Rewarding. It’s important to make sure that our goals are about changing habits because it’s what we want, not because we are being pressured into it or out of feelings of guilt and shame. Resolutions are supposed to be positive and so should the process of achieving them.
Lastly we need to give ourselves a Time frame. Having a time frame is like having a deadline and helps to motivate us and prioritise our goals with our other commitments. If we decide we need to achieve a certain goal by a certain day or time then we are less likely to push it back. Sometimes it helps to have someone else hold us accountable to meet these deadlines, which is why the support and guidance of a Dietitian or Nutritionist can be helpful.
By being SMART we are able to make achieving our goals that much easier and increase our chance of success.
Written by Katherine Ramsden, Nutritionist
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.