Every year around now there’s a wave of interest in New Year’s resolutions, and a subsequent backlash about how resolutions never work and fall apart by February. It’s become a holiday tradition in itself, to be cynical of the whole idea of resolutions, while secretly making your own list!
Why do resolutions fall apart? Because people make these 10 mistakes year after year! Avoid these pitfalls to get real change in 2021!
Don’t say, “I’m going to get fit.” Do say, “Between January 5th and March 5th I’m going to walk every weekday and abstain from all desserts.” When the mind has a start and end date, and a concrete action, it can get with the program and start getting results.
2 weeks isn’t enough time for the mind and body to change. 4, 6, or 8 weeks is a more reasonable time frame. If you’re trying to change a habit, your brain needs that long to reorganize its reward systems. Avoid cleanses, detoxes, and crash diets. They give you short term gain but within a month you’ll be worse off than you started. Go for more subtle interventions over longer periods of time.
Make your life easier by creating goals you can actually achieve. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in 2021, don’t frame it as, “lose 30 pounds”. Say, “lose 3 pounds”, and do it 10 times. More modest goals that you actually reach unlock the brain’s reward systems and make you more likely to stick with it.
It’s hard to change old habits. Around week 2 of your fitness effort, you’re going to be battling the strongest cravings as your mind tries to force you back into your old habit loops. It’s easy to think to yourself, “This is so hard! How can I possibly do this for another 2 months!” But this incorrectly assumes that your habits will be as strong in the future as they are now. They won’t be. After 3-4 weeks you’ll have new behavior patterns in place and you won’t have to work nearly as hard. But you’ve got to hang tough in those first few weeks! It gets better.
When discussing the COVID19 vaccine, doctors will tell you if you feel some fever and fatigue it’s a good sign that the vaccine has elicited a response and your body is producing antibodies. In the same way, when you clean up your diet and exercise, you’re going to have a transition period where you’re fatigued, grumpy, and fighting cravings. Instead of diving into the misery, see it as a great sign that your efforts are working and everything is going according to plan. As above, it gets better!
If you share your goal with someone else (for example, “I’m going to drop 2 belt sizes”) part of your brain will actually send out reward signals as if you had already done the task. This in turn confuses your motivation systems, as they’re already getting some reward without actually doing any hard work. Instead of talking about goals, share the moments of difficulty with your friends and family. “I’m over here really wanting a basket of french fries, ugh, what should I do?” Voicing your struggle helps externalize the issue, and you’ll find you’re much better able to stay on track when you don’t feel isolated and alone in the battle.
Exercise that’s scheduled for the morning tends to get done. Exercise that’s scheduled for the afternoon or evening tends to get missed. Think of your morning cardio or workout as getting your exercise deposit in the bank. It’s safe there, and can’t be taken away through the whims of a busy, unpredictable day.
For nutrition, the way you put things in the bank is by batch-prepping several meals worth of healthy food at once. When it’s time to eat, you’ve got options already waiting for you and you'll be less likely to go off the rails.
Eating well and exercising take time. Not a lot of time, but enough that you need to plan where the time is going to come from. Very few of us are sitting on a few hours of magical free time every day which we can conveniently slot nutrition and exercise into. If you want your resolution to work, you need to be realistic and make space for your wellness activities. This doesn’t mean trying to squeeze them into the cracks of your day, but proactively cancelling other events so that you have time and space to eat and exercise.
A lot of people come out of the holiday season with fancy gadgets and fitness wear that promise to kickstart new year’s fitness resolutions. “This stationary bike cost $2000, how could I NOT exercise now that I have it!” Sadly, the shine of new toys fades after just a week or two. A piece of gear will never be the motivation you think it will be. When gear works, it’s because it’s a supplement to your inner drive, not a source of it.
If you’ve made a resolution to get in shape in the new year, you MUST accept right now that there will be days where you don’t get it right. Not only is this expected, it’s a healthy part of the fitness path. Perfectionism is brittle. As soon as the perfect streak is broken, all your motivation shatters and you wonder what’s the point of the effort in the first place. This is no way to change your mind or body. Real wellness is a journey, and like all journeys, there will be times of rest and consolidation, times where you take the wrong turn and need to backtrack, and times where you end up in a place you didn’t expect. Learn to expect and accept the winding road, and keep waking up ready to take a few more steps on it, as imperfect as they may be. That includes forgiving yourself if you make one of the 10 mistakes listed here.
If you want to give your journey structure, a guide, and an amazing network of support and motivation, join a Kenzai program today. Whether you choose to train with us or not, good luck keeping your resolutions in the upcoming year.
2020 was a rough one on all counts. We took a beating in mind and body. Use the new year to rebuild your confidence and well-being, starting with the foundation of nutrition and exercise. You deserve to have a great 2021!
Patrick Reynolds // Kenzai Founder