Ditch the Resolution! A Practice for Making Real Progress with Your Weight & Health Goals

Watching our own New Year’s resolutions fizzle out is, to put it lightly, not fun.

As we reach January, we feel the freshness of a new year, filled with possibilities. As we do, we may be filled with hope or dread—or both. But we have hope!

Then the weeks go by and we skip our New Year’s resolutions here, make an exception there, find an excuse there, and before we know it we are so far off the bandwagon we give up.

It’s tough! Only 1 out of 8 people follow through on their New Year’s resolutions for any period of time. Even less last a year or longer.

The truth is, we’re tough on ourselves. We never even see the progress we’ve made year to year, or even month to month.

Progress is the goal of those who succeed. Small, realistic steps are how you summit mountains, and come out the other side a new person.

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Rather than jumping into setting resolutions and goals, I recommend that you first take some time for reflection. Start your new year by looking back at the old year.

As you reflect, you may find that your shortcomings come to mind first. You compile a list of all the habits you failed to change and all the goals you didn’t accomplish. Now you’re down on the ground, demoralized….and remembering why you hate January.

This is a phenomenon I see time and again when working with people who are engaged in the weight loss process. They compare themselves to a perceived ideal and discount the progress they’ve already made. This myopic viewpoint robs them of confidence and perspective.

It is CONFIDENCE that will inspire and sustain you in the long run, not discouragement.

resolution-download-worksheet-01I’d like to suggest a more empowering way to start 2015—one that moves you to higher ground and expands your perspective.

(don’t miss the worksheet A Year of Progress to guide you into a new way of making progress)

Gaining Perspective

Last fall I travelled to Austin, Texas for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians’ fall conference. Two of my adult children live there so a conference in Austin was a double scoop treat with family adventures afterwards.

One of our adventures was to climb to the top of Mount Bonnell, a summit nearly 800 feet above Austin. From there we had a fabulous view of the city and the surrounding area. Although I’d been there several times, seeing Austin from this vantage point gave me a whole new perspective.

Photo by ATMTC https://www.flickr.com/photos/atmtx/3801998789/

Photo by ATMTC https://www.flickr.com/photos/atmtx/3801998789/

To the south the downtown skyline shot up from the flat terrain like a series of geysers, each trying to shoot higher than the others. From all the cranes that hovered over downtown, I knew that the competition wouldn’t be ending soon. The grandeur of the Texas State Legislature dome and spire caught my eye, even if it was no longer contending for record height. To the west, the flat gave way to the green rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country.

Directly below me was Lake Austin, one of the seven lakes formed by dams on the Colorado River. I located the spot on the shore where we’d had brunch earlier that day. I also recognized some of the other lakes I’d visited, including Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis. Each lake was a successive bulge in the river that snakes its way through the Texas Hill Country and through Austin, before veering southeast toward the Gulf of Mexico. From this elevation it was easier to see their connection, a mystery I hadn’t solved while on the ground.

To the east was the airport—my favorite place when I’m arriving and least favorite when it is time to depart. It’s always sad to say goodbye to my children who live so far away. My return flight was later that day, so I scanned past it in pursuit of another landmark. No premature sadness for me.

As I savored the view in the Texas sun, I realized how much ground I’d covered in my visits—my Austin resume was more robust than I’d given myself credit for. This inspired me to dream about what I’d like to do on my next trip…. like floating down the river on an inner tube, attending a live music festival, or exploring more of the Hill Country.

Back at street level the city seemed different to me. I’d seen its bones from afar. Seeing how each piece of the puzzle fit with the others gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced on the ground.

But it wasn’t just a nerdy fascination with geography that I had satisfied; standing on top of that mountain was exhilarating. Possibilities flooded me. I felt alive.

As you reflect on 2014, what moves you to higher ground?

Moving to Higher Ground

Recognizing and honoring your successes moves you to higher ground. Focusing on your shortcomings drops your altitude—often more than you realize.

It’s the difference between thinking you are a winner and building on your accomplishments, or thinking of yourself as a loser who repeatedly starts from the bottom.

Building on your successes empowers you; focusing on your shortcomings is demoralizing.

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

Good health is a journey, not a destination. You don’t arrive there, you live it—day by day, as best you can. Taking stock helps you link your successes; next thing you know you’re seeing a trend!

I don’t go to Austin to see the sights and rack up more punches on my punch card, I go there to connect with my kids (and attend the occasional conference). Exploration of the sights is a vehicle through which we strengthen our connection. Zooming out to a bird’s-eye view reveals the links in my process of change, in this case learning more about Texas.

It’s the same with our habits—we create and maintain them to connect with better health. Lasting change happens with one feeling, thought, and act at a time.

In what ways are you healthier than you were this time last year?

For example:

  • I feel better—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • I feel more focused and confident.
  • I am gentler with myself when I lapse.
  • I get back on track sooner.
  • I plan and pack my meals more often.
  • I get more sleep.
  • I spend more time having fun.
  • I move my body more frequently.
  • I have a more consistent exercise routine.

Also, ask yourself…

What were 5 accomplishments I made last year, however small or big they may be?

What were the changes that made a positive impact on my health, even the small ones?

Don’t be afraid to celebrate small successes!

resolution-download-worksheet-01Now, download the worksheet and fill out your “Year of Progress” »

My guess is that you made progress in many of these areas…more than you give yourself credit for. And seeing that progress will give you the confidence to continue improving step by step.

As you map out all the ground you covered in 2014, you will have a better idea as to where you want to go in 2015. Zoom out and see the upward trend!

I’d love to hear about all the ground you covered in 2014 and where you’re going in 2015. Leave a comment below. And if you haven’t already, please join me on Facebook »

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    How to Talk to Patients About Weight, co-presenting with Amy Ingersoll, PA-C
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    How to Talk to Patients About Weight
    The Art & Science of Prescribing Anti-Obesity Medications
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  • Alaska Nurse Practitioner Conference, Anchorage, Alaska, September 19-21
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    Co-presenting with Katie Christensen, MA, LPCA, NCC
    Recognizing & Reducing Weight Bias in Counselor Education & Supervision
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Time to Ditch the Resolution and Discover your Year of Progress!

This worksheet will guide you step by step through a process of shifting your perspective from self-defeating resolutions and New Years resolution hangover to a year of real progress and gratitude:

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